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Better, more accountable postal services.



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MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

NEWS RELEASE

16 June 2004 83/04

BETTER, MORE ACCOUNTABLE POSTAL SERVICES

Small businesses and consumers will benefit from better quality, more flexible postal services under reforms passed by the Federal Parliament last night.

Australia’s postal system is already among the best in the world, but reforms under the Postal Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 will provide even greater consumer benefits.

Under the Bill:

• the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be given the power to hear disputes about the terms and conditions of Australia Post’s bulk mail services;

• Australia Post will be required to keep records about the financial relationship between different parts of its business and to publish reports to assure competitors that it is not cross-subsidising its competitive services with revenue from its reserved services;

• the Government will have greater powers to prescribe the procedures Australia Post must follow in polling communities to determine whether or not they require “to the property” services; and

• carriage of letters between aggregation service providers and their customers, and between document exchange customers and document exchange centres will be legitimised.

There will now be certainty for small businesses and consumers who use aggregation services to gain access to Australia Post bulk mail discounts and for the many small businesses that use document exchanges as a complementary service to Australia Post.

To ensure that these provisions have no unintended consequences, these actions are allowed only under strict conditions.

Unfortunately, this comprehensive and sensible reform package was weakened by the Labor Party and the Australian Democrat’s removal of the proposed consumer-focussed role of the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

The Government was keen to increase consumer confidence in the operations of Australia Post by improving arrangements for monitoring the quality of its service.

However, Labor’s scaremongering robbed the legislation of this important reform.

This has occurred despite Government assurances that the legislation is not intended as a precursor to further deregulation of postal services and that it remains committed to maintaining Australia Post in full public ownership.

Despite the Senate blockage of important aspects of this legislation, the final version still makes a substantial contribution to improving the quality and flexibility of postal services in Australia into the future.

Media Contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren (02) 6277 7480/ 0439 425 373