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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1100

Senator Walsh —On 25 February (Hansard, page 114) Senator Vigor asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, without notice:

Is the Minister aware of the lack of confidence in Australia Post, as expressed recently by the Confederation of Australian Industry, other organisations and consumers? Is the Minister aware that the basis of this lack of confidence is the long delays in postal deliveries for both standard items and special services, for example, priority paid? Given that Australia Post includes in its advertising timetables for delivery of postal articles, could the Minister advise whether the Government intends taking action under sections 52 or 53 of the Trade Practices Act, which, in effect, prohibit false advertising, or whether the Government will investigate what action needs to be taken to ensure that Australia Post's performance matches both its statutory obligations and its advertised practices?

The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question, based on advice provided by the Australian Postal Commission:

Yes. I am aware that the Confederation of Australian Industry (CAI) made claims about Australia Post's mail service performance at last year's Prices Surveillance Authority hearing associated with Australia Post's application for a price increase, and that it issued media statements concerning the same matter.

The CAI's Director of Corporate Affairs wrote to me on behalf of the 'Australian business community' expressing dissatisfaction with the mail service being provided by Australia Post. I note also that, since the honourable senator asked this question, the CAI has announced its intention to establish a 'postal users council' to monitor the movement of mail.

Where possible, and particularly within metropolitan areas and over inter-capital routes, Australia Post aims to provide next working day delivery for mail posted by specified times. Over the years, performance in all States except New South Wales has been consistently good.

In relation to the mail service in metropolitan New South Wales, Australia Post is keenly aware that, for many years, the service has been generally below that received by the rest of the country. Performance in the Sydney metropolitan area has also impacted on Australia Post's ability to deliver on time, mail travelling to other States. For the past eight months, some 75% of ordinary enveloped mail was delivered on time in New South Wales. In February 1985, about 78% of mail was delivered on time. Even with the lower level of performance in New South Wales, something like 11 million pieces of ordinary enveloped mail are delivered on time across Australia each working day.

The Priority Paid service has continued, in the current financial year, to operate with a high level of reliability and, with a guaranteed 'money back' provision, 98% of articles were delivered on time Australia-wide to February 1985. In New South Wales, the success rate is 97%, with the delivery performance in other States ranging up to a success rate in excess of 99%.

In regard to information provided by Australia Post on its service standards and scheduled delivery times, this information is designed as a guide only to users of the post.

Australia Post has intensified its efforts to improve performance in New South Wales and a range of initiatives has been taken over the past 14 months. More recently, detailed action had been taken to correct problems which have become evident in the last few months.

Australia Post is very much aware of the difficulties and inconvenience which mail delays cause its customers, and maximum management effort is being directed to overcoming the problems associated with the level of performance against prescribed mail service standards in New South Wales.


Senator Walsh —On 26 February 1985 (Hansard, page 173) Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle asked me a question concerning the national wage case. In my reply I undertook to seek information from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations concerning the provision within the wage fixing principles for six-monthly consumer price index (CPI) adjustments.

The Minister has provided the following response.

Parts (a) and (b) of Principle 1 of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission's wage fixing principles are as follows:

'(a) Subject to Principle 3, the Commission will adjust its award wages and salaries every six months in relation to the last two quarterly movements of the eight-capitals CPI unless it is persuaded to the contrary by those seeking to oppose the adjustment.

(b) For this purpose the Commission will sit in February and August following the publication of the CPI for the December and June quarters respectively.'

The increase in the CPI in relation to the September and December quarters 1984 was 2.7 per cent. This is the increase that would normally apply in the February/March 1985 National Wage Case.

The relevant CPI movement for the two quarters preceding (i.e.-0.2 per cent for the March and June quarters 1984) was not applied following a conference of national wage parties in September 1984. If adjustment were made for this negative CPI factor, the relevant quantum to be applied would be 2.6 per cent-the growth in the CPI between the December quarter 1983 and the December quarter 1984.

The Commonwealth supported an adjustment of 2.7 per cent in the February/March 1985 National Wage Case on the grounds that to support any lesser figure as the basis of full indexation would effectively involve a change in Principle 1. Any such change to the basic Principle underlying the centralised wage fixation system at this stage would be undesirable, particularly given that a major review of the Principles is due in six months time.


Senator Walsh —On 26 February 1985 (Hansard, page 179) Senator Colston asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, a question without notice concerning the level of industrial disputation in Queensland. In my reply, I undertook to seek further information from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister has provided the following response:

The table below provides a comparison between Queensland and the rest of Australia of working days lost per thousand employees for the period January 1984 to November 1984.

These figures show that up to June 1984 Queensland compared favourably with the Australian totals.

However, after June the situation deteriorated in Queensland with the level of industrial disputation being greater there than for the rest of Australia.



Queensland Australia(a)

12 months ended-

January 1984 169 235 February 1984 172 234 March 1984 164 236 April 1984 178 245 May 1984 203 252 June 1984 242 248 July 1984 252 246 August 1984 260 248 September 1984 263 246 October 1984 278 245 November 1984 284 246

(a) includes ACT and NT.

Source: Industrial Disputes Australia, December 1984, November 1984, October 1984, September 1984, August 1984, July 1984, June 1984, May 1984, April 1984, March 1984, February 1984, and January 1984.

It must be noted that Queensland has one of the lowest percentages of coverage of employees by Federal awards. In Queensland 25.1% of employees are covered by Federal awards as compared with 42% of all Australians being covered by Federal awards.


Senator Grimes —On 26 February 1985 (Hansard, page 176), Senator Reynolds asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the Rite-Gro Pty Ltd factory fire in Brisbane.

The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

My Department contacted the Queensland State Health authority at the time of this incident.

I understand a senior State toxicologist was at the scene of the fire and assessed the potential for health hazards to the residents in surrounding areas. Following this, State Government chemists checked for environmental pollution.

It was the assessment of the Queensland Public Health authorities that human health hazards and environmental pollution were minimal. My Department was advised of the results of all relevant tests.

The Queensland authority did not request any Commonwealth assistance.