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Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2913

Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(8.23) —It is true that the Bradley Committee of Inquiry into the Monopoly Position of the Australian Postal Commission recommended that a number of exemptions be introduced to Australia Post's monopoly power under section 85 of the Postal Services Act. But of course , there has been a change of government. This Government has accepted only one of Bradley's recommendations. That recommendation concerns private courier services. In implementing that recommendation, the Government is conscious of the fact that that aspect of the monopoly had to be dealt with at this stage so as not to disadvantage existing operators. In our view, for that reason, it would have been unreasonable not to deal with it. But the Government has not, in fact, accepted all the Bradley Committee's recommendations. We have accepted the exemption for the carriage of letters for which a premium charge is made. The Government decided that as some doubt had been expressed about whether some private courier operations were contravening section 85 of the Act in carrying letters it would place the matter beyond doubt by providing an exemption from section 85 to private couriers to enable them to carry letters for reward subject to charging a minimum fee set at 10 times the basic domestic letter rate .

However, I think that members of the Opposition, in moving these amendments and suggesting that they do not in fact go to the basic monopoly of Australia Post, have not read or examined their amendments as carefully as they ought to have done, because whatever merits the amendments may have in the minds of the Opposition I must say that they are far too subtle for me. In any event, in their present form the amendments appear to me to be a recipe for disaster as far as Australia Post is concerned. In relation to the monopoly, one could drive a horse and cart through the amendments. For example, the amendment suggesting that the Minister should determine where there should be a suspension of the monopoly is, of course, designed to allow couriers and others to carry letters during industrial disputes. I merely think that it is quaint to say to a statutory corporation: 'We are not going to allow you to deal with industrial disputes. The Minister can determine in that sort of situation whether to have couriers or someone else come in and take over the running of the mail'.

Mr Carlton —It is not a bad idea.

Mr DUFFY —It is interesting to know that the honourable member does not think it is a bad idea. I am glad that he said that. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition faces up to these issues in another way. That is a typical example of the way in which the Opposition has dealt with industrial disputes-by legislation. In fact, the Opposition has for years attempted to deal with industrial disputes by legislation without much success. This is just another example of it. The Opposition also suggested that the monopoly not operate for letters between branches of an organisation or between an organisation and its subsidiaries.

Mr Lloyd —Which is what Bradley recommended.

Mr DUFFY —Bradley may have recommended it but I have told honourable members opposite that the government has changed. We do not necessarily accept that because Bradley recommended it ought to be implemented.

Mr Carlton —He thought about it for a long while.

Mr DUFFY —He might have thought about it for a long while. It might have been a better idea if he had thought about it for a bit longer. The Opposition does not even say in its amendments 'its letters'. I think the proposals that the Opposition put forward in regard to letters passing between branches or organisations or between an organisation and its subsidiary are just far too wide. I think that one could run a horse and cart-

Mr Lloyd —If we change that, would you agree?

Mr DUFFY — I would not care what you did to it; I would not accept it. I point out that the way the amendment is proposed at the moment, it is well worth drawing the attention of people to the absurdity of the definitions. I do not think that there is any reason why letters between companies-and I will come to the point the honourable member just made-should be exempt from the monopoly simply because they are subsidiary companies. As a substantive point, I do not in fact see why that ought to be. The suggested exemption from the monopoly for the input and the output of electronic mail would present an obvious way in which to avoid a monopoