Paper Money

Australian politician may run afoul of note reproduction law

Craig Kelly, a member of the Australian Parliament, poses with a pallet of fake notes he arranged to have printed to illustrate the concept of national debt. The notes may be illegal.

Images courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald.

Craig Kelly, described as a “rogue” member of the Australian Parliament who is suspended from Facebook for other antics, came up with a stunt early in May that can possibly find him in violation of Australia’s Copyright Act.

As a protest against the size of the debt in the current government’s budget, he decided to print novelty “1 Trillion Dollar Notes” that have a close similarity to the nation’s current $100 note. Better still, he planned to use his personal government printing allowance, which is part of the budget he protests, to pay for the $1,000 printing cost.

He was trying to make a visual aid for the Australian public representing what a trillion dollars looks like by showing “$1 trillion of government debt in $100 bills,” with diagrams showing how many dozens of pallets of bills it would take. The fake notes were assembled on a pallet and delivered to Parliament, where he then held a press conference.

MP Kelly said on Twitter, “Wouldn’t you love to have this much money? Well you do! This represents close to $1 TRILLION of Federal & State Government net DEBT that YOU & future generations need to pay off.”

Australia’s Financial Review commented on the breach of Australian law. One expert said, “The Reserve Bank guidelines are legally clear: no reproductions of existing banknotes can be made.” Another said, “Mr Kelly’s reproductions appeared to have copied the $100 banknote’s ‘lyrebird window’ along with some font and text, including the word ‘Australia.’ Treating these as separate elements, there has been a copying of a substantial part.”

Kelly may try to get himself off the hook by saying they are parody or satire, but the notes include signatures of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s governor and the secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, contrary to the stipulation that the bank’s name cannot be associated with any reproduction or image. The bank also says that reproductions should be uniface with no artwork, but these have green backs in the color of the $100 and a photo of Kelly, who said this was “better than a business card.”

Kelly quickly relented on his source of financing. He is paying the printing costs out of his own pocket.

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