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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1878

Senator PUPLICK —My question is directed to the Minister for Territories in the next Government, Senator Lewis, and concerns the Postal Services Amendment (Continuance of Postal Services) Bill 1985 which Senator Archer introduced in the Senate on his behalf last week. Does the Bill penalise individual unionists or postal workers and how will it allow the continuance of mail services when Australia Post employees, unilaterally and quite improperly, disrupt the mail supply through industrial action?

Senator Button —Nobody else will listen to him; I suppose we will have to.

Senator LEWIS —No worries, Senator Button; Sir Ninian has not acted yet. The Bill that I introduced last week does not contain any penalties for unionists. It is about ministerial responsibility. Section 85 of the Postal Services Act gives to Australia Post a monopoly on the delivery of letters weighted under 500 grams. The Bill that I introduced would enable the Minister to terminate Australia Post's monopoly when Australia Post was unable to provide the service. The Minister would be able to stop militant officials taking advantage of the monopoly to blackmail the public. I remind the Senate in that regard that over 40 per cent of Australia's mail is delivered through New South Wales, where this blackmail monopoly power is exercised very frequently. The Minister for Communications would be able to prevent militants from using the monopoly power to implement their political judgments. For example, with regard to the mails to South Africa at the moment, no wages, conditions or safety issues have been raised by the unions and there is no conflict with the Government. But at present over 30,000 letters and other articles remain undelivered in Australia or have not yet been sent to South Africa. Many innocent people are being affected. There are plenty of South Africans living in Australia-migrants to Australia, perhaps married to Australian people-who are not necessarily supporters of the South African regime; in fact they may very well be living in Australia because they are not supporters of the regime. Those people are being severely affected. They are being cut off from their relatives and friends by this action of the Australian postal unions. This Government, notwithstanding its so-called special relationship with the union movement, is in fact not doing anything for those people. This Bill is about ministerial responsibility. It would give the Minister the option of doing something in these circumstances, of suspending Australia Post's monopoly and allowing private enterprise to get on with the job.