How to make a mint from the mint

In March 1995, Cabinet's expenditure review committee put forward a submission to sell the mint. Photo: Andrew Meares
In March 1995, Cabinet's expenditure review committee put forward a submission to sell the mint. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Keating government's quest for a lean, practical program of savings and revenue generation meant that long-debated privatisations went ahead.

In April 1995 Cabinet agreed to each federal airport being "leased as an ongoing business", with an expected revenue gain of $2 to $2.5 billion. In May they added the sale of the remaining shares in the Commonwealth Bank.

Few stones were left unturned and underneath one lay the Royal Australian Mint.

In March 1995, Cabinet's expenditure review committee put forward a submission to sell the mint.

Established in Canberra in 1965, one year prior to Australia's changeover to decimal currency and since 1983 has been the sole supplier of Australia's circulating coin requirements, the mint also produced a range of high quality collector coins (numismatic coins) which are sold through an extensive mail order operation, e-commerce, a network of domestic and international coin dealers, selected Australia Post outlets and the Mint shop.

Cabinet was told the mint could be sold for $15 million and with circulating coinage diminishing its production could be outsourced.

"The Royal Australian Mint's operations have become increasingly commercial with around 80 per cent of its employees involved in production of non-circulating coinage. Given that the RAM has become primarily a commercial enterprise - the bulk of whose outputs are of a non-essential nature and which compete directly with private sector producers - rather than a provider of a core government service, the rationale for retaining, in the public sector, the RAM's function of producing circulating coins has become questionable," the committee said.

However Treasury warned that the mint was still in "a transition phase to becoming a more commercially orientated entity and it was important to avoid undermining staff morale and commitment to the process" and suggested the sale not be part of the upcoming budget. Cabinet agreed and today the mint still remains a listed entity within Treasury.

This story How to make a mint from the mint first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.