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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2826

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (4.19 p.m.) —I also wish to deal with the annual report of the Australian Postal Corporation and to note that the report talks about its increased productivity. However, much as we welcome that and the fact that postage costs have increased at a lower rate than has inflation, the fact is that with the very large amounts of capital investment that have gone into Australia Post, it is important that there should be such a significant increase in productivity. In fact, one wonders whether there is not great scope for further increases in productivity.

   It is unfortunate to notice that the number of postal articles handled last year went up by only 1.7 per cent; the report says, because of the recession. Nonetheless, there was a significant increase in expenditure of 5.8 per cent. When we get increases in expenditure which so significantly increase expenses in business, clearly a problem is developing. It may simply be that the recession which the Government engineered has caused problems for Australia Post. Nevertheless, there does seem to be some trend towards increasing costs in handling each item that I hope can be offset more effectively by this evident trend towards greater efficiency.

  For example, we see in the tables provided that expenditure was $1,450.2m in 1986-87 and that 3,438.5 million articles were handled. There has been a 40 per cent increase in expenditure but only a 20-something per cent increase in the total number of articles handled through the mail network. Costs, no doubt as a result of inflation, have been going up. One would hope that even further attention will be given by Australia Post to the need to continue and hasten the efficiency of its services. That is absolutely vital.   This is one of those key infrastructure elements that is a major cost to large sections of Australian industry on which the cost base, unfortunately, rests in many industries. Some of those industries feel that they are not getting as fair a go as they would hope to get from Australia Post. I think that we can commend Australia Post on its efforts, but also note that there is still a great deal to be done to reduce costs.