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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 528


Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, upon notice, on 2 December 2008:

Corporate responsibility strategy

(1)   What are the aims of Australia Post’s corporate responsibility strategy.

(2)   Who are the members of the Sustainability Working Group.

(3)   Why has Australia Post not invited a representative of the Post Office Agents Association Limited (POAAL) to be part of the working group.

(4)   Will Australia Post invite a representative of POAAL to be part of the working group.

(5)   Is Australia Post breaching any consultative agreements it has with stakeholder groups such as POAAL or the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union by not involving them in the working group.

Postie bikes for contractors

(6)   Is there a procedure for mail contractors to buy Honda postie bikes; if so, does Australia Post advise mail contractors of the procedure.

(7)   Are contractors able to buy postie bikes from Honda at the Australia Post rate; if not, why not.

(8)   Given that Australia Post now ‘retires’ its own postie bikes after they have travelled a certain number of kilometres and they are then sold through major automotive auction houses, but in the past Australia Post used to sell them direct to contractors (this practice ceased a few years ago):

(a)   how does Australia Post determine when to dispose of a postie bike, is it based on hours of use, kilometres travelled, age, or some other factor;

(b) (i)   how does Australia Post dispose of postie bikes, and (ii) are any offered for direct sale to mail contractors;

(c)   does Australia Post: (i) sell postie bikes with the pannier bags intact or are they stripped from the bikes, (ii) make the pannier bags available to contractors to purchase, (iii) have a supplier for these pannier bags, and (iv) have the pannier bags custom made; and

(d)   does Australia Post offer postie bikes for sale to contractors before putting them up for auction through an auction house.

Fuel prices

(9)   With reference to the 2008-09 Budget estimates hearing of the Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee (Committee Hansard, 26 May 2008, p. ECA 18) in which Mr Newman stated that Australia Post has no plans to introduce automated fuel price reviews:

(a)   given that Australia Post recently reduced the threshold for fuel price reviews from 7 per cent to 5 per cent: (i) how did Australia Post come to this decision, and (ii) does Australia Post have any plans to make this change permanent;

(b)   has Australia Post considered varying the period from 3 months to a shorter period; and   

(c)   given that in the answer to question 5 (taken on notice) concerning how many contracts had been resigned because of rising fuel prices, Australia Post stated that it had no data on reasons why contracts are resigned, would it not be in Australia Post’s interest to find out why contractors are resigning their contracts; if so, does Australia Post have any plans to conduct ‘exit surveys’ for contractors who resign their contract.

Franchised PostShops

(10)   (a) How many dedicated Australia Post personnel look after franchised PostShops; and (b) where are these personnel located.

(11)   Does Australia Post offer incentives or special deals to people to take on a franchised PostShop.

(12)   Do all operating franchised PostShops have an owner/operator or are there still some Australia Post-appointed people operating them.

(13)   How many corporate post offices does Australia Post intend to convert to franchised PostShops in the 2008-09 financial year.

(14)   Does Australia Post have any plans to convert any Licensed Post Offices (LPOs) to franchised PostShops in 2009.

Licensee Advisory Committee

(15)   With reference to the answer to question 3, taken on notice during the 2008-09 Budget estimates hearing of the Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee, Australia Post provided a copy of the Licensee Advisory Council’s (LAC’s) ‘nil return’ as lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission which showed that there was no income or expenditure for the LAC, and Australia Post’s statement at a previous estimates hearing that Australia Post meets all of the LAC’s costs:

(a) (i)   how are LAC costs allocated by Australia Post, and (ii) are the costs met by a specific group;

(b)   if the funds are taken from the retail group, does this mean that funds that would have ordinarily been earmarked for payments to licensees are redirected to fund the LAC; and

(c)   can a breakdown by state and national LACs be provided on how much Australia Post spent on LAC expenses during the 2007-08 financial year, detailing: (i) travel, (ii) accommodation, (iii) Australia Post staff time, and (iv) other administrative costs.

Delivery standards for post office box mail

(16)   How does Australia Post determine the delivery standard for post office (PO) box mail at LPOs where the standard is after 9 am.

(17)   Can licensees request that their PO box mail be sequenced in order to reduce sorting time.

(18)   When Australia Post’s delivery arm makes changes to the arrangements for the delivery of mail to LPOs, does it liaise with its retail arm so that licensees are compensated for any mail work performed before 8 am or after 9 am, where extra staff would need to be employed just to sort the mail.

(19)   Does Australia Post have a formula for allocating staff time to sort mail to meet the standards for private boxes, knowing how much time is needed to sort this mail.

Parcel collection

(20)   (a) How many centralised parcel collection facilities did Australia Post establish in: (i) 2007, and (ii) 2008; and (b) are they successful.

