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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1489

Sir ALAN HULME (Petrie) (PostmasterGeneral) - by leave - I present to the Parliament a statement on a matter of great importance to the Post Office and the community it serves. Management authority is to be decentralised to a major extent from capital cities to country centres. Concurrently, in the country districts the existing divisional offices are to be regrouped into larger area offices. The objective of the reorganisation is to establish a number of fully equipped business management headquarters under the control of Area Managers. These will be capable of handling to finality the normal Post Office telecommunications services.

Area Managers will produce their own works programmes and budgets and be responsible for their execution within overall guide lines and policies laid down by State and central headquarters. It is proposed for example, that the Area Manager have authority and delegations in the conduct of work somewhat similar to those now held by the State Directors. At the present time, the State Administrations, each under the control of a State Director, direct and control operations including the works programmes.

Within the States there are currently 106 engineering divisions (SO metropolitan and 56 country) and 74 telecommunications districts (26 metropolitan and 48 country) which contain the field and operating staffs and provide the contact with our customers. In these areas there are 2 separate main elements working side by side - the engineering unit being responsible for the technical aspects and the telecommunications unit for commercial aspects and customer advisory and service functions. Each of these district units has limited authority and must refer many aspects to State Director level for decision. Also responsibility for a number of activities is shared between the engineering and telecommunications groups, while certain work affecting the area is performed by specialist groups at State head office. Under these arrangements allocation of final responsibility is difficult.

An opportunity to review our organisational structure and working arrangements arose following a recent service-wide study of the employment of engineers by the Public Service Board. The improvement will be a re-grouping of engineering functions which will promote greater efficiency and the introduction of an area management form of organisation. Area management will provide unified control of engineering, telecommunications and associated administrative functions at area level and a more effective and business-like basis for our telecommunications operations. State Head Office staffs will concentrate on development of State plans, and on the establishment of policies and standards within the overall parameters determined by Post Office headquarters. -

Economies will result from amalgamation and integration of functions at present performed in different sections, from the simplification of procedures by the elimination of circumlocution and from minimising reference to other functional areas. The amalgamation of the related functions of engineering and telecommunications operations will provide for more efficient use of resources and facilitate the achievement of the heavy engineering annual works programme. From the viewpoint of service to the Department's customers the proposed arrangements are designed to place responsible management of telecommunication facilities as close as possible to the customer in the interests of improved service and efficiency.

District technician and lines staffs will be retained at existing locations. In addition, improved customer advisory service will be provided where such facilities are currently available and as the need arises these will be established at other centres. The proposal which 1 have described will have some effect on Post Office staff. I want to put this aspect into proper perspective. There will be transfers of certain administration functions from 25 of the existing 56 country district headquarters to the new country area headquarters. In each of these 25 districts there are between 300 and 400 staff employed comprising professional engineers, clerical and administrative officers, district telecommunications sales and service staff, technicians, lines and telephone operating staff. In each case between 25 and 35 positions only will eventually be transferred to area headquarters.

The new organisation structure for engineers will provide opportunities for promotion which should encourage the willing movement of a large number of these officers. Avenues for promotion are similarly expected to be available for other designations as the new organisation is further developed. To the greatest extent practicable staff at existing centres will be redeployed on to other duties at the same locations to reduce the need for transfers. To minimise inconvenience to the remaining staff, implementation action will be phased over a period of several years, during which period it can be expected that promotion and normal staff wastage will make minimal the number of employees who may eventually need to be compulsorily transferred. During this transitional period some engineering divisions and telecommunications districts will function as outposted units of the area management.

The establishment of area management will provide career opportunities for locally recruited staff. A similar study of the activities associated with Post Offices and mail services in the country is in hand and it is planned that these services also will be reorganised into a postal area management system. The headquarters of these postal areas will we expect be located at the same centres as the telecommunication Area Managers, and will share some of the common services. The changes are quite radical. They are designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Post Office telecommunication management. They are in harmony with modern business practice of clearly identifying management authority and responsibility.

Finally 1 would like to repeat that there will be no large scale relocation of staff. A small number of positions representing less than four per cent of total staff in country districts will be affected by the change. For many of the individual staff members affected, the change will be accompanied by immediate promotion. For all those affected the Post Office will take all possible steps to minimise personal problems. Accompanying this statement and available to honourable members, are maps indicating area boundaries and in most cases the location of area headquarters. I present the following paper:

Re-organisation of the Australian Post Office Telecommunications Activities - Ministerial statement, 16th September 1971.

Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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