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Howard's secret amendments attack Australia Post.



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  Australian Labor Party   National ALP

Stephen Smith - Howard's Secret Amendments Attack Australia Post http://www.alp.org.au/media/0301/ssmsap210301.html Thursday, 22 March 2001

Howard's Secret Amendments Attack Australia Post Stephen Smith - Shadow Minister for Communications

Media Statement - 21 March 2001

Shadow Minister for Communications, Stephen Smith, said today that the Howard-Anderson Government had prepared secret amendments that would undermine the ability of Australia Post to provide services to regional and rural Australia.

"The Government has prepared secret amendments that it plans to move to an otherwise non-controversial Bill, the Communications and the Arts Legislation Amendment Bill 2000, a Bill which otherwise has nothing to do with postal services," Mr Smith said.

"These amendments are part of a long-term campaign by the Howard-Anderson Government to privatise Australia Post, just as they plan to fully privatise Telstra

"These secret amendments are consistent with the National Competition Council's recommendations to increase competition for Australia Post's reserved services.

"These amendments would allow document exchange providers to provide full end to end mail services to their members with no minimum cost for customer pick-up and delivery. Currently, document exchange providers can only collect items from or deliver items to their members at a minimum cost of $1.80 per item.

"Currently, AUSDOC is the only registered document exchange provider.

"However, nothing in the Government's secret amendments would prevent major international postal service providers, like Deutsche Post, registering as document exchange providers. This would allow them to provide full point to point mail services in direct competition with Australia Post's reserved services, with no consequent obligation to even contemplate the provision of non-profitable services in regional and rural Australia.

"These secret amendments could cost Australia Post hundred of millions of dollars in revenue, undermining Australia Post's cross-subsidy arrangements that ensure the equitable

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provision of services in regional and rural Australia.

"These secret amendments would put Australia Post's ability to continue to support unprofitable postal services in regional and rural Australia at risk," Mr Smith said.

"Debate on the secret amendments is scheduled in the House of Representatives in the week commencing 2 April 2001.

"At the same time, the Government has continually delayed debate on the Postal Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2000. That Bill, first introduced into the Parliament on 6 April 2000, would further deregulate Australia Post's services, and represents the Government's formal response to the National Competition Council's recommendations.

Australia Post has advised Senate Estimates that the Postal Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2000 will cost Australia Post about $200 million in revenue per year. Debate on the Bill has stalled due to Labor's opposition to the Bill.

"This $200 million per year in revenue at risk is in additional to the $90 to $100 million a year Australia Post has advised Senate Estimates that it has lost because of the introduction of the GST," Mr Smith said.

"Australia Post has also advised Senate Estimates that if the Postal Services Legislation Amendment Bill is passed, it may be forced to introduce differential pricing to reflect the real cost of providing services to less profitable regional, rural and remote areas. This would mean that Australia Post's customers in rural and regional Australia would have to pay more than their city counterparts for the same postal service.

"The very same effect would also occur if the Government's secret amendments to the Communications and the Arts Legislation Amendment Bill 2000 are passed," Mr Sith said.

"Put simply, the Howard-Anderson Government is now trying to slide through the back-door what it has been unwilling to pursue through the front-door.

"Labor's policy for Australia Post is in stark contrast to that of the Howard-Anderson Government," Mr Smith said. "Whereas the Howard-Anderson Government plans to attack Australia Post's ability to cross-subsidise regional and rural services, Labor plans to enhance Australia Post's role in providing services to regional and rural Australia.

"Australia Post is a critical part of Australia's communications infrastructure, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas. It plays a unique role in ensuring that all Australians have access to an efficient and reliable postal service.

"Opposition Leader Kim Beazley promised on 28 February 2000 that:

Australia Post will remain in public hands; ● No further deregulation of Australia's postal industry will occur; ● Australia Post will continue to provide current postal, retail and financial services, including Giropost and Internet bill paying services; and ●

Australia Post would play a critical role as a platform for the delivery of services, including emerging digital data services, particularly to rural and regional Australia. ●

"The Howard-Anderson Government's secret amendments show that they haven't learnt the lessons from the Ryan by-election," Mr Smith said.

"The Government has not learnt that Australians want to ensure that basic services are maintained. They do not want the ideological pursuit of policies, like these, that are detrimental to the equitable delivery of basic services throughout Australia," Mr Smith concluded.

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Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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