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Monday, 2 December 1985
Page: 2651

Senator VIGOR(3.30) —What comes out of the annual report of the Australian Postal Commission is the sheer size of the operation. Over 3,100 million articles were handled in 1984-85. If one were working a six-day week, one would actually be handling 10 million articles every working day. Australia Post employs, directly and indirectly, around 45,286 people, including both permanent officers and the people who serve in branch post offices and agencies. The report mentions that the post office is now looking at enhanced career structures and devolution of authority into regional areas. This is particularly important because it means that local services can be developed and subsidised by the more lucrative central facilities which are offered in the cities.

I too would like to join Senator Maguire in deploring the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia is considering privatisation. Privatisation has been explicitly rejected on several occasions in the report, and reference is made to the fact that country services, particularly in outer regions, would probably not be maintained at the right level by people who would buy Australia Post. The subsidy is very high, particularly in the area of the registered publication services, which helps a number of voluntary organisations within our community. There is also an enormous subsidy on the long range haul services to the country and into the outback. However, the Australian Postal Commission made a profit last year after the Prices Surveillance Authority suggested some modified increased charges as a result of its inquiry into operations and pricing within the Commission.

Some new services which I think are worth looking at are the express courier service and the priority paid services, in which there has been a strong growth. This may have been due to the fact that the normal services are no longer within the declared service parameters which Australia Post advertises; so people are relying more and more upon the courier and priority paid services. Perth and New South Wales have suffered in these areas. In fact, 31 per cent of articles going to Perth are delivered late. My State of South Australia, however, has a very good record. Around 99 per cent of articles in both these classes have been delivered on time. I compliment our local officer on that.

Eventually, from questions asked in the Estimates Committee, we managed to find out why the Perth services were so poor. The reason was simply that the airlines had no sensible contracts with the post office and no penalty clauses applied to the airlines if they did not deliver the articles on time. The Government still has not said what it will do to solve the problem, nor has Australia Post. I call on them to do something pretty quickly about introducing standards and penalty clauses in the negotiation of new contracts with airlines, particularly on the east-west run. I conclude by saying that, according to the Prices Surveillance Authority report last year, we pay 1c extra on every letter because of the cost of industrial disputation in New South Wales. That is really a problem for the post office to tackle and to handle as soon as possible. I call upon the Commission to do something about it pretty quickly.