Note Printing Australia

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Note Printing Australia (NPA), which is located in Craigieburn, Melbourne, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and was corporatised in July 1998. NPA has its origins as a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank and was established in 1913 to print banknotes for Australia. After printing paper banknotes for Australia for 75 years NPA introduced the first polymer banknote technology in 1988. Note Printing Australia produces banknotes and passports.

According to a booklet published by the Reserve Bank of Australia, visits to NPA's exhibition and display gallery can be arranged by appointment.

NPA polymer banknotes[edit]

The CSIRO developed the polymer banknote and the NPA took it into production. NPA has since focused heavily in promoting the benefits of the polymer technology they developed.

Environmental issues[edit]

When money was originally printed on paper (which is really cotton based) it was common practice to burn money and documents that were removed from circulation, which burned cleanly. This was the preferred method to dispose of security documents because it ensured that the notes were totally destroyed.

When polymer notes were introduced it was soon realised that burning polymer notes would cause air pollution in the form of black smoke, so a workaround was formulated to shred the polymer notes into tiny pieces and have them sent to a plastic recycling plant.

Security benefits[edit]

In the mid 1960s Australia was hit by forgeries of the newly introduced $10 paper decimal note.[1][2] These forged notes were of a high quality and difficult to identify[citation needed]. In response, the Reserve Bank of Australia and Note Printing Australia commissioned the CSIRO to find better ways to secure the Australian currency. This led to the development of the polymer note, which was introduced in 1988.[1] It was reasoned that it would be harder to print on a plastic note because the technology didn't exist[citation needed].

Polymer notes provided a smoother, reduced-texture surface compared to paper notes allowing for the introduction of micro security printing. The writing can just be made out in bright sunlight or with magnification. Every note ever printed using polymer substrate has included micro printing.

Most people are familiar with the watermark feature of paper note, which was also incorporated into the polymer notes. The introduction of the polymer substrate allowed for the addition of extra security features, including a clear window with a picture in it and a registration star. A special printer called a super simultan prints both sides of the note simultaneously, to register the multicoloured print perfectly from front to back. Commercial printers typically print one side at a time and find it difficult to keep both sides perfectly aligned over time.

Other features include windows which can incorporate security devices such as vignettes and embossing (which cannot be copied on regular banknotes).

Life expectancy of polymer notes[edit]

In tropical countries, paper banknotes deteriorate quickly because of humidity and microbe activity. A benefit of using a polymer note is that most microbes do not attack the substrate, hence the longer life in circulation. In less tropical climates, the life expectancy of paper banknotes improves. On the other hand, polymer notes can deteriorate in the presence of solvents and ultraviolet light.

Cost effectiveness[edit]

When New Zealand moved to polymer notes a New Zealand Bank press release stated that "plastic bank notes cost twice as much to produce but they last four times longer, which will save about $1 million annually".

According to internal RBA documents, NPA's printing costs in 2012 were 34c per note.[3]

Printing equipment at NPA[edit]

Note Printing Australia is a security printing facility, that uses a number of special printers not available to the general printing industry. These include printing presses manufactured by KBA-NotaSys.

  • Super Simultan
  • Standard Simultan
  • Super Intagliocolour
  • Super Numerota
  • Nota Protector

2007 corruption allegations[edit]

A secret memo sent to the "Deputy Governor RBA" in 2007 detailing bribery and corruption within a Reserve Bank subsidiary was withheld from the police, Federal Parliament and the government. The revelation of the five-page "private and confidential" memo ties RBA governor Glenn Stevens and his recently retired deputy, Ric Battellino, to one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups in Australian history. The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery exposed by The Age forced the RBA to call in police, Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloging bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.[4]

2014 Mention in Victorian Supreme Court Suppression Order[edit]

NPA was mentioned in a leaked suppression order of the Victorian Supreme Count in Melbourne. The order, which forbids publication of corruption allegations against named government officials of Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, includes a specific exemption allowing the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to pass banned information on to NPA.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Our Currency". Department of Foregin Affairs and Trade. Australian Government. November 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Shand, Adam (8 June 2012). "The money changers". The Australian (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Shand, Adam (28 September 2012). "RBA 'wasting $50m a year' on print subsidiary". The Australian (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  4. ^ McKenzie, Nick; Baker, Richard (22 August 2012). "Memo warning RBA chiefs of corruption withheld from police". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 
  5. ^ "Copy of the suppression order" (PDF). 
  • Note Printing in Australia (RBA) (~1988) Published by Nucolorve Productions Pty Ltd, ISBN 0-85858-097-7
  • Australia's New $5 Note (RBA) - leaflet.
  • Australian Currency Notes - How they are made (RBA) Leaflet.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°36′47″S 144°56′36″E / 37.612974°S 144.943453°E / -37.612974; 144.943453