Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2912


Mr LLOYD(8.16) —by leave-I move:

(5) Clause 11, page 6, after paragraph (ab) add the folowing paragraphs:

'(ac) the carriage or conveyance of a letter, regardless of the amount charged, in circumstances where the Minister determines that the suspension of the monopoly is warranted because the Commission is unable to provide a service;

'(ad) the carriage or conveyance of a letter between branches of an organisation and between an organisation and its wholly-owned subsidiaries;

'(ae) the carriage or conveyance of a letter which forms the input to, or output from, electronic transmission facilities;'.

(6) Clause 11, page 6, at the end of the clause add the following paragraph:

'(b) by omitting from paragraph (2) (c) ''the nearest'' and substituting ''any' ' '.

The Opposition is attempting to extend the exemptions from the letter monopoly in the way that Bradley recommended. I will read the paragraphs on the amendments so that everyone is quite clear on what they are. They are basically as Bradley recommended. First of all, Bradley recommended that any letter above $2 be exempted. The Goverment, in clause 11, with its own amendment has brought in its version of that recommendation. It has provided for 10 times the standard letter rate which for the present is $3. I accept that that is accepting the Bradley recommendation in that regard. It obviously is the major extension of the exemptions from the letter monopoly. Bradley recommended a number of other exemptions as well. The first amendment states:

. . . the carriage or conveyance of a letter, regardless of the amount charged, in circumstances where the Minister determines that suspension of the monopoly is warranted because the Commission is unable to provide a service;

There are occasions when there is strike action and no delivery of mail takes place. I believe it is right and proper that in such a circumstance the Minister can suspend that monopoly, so that the mail can continue to flow in some way. Delivery of the mail is supposed to be national service and therefore it should be able to continue. The second paragraph of the amendment states:

. . . the carriage or conveyance of a letter between branches of an organisation and between an organisation and its wholly-owned subsidiaries;

I think that is common sense. There is a rather absurd restriction at the moment by which it is illegal to carry a letter from one part of a company to another part or a subsidiary or related company by some form of document transfer service. As Bradley has recommended, that is a sensible, minor exemption to the letter monopoly. The amendment further states:

. . . the carriage or conveyance of a letter which forms the input to, or output from, electronic transmission facilities . . .

I will come back to that point. I go on to the final amendment. It states:

. . . by omitting from paragraph (2) (c) 'the nearest' and substituting 'any' . . .

At present a person is entitled to carry a letter personally only to the nearest post office. If he forgets to drop that letter into the nearest post office and carries it to the next post office technically he is breaking the law. The amendment seems to be a sensible one to overcome that difficulty. There is no attempt to circumvent the fact that at some time a person will drop the letter into a post office and have it posted in the normal way. That seems to me to be a perfectly sensible and minor amendment. Neither of the amendments threatens in any way the basic letter monopoly.

I come back to the carriage or conveyance of a letter which forms the input to, or output from, electronic transmission facilities. Bradley made the point that Australia Post should be a principal in the development of electronic mail but that to allow experimentation and the more rapid development of electronic mail- because we have a long way to go with electronic mail developments in this country-there should be a little bit more flexibility in regard to putting material into the electronic mail facility at the post office and distributing it from there.

I note also that Bradley mentioned in his recommendations-and this is a fair point-that the Government keep under review the possibility that the recommended exemption from the Australian Postal Commission's monopoly of letters which form inputs into or outputs from electronic transmission facilities might be exploited to avoid the monopoly applying to ordinary letters and stand ready to take appropriate remedial action should the need arise. In other words, let us see how things develop, let some flexibility and innovation come into the system , but stand ready to ensure that the basic letter monopoly as in the legislation at present is not threatened. In regard to electronic mail, to my knowledge so far Australia Post is only updating its facsimile transmission system to become part of the Intelpost system, which is a public access facsimile transmission system with international linkages. Some countries have been part of Intelpost for a number of years.

Let us look at Canada and the United States. Canada Post publishes a fairly nice brochure detailing its electronic mail services. Canada has Telepost, which is a telex-based system. It has Envoy Post, which is a computer-based text transmission system. It has been part of Intelpost for a while. It is considering what the United States Post Office has been developing now for some years-ECOM, or Electronic Computer Mail. Under this system, if a company wants a mass of letters delivered to some distant place the computer takes over, transmits the data to the final post office where it is bulk printed, enveloped and finally delivered in the ordinary post. That is a saving to companies because they do not have to go to all the bother of handling all those letters. It is also a saving to the post office because the single major postal cost is processing. The mail does not have to go from post office A to post office B and so forth before it reaches the final post office. I am interested to hear the thoughts of Australia Post as to how far it will go, and how quickly, in regard to the development of electronic mail services.

I return to the amendments. The Opposition believes that these amendments are sensible. They have been recommended by Bradley. They are not in any way gigantic or great extensions to the exemptions from the letter monopoly. They are sensible amendments which should be accepted and put into the legislation.