Customer contact lists

(21)   Given that licensees and smaller corporate post offices have suffered a downturn in their business as their best business customers are ‘poached’ by corporate account managers or larger corporate post offices:

(a)   does Australia Post do due diligence before taking this step of ‘poaching’ customers from its own outlets;

(b)   is it a fact that some, if not all, account managers receive a bonus payment for transferring this business; and

(c)   what does Australia Post do to make up the shortfall in the licensee’s business payment when their best customers are ‘poached’ with offers which Australia Post does not permit licensees to offer.

Supply of retail products to licensees

(22)   Given that Australia Post makes available to licensees a range of non-postal retail products such as greeting cards, gift lines, stationery and small office supplies:

(a)   does Australia Post supply retail products to licensees at the same wholesale price which licensees could obtain by going direct to the wholesaler/distributor or does Australia Post take a cut for itself on the way through; and

(b)   when a licensee at a stand-alone outlet writes to Australia Post requesting authority to sell products other than those on the Australia Post list, does Australia Post take each request on a case by case basis or is a proforma refusal sent to all requests.

Australia Post headquarters

(23)   Did Australia Post consider purchasing its own building for its national headquarters.

(24)   (a) How much did the most recent fit-out of the Managing Director’s office and the 19th floor cost; and (b) did Australia Post pay for the fit-out or was it paid for by the landlord.

(25)   Has Australia Post looked at the feasibility of having its headquarters in Canberra near the centre of Government, as do many other Government departments and agencies.

Travel

(26)   For the 2007-08 financial year, how much was spent on: (a) travel for the Managing Director; (b) accommodation and other travel-associated costs for the Managing Director; and (c) travel and accommodation for the board.

(27)   What level of Australia Post managers, travel via: (a) business class; and (b) economy class.

(28)   Does Australia Post make its own travel bookings or are travel bookings made through an agency.

(29)   If the bookings are made through an agency, what are the benefits.

(30)   Does Australia Post use the cheapest airline when booking air travel for its managers, board, etc; if not, why not.

(31)   How frequently does Australia Post use teleconferencing or video conferencing rather than travel.


Senator Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

Corporate responsibility strategy

(1)   The basic aim of Australia Post’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) strategy is to be, and be recognised as, a corporation and workforce that creates success via sustainable work practices.

(2)   The Sustainability (CR) Working Group is an internal management group that includes senior managers from the following Divisions/Groups: Commercial, Mail and Networks, Corporate Infrastructure Services, Letters, Finance, Human Resources, Corporate Public Affairs, Corporate Strategy and Corporate Audit.

(3)   The CR Working Group is an internal management group. External views on CR have been obtained directly from a number of key stakeholders, including POAAL and the CEPU. Further consultation will be undertaken as and when required. (4/5)        No.

(4/5)   No.

Postie bikes for contractors

(6)   Yes - on request, Post provides contractors with a letter of introduction to a Honda dealer that confirms their status as a mail contractor.

(7)   Australia Post’s contract with Honda only allows Australia Post to purchase motorcycles at a negotiated rate for its own use. A contractor who wishes to purchase a Honda motorcycle must negotiate directly with a dealer.

(8)  

(a)   Under Australia Post’s Motor Vehicle Replacement Policy, motorcycles are replaced after 3 years or 25,000 kilometres. This has been determined through a whole of life cost analysis as the most appropriate point to dispose of the unit.

(b) (i)   Australia Post disposes of motorcycles through selected auction houses. (ii) Australia Post does not sell motorcycles direct to mail contractors because it does not have the necessary Licensed Motor Vehicle Trader licence.

(c) (i)   Pannier bags are removed prior to motorcycles going to auction. (ii) Australia Post does not sell pannier bags - mail contractors are able to purchase them direct from the supplier, if they wish. Details of suppliers and costs are provided in Part A of the tender documents. (iii & iv) The pannier bags are custom made by a firm in South Australia and the frame for the bags is made by a different firm in Victoria.

(d)   See response to part (b).

Fuel prices

(9) (a)   (i) Australia Post made the decision to assist delivery contractors at a time of spiralling fuel prices. By lowering the threshold rate from 7% to 5%, less actual movement in fuel price is required to qualify for a review. (ii) The reduction to 5% was a temporary measure and contractors were notified that if fuel prices decreased, the threshold rate would revert to 7%.

(b)   No.

(c)   As part of an ongoing review of mail contracting, Australia Post is considering the introduction of exit interviews.

Franchised PostShops

(10)   (a/b) Currently, there are five dedicated franchise management positions in the following locations: Headquarters (2), New South Wales (2) and Victoria (1). As the franchise network is relatively small at this stage (28 outlets), most states incorporate franchise management with other duties.

(11)   No.

(12)   All operating franchised PostShops have an owner/operator in place.

(13)   Australia Post has no current plans to convert any corporate post offices to franchised PostShops in the 2008-09 financial year.

(14)   There are no specific plans to convert LPOs to franchised PostShops in 2009. However, should an opportunity arise, and the Licensee be agreeable, Australia Post would consider this option on a case-by-case basis.

Licensee Advisory Committee

(15)  

   (a)   State costs are allocated to specific general ledger codes within each state’s retail management area. National costs are allocated to specific general ledger codes within the Retail Channels and Infrastructure Group.

   (b)   No. Funding for the Licensee Advisory Committee is over and above licensee payments, which are made in accordance with the licensee payment schedule associated with their agreement with Australia Post.

   (c)   The following table details LAC expenses (rounded to the nearest $1000) during 2007-08:

 

Expense

National

State

Meeting Expenses

$1,000

$18,000

Airfares and Accommodation

$38,000

$30,000

LAC elections

$18,000

-

SUB TOTAL

$57,000

$48,000

TOTAL

$105,000

[NB - Australia Post does not specifically identify staff time for this activity in its accounts].

Delivery standards for post office box mail

(16)   The standard of service for delivery of mail into PO Boxes is determined after consultation with the licensee at the time of assignment or at the time of establishment of a PO Box service at an LPO. Customer expectations, geographic locations and operational cost and efficiencies are considered when determining the standard. The agreed standard of service forms part of the special conditions of the LPO Agreement.

(17)   Licensees can request or suggest operational changes, and these are considered in terms of overall policy or operational efficiency and capability. In relation to sequencing, Australia Post can provide an initial sort for large PO Box suites on request but does not sequence this mail into individual box numbers. This activity is still performed at outlet level.

(18)   Changes in mail delivery time that may affect PO Box sorting time at an LPO are made in conjunction with relevant business areas and licensees are advised. If it is a material change to existing arrangements, appropriate payments under the LPO Agreement would apply.

(19)   Australia Post does not use a formula for this activity, but has a set of minimum sorting standards that can be applied as a guide.

Parcel collection

(20)  

   (a)   (i) One - Ellenbrook, WA. (ii) None.

   (b)   Centralised parcel collection facilities are a relatively new concept suiting specific local circumstances. While early indications are that the small number currently operating are showing signs of success - ie there has been positive customer feedback about extended trading hours, adequate parking availability and shorter waiting times - Australia Post will continue to monitor their progress against customer satisfaction, operational efficiency gains and long term effect on local retail outlet performance.

Customer contact lists

(21)  

   (a)   Australia Post does not have a policy of transferring business customers between outlets. In some situations (eg in response to a customer request for information on Australia Post services or products) Australia Post may specify a different lodgement point after considering the customer’s preference, the physical capacity of the nominated lodgement point and the most efficient and cost-effective method of handling lodgements.

   (b)   No.

   (c)   In the event that business moves from one outlet to another, there is no reimbursement for any consequent shortfall.

Supply of retail products to licensees

(22)  

   (a)   Australia Post leverages its national purchasing power and passes on the bulk of the margin to licensees who choose to source the items in question from the corporation. Australia Post incurs its own warehousing and distribution costs in servicing the Licensee network.

   (b)   Requests to approve the sale of non-Australia Post products in a stand-alone outlet are considered on a case-by-case basis in the light of individual circumstances.

Australia Post headquarters

(23)   Australia Post has on a number of occasions evaluated - but not pursued - opportunities to purchase its own Headquarters building.

(24)   (a/b)                The most recent refurbishment was completed in early 2002 at a cost to  Australia Post of $514,654.

(25)   No.

Travel

(26)  

   (a)   $50,831

   (b)   $20,205

   (c)   $110,910.

(27)  

   (a)   Executive Committee Members - all flights; Other Executives - domestic flights over 2 hours and international flights; Middle level managers and other staff - international flights (other than trans-Tasman).

   (b)   Executives - flights under 2 hours; Middle level managers and other staff - domestic and trans-Tasman flights.

(28)   All travel bookings are made through Australia Post’s travel management company, American Express Business Travel.

(29)   Benefits include being licensed, travel expertise and experience, the ability to leverage discounted arrangements from travel suppliers and the provision of management reporting and information back to Australia Post.

(30)   Australia Post has negotiated airfares for both domestic and international travel. These airfares are heavily discounted and are used because of the flexibility provided to travellers eg the airfares can be refunded/re-credited when not used and flight times can be changed without loss of the fare.

(31)   Teleconferencing and video conferencing are used on a daily basis, with video conference facilities available in Headquarters and all state offices.