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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1256

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Human Services and Minister for Social Inclusion) (9:51 AM) —I want to congratulate the member for Ryan for getting all of that in. I want today to talk about Glebe Post Office: a social and commercial hub in my electorate which offered essential services to the Glebe community for over 120 years until its abrupt closure earlier this month. Senator Faulkner has spoken twice in the adjournment debate in the Senate about the history of Glebe Post Office. It has been in its current site from 1886 when it opened on 5 January with a postmistress, Miss Minnie Knott. Miss Minnie Knott’s story is a very interesting one. There were not too many women in charge of post offices in those days and of course eventually she was replaced because she could not earn more than £160, so they had to put a bloke in over the top of her. I am glad to say things have changed a lot since those days.

I learned about Australia Post’s plans for Glebe Post Office along with the rest of the community in a newspaper article less than a week before Christmas. On 4 February, despite the unanimous protests of the local community and despite the fact that the local government, the state member of parliament, the federal member of parliament, Senator Faulkner and others were unanimously opposed to the closure of this post office, Australia Post went ahead and closed the Glebe Post Office for good.

I would like to take this opportunity of tabling a non-conforming petition which carries the names of around 4,000 local residents, who have been thoroughly opposed to the closure of Glebe Post Office. I share residents’ anger at the lack of meaningful consultation from Australia Post about this decision. Australia Post could have harnessed the genuine groundswell of support for this historical service and worked with the local community to keep Glebe Post Office open.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The minister as a minister is able to table a document but because it is a non-conforming petition it cannot be received as a petition.

Ms PLIBERSEK —Thank you. I will take the opportunity of tabling it as a document. Australia Post decided that the community’s energy and passion for this service was a storm to be weathered rather than a force to be harnessed. I also share residents’ anger at the model of corporate governance bound by the letter of legislated community service obligations but blind to the spirit of community service itself.

This post office serves a poor and disadvantaged community. Most of the work done at this post office is to do with people paying bills with cash because a lot of residents do not have the money to have cheque accounts. That is not of high value to Australia Post, so they took this opportunity of closing this post office instead of keeping it open and meeting the spirit of their community service obligation not just the bland letter of it. This is a genuine example of community service and a lifeline to local residents the loss of which will be deeply felt in coming years.

I finally want to acknowledge the enormous work of the residents of Glebe. They fought hard to keep this post office open. They are used to fighting. They fought to keep the Glebe as it is, protecting it from developers. Unfortunately, this recent fight was lost.