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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11569

Postal system

(Question No. 1144)

Mr Katter asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, in writing, on 15 October 2018

(1) Why does a letter sent for $1 by 'regular' mail from Gordonvale (postcode 4865) to Edmonton (postcode 4869) take three to four business days, travelling 584 kilometres (Gordonvale to Cairns, then to Townsville to be sorted, returning to Cairns before being delivered in Edmonton).(2) Why does this same letter, if sent for $1.50 by 'priority' mail, take only two business days, travelling only 31 kilometres (from Gordonvale to Cairns, and then directly to Edmonton).(3) In how many other regional centres does this additional transportation of 'regular' mail occur (in comparison to 'priority' mail).(4) How many jobs have been lost from regional sorting centres around Australia to centralised sorting centres in major centres.

Mr Fletcher: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

This question has been referred to me as the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts as the issue relates to the communications portfolio.

The introduction of Australia Post's two-speed postal system in 2016, including Regular and Priority services, was necessary because Australia Post is experiencing an ongoing significant decline in letter volumes as customers switch to digital communication channels such as email and social media. Australians are now sending around 50 per cent fewer letters than they were at their peak in 2008. The reforms have allowed Australia Post to return to profitability while still meeting all of its Community Service Obligations (CSO). It is an operational matter for Australia Post to determine processing of letters, consistent with its CSO.

Please see below for responses to the specific questions.

(1) Transportation of Regular letters to large regional processing centres for automated letter sorting enables Australia Post to achieve cost efficiencies in the operation of the letters business. Letters posted in the Cairns region, including Gordonvale, are initially transported to Cairns for sorting into Regular and Priority mail. Cairns does not have automated letter processing equipment, and letters sent via the Regular timetable are transported to the nearest regional processing centre, in Townsville, for machine sorting, including sequencing to the delivery round. Mail is then returned to Cairns for distribution.

(2) Letters posted in the Cairns region for delivery by the Priority timetable undergo a different process. There are much smaller volumes of Priority mail, and this is sorted manually in Cairns. While this is a less efficient process, it enables quicker delivery of Priority letters to meet the shorter, two day delivery timeframe applying to Priority letters.

(3) The process by which letters are processed and delivered, including the transportation of Regular letters to a regional processing facility for automated sorting, is the standard model by which Australia Post processes letters throughout Australia. In regional areas, Priority mail for the same township/region (of which there are small volumes) remains in the same township/region to be processed for quicker delivery.

Regular mail is transported to the nearest automated processing centre to be sorted/sequenced to the postal delivery round, then transported for delivery in line with the performance standards.

Australia Post operates a number of regional processing centres throughout Australia including Queensland regional centres in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Toowoomba. Of these, only Townsville has advanced automated letter sorting facilities.

(4) Australia Post moved to centralised sorting when it introduced its Sustainable Regional Mail Program in 2014. This program resulted in the reduction of approximately 60 full-time equivalent staff from regional sites nationally. These reductions were achieved through voluntary redundancies and by not backfilling vacant positions.