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Parliament House, Canberra, 5 April 2000: transcript of doorstop interview [Australia Post deregulation]



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Doorstop Interview

Stephen Smith - Shadow Minister for Communications

Subject: Australia Post Deregulation

Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 5 April 2000

E & OE - Proof Only

SMITH: Today we see the Government, not content with the full privatisation of Telstra, now wanting to help destroy postal services to rural and regional Australia.

We've seen the Government confirm its intention to introduce legislation to deregulate Australia Post.

My message to Richard Alston on postal deregulation is: return to sender.

We will oppose the deregulation of Australia Post legislation in the House and in the Senate. The deregulation of Australia Post will have precisely the same effect on postal services as partial privatisation has had on telecommunications services.

Deregulation will adversely affect services to country towns, to rural, regional and remote Australia.

This is the second occasion we've seen the Prime Minister's Nyngan declaration being breached but no red light flashing. We know that Telstra comes under the Prime Minister's Nyngan declaration, well, so does Australia Post. But why didn't the red light flash with the Prime Minister when someone suggested to him that Australia Post would be deregulated?

We will return Senator Alston's legislation to him. We will ensure, in the Senate and in the House, that Australia Post is not deregulated.

JOURNALIST: What specifically do you object to in this legislation?

SMITH: What we object to is that the deregulation of Australia Post will only have the effect that Australia Post's capacity to service rural and regional and remote Australia, that Australia Post's capacity to service country towns, will be adversely affected. Not just for existing postal services, but for the new and emerging online services.

We regard Australia Post as having the capacity to provide the platform for the delivery

of new and emerging online services. And if you destroy the base on which Australia Post currently stands, not only will you adversely affect existing postal services, you'll adversely affect Australia Post's potential for the future, for new services.

JOURNALIST: Couldn't there be an argument that competition would boost service standards?

SMITH: We have, in the past, accepted that in some areas you can have limited competition to Australia Post. But these proposals go much further than the limited competition which has previously been introduced. These proposals go to the heart of Australia Post's capacity to continue to provide essential postal services to all Australians. And we know, just as in the partial privatisation of Telstra, where the adverse impacts will occur most. They will occur in the non-profit areas. They will occur in country towns, in rural and regional and remote Australia.

JOURNALIST: But if service guarantees are enshrined, isn't that an adequate safeguard?

SMITH: Well, we had a lot of talk about service guarantees, but every time we see the Australian Communications Authority reports on service guarantee performance by Telstra, we see those service guarantees are broken. So, country Australians, people who live in country towns, people who live in rural and regional and remote Australia know that when it comes to services to them, that two things will occur. Firstly, every time something occurs which is potentially in breach of the Prime Minister's Nyngan declaration, no red light flashes. And, secondly, the guarantees aren't worth the paper they're written on.

JOURNALIST: But could that be something that swings Labor around - a customer service guarantee? Would that influence you at all?

SMITH: Well, Australia Post already has universal service obligations and obligations that it must undertake. The point I'm making is that the deregulation proposed to be pursued by the Government will undermine that capacity, will undermine Australia Post's capacity to provide the current services and will significantly and adversely impact upon Australia Post's potential to deliver new emerging online services.

Ends

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.