“Here it is…. It’s round. Looks like the cunning little bugger’s opting for the round ones.”
A collective exhalation was followed by suppressed snorts of derision. The stale air in the small room adjacent to the Treasurer’s office arced with the tension of what was possibly an act of treason.
“Betcha the slippery little weasel’s got a personal financial stake in the silver market,” hissed Wakefield after a few moments of careful perusal of the document.
“What makes you think that?” whispered Ferguson, arching an eyebrow.
“Well, if I’m reading this correctly, its metal value will be greater than its monetary value. The 50c coin they’re proposing will be… wait for this…. 80% silver!”
“Bloody hell,” mouthed Gibson who rolled his eyes then pursed his lips for effect.
A silence descended on the room as the fertile minds of the operatives whirred with possibilities. One could almost hear a hum of cognitive activity.
“Keep checking down the corridor will you Ferguson. Don’t want nosey little Treasury bods stumbling into our party uninvited,” ordered Wakefield, “and Gibson, get your camera over here. Get shots of the obverse and reverse.”
It had taken quite a deal of planning to gain access to the building, but under the guise of being journalists from the ABC, the home grown operatives, who were contracting for a foreign government, had successfully accessed the classified documents relating to the proposed changeover of Australia’s currency. Decimalisation was still a year away from implementation as the jingle informed the public, but February 1966 could be a veritable financial feast for international currency traders and underhand foreign governments. The information they’d now gleaned about the extraordinarily high content of silver in the 50 cent coin would be the cream on top for price manipulators in the silver market.
“Harold wouldn’t be happy if he knew we were in here photographing this dossier,” snorted Gibson as he thumbed quickly through documents, snapping the pages with his miniaturized Leica camera. Flip, click, flip, click, flip, click.
“C’mon Gibson. Work faster,” hissed Wakefield. “It’s not Holt we need to worry about. It’s his Treasury lackeys. They’re wandering around the building. The Treasurer’s at his beach house at Portsea in Victoria for a few days.”
“Hey, Ferguson, have a squiz at the weird animals on the front of these coins. And check out the size of the pissy little 1c coin. They’re not gonna work too well for two–up are they?” snorted Gibson.
With a quiet shuffle forward, Ferguson furrowed his brow and squinted at the image. “Is that a rat?” he whispered. “Why would they put a rat on our coin? It’s not even Australian. Why not something bigger… like a bush turkey…. or a cow?”
The room filled with stifled sniggers of derision until Wakefield hushed the group with a death stare and placed a warning finger across his lips.
Furtively glancing towards the external hallway, they worked feverishly. Eventually the document was replaced in the Treasurer’s filing cabinet before the operatives surreptitiously fled the bowels of the building. Exiting into sunlight, Gibson mentioned the rumour that the Treasurer might become the next Prime Minister after Menzies.
“Phhtt!” Wakefield replied dismissively. “After overseeing this botched collection of garish coins, mark my words, Harold Holt will be roundly ridiculed and he’ll disappear from public view.”