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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2826

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN (4.14 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

I note from this annual report that last year Australia Post achieved a record $144.1m operating profit for 1990-91, and a profit of over $70.1m for the previous year. The managing director of Australia Post, Ms Rae Taylor, said that her organisation's rate of growth over the past two years had contracted sharply and that its real achievement had been in its delivery performance.

  I note that over the past two years Australia Post has closed hundreds of country post offices and replaced them with franchises and agencies. This was done, I believe, under pressure from the Federal Government to move the organisation onto a commercial footing. I wonder whether the alternative to closure could have been to have offered small agencies the same rights as Australia Post is now giving to agents to have more flexible hours. This should be borne in mind in the light of this report. I wonder whether the current record profit means that Australia Post has abandoned any concept of promoting public benefit before profit.

  Despite the tremendous profit made by Australia Post, it has said that at the beginning of January it will increase the price of stamps once again. Posting letters is becoming very expensive, although I suppose at least one can be grateful that the increase will not be operative before Christmas when everybody wants to post mail. We also know that we cannot now send telegrams but are able to send only lettergrams.

  There is also a new way that Australia Post will charge for the sending of parcels in future. There was a piece in the Canberra Times on Friday, 8 November 1991 saying that if one plans to mail a Christmas present, one could be in for a shock. We are told that the taxpayers are no longer subsidising Australia Post, but if taxpayers are mailing parcels and paying higher prices to do so, they are still subsidising Australia Post in a certain way. The article said:

. . . it's bad for your pocket because the past month every post office in Australia has been charging all domestic parcels by size, not weight.

I suppose if one wants to send a nice cooked Christmas cake that is fairly heavy, that might not cost too much, but if one wants to send something to a grandchild that is light and large, the cost of sending such an item would be so much dearer.

Senator Harradine —What about your pumpkin scones?

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN —I can tell Senator Harradine that if I were sending pumpkin scones, they would be nice and light, there would be no doubt about that. The article says that the reason for the change is as follows:

  It's all down to "cubic charging", a move introduced by Australia Post to force its parcels service, up until now in the red, into posting a profit.

So there is another reason why Australia Post wants to charge people. But when one takes into account the tremendous profit it has made, it seems so wrong that the organisation has to keep on increasing charges.

  Earlier I asked the Minister a question referring to people in rural Australia. Such people rely very heavily on the postal services for vital communications and deliveries, and want to continue to have good service from Australia Post. I imagine that they would be pleased to know that Australian taxpayers at present were not subsidising the service.