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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22801

Ms PLIBERSEK (9:00 PM) —I rise tonight to speak about the problems with Australia Post in my electorate of Sydney. Members would imagine that in an urban area, such as the central business district of Sydney, Australia Post would have got their mail delivery system right. In fact, they did get it right some time ago, but Australia Post management seem to have, in their consistent way, ignored the needs of the workers, ignored the needs of the local businesses, and introduced significant staffing cuts and new equipment, with little or no training for staff, thereby ruining a system that was running in perfectly good order before.

Australia Post has introduced a new mail sorting system called V-frame. The Australia Post workers who came to see me twice on this issue explained that it is cumbersome, slow and cannot adequately deal with very large volumes of mail, only about 30 per cent of which can be automatically sorted. Of course, in the central business district you would have a much higher rate of large packages and large envelopes than you would in most other areas, and that certainly causes problems for the machinery. The workers who came to see me told me that there was little or no training for the new sorting system, no consultation with workers about the changes, no input sought from the postal delivery officers, and the knowledge and expertise gathered by workers over many years of delivering on the central business district route was totally ignored.

The old system just disappeared one night and the new system began operating the next morning. The frames were wrongly labelled and information about the system was not made available to workers, they tell me. What eventuated was a diabolical and chaotic situation. Workers were appalled by the changes, tried to cope for a week, were not heard by their bosses and went out on strike. Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, you might remember that the case went before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. At the same time as introducing this new machinery, which has not sped up the processing of mail in the central business district, Australia Post condensed 81 full-time rounds to 41 full-time rounds and 20 part-time staff. That is a very substantial cut in the work force: you could say that the work force has been halved. The delivery officers are expected to maintain their 11 a.m. delivery standard, and this has just not been possible with the cuts to the number of staff. To try and maintain the 11 a.m. standard, I am told that many of the workers on casual contracts are working excessive amounts of overtime to try and keep up the standard while the number of full-time workers has been cut. The 11 o'clock standard, as I said, is not being met and at times mail is not delivered until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.

I have been receiving many complaints from businesses in my electorate. In fact, I get phone calls to my office almost every day from people in the central business district complaining about Australia Post's decline in service over recent months. One customer said:

I have been receiving my mail late again ... I rang Australia Post who `assured' me that my mail was `important to Australia Post' and they were `currently working with a new system'. I told him I had been hearing the same story for the last ten months ...

A businessman called my office and told my staff:

... after 10 months of appalling delays, where Australia Post keep blaming the workers using the new system, it is clear delays are a result of the system itself. It has been a failure! Management do not answer my letters, so please can you do something?

I have taken it upon myself to raise this issue in the House tonight. I think that everyone would understand that it is not just the businesses in the central business district that are suffering. They do need a reliable mail service and they do need it in the morning of the day rather than having it arrive at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. Australia Post workers do not deserve to be treated with the contempt that has been shown to them by management in this instance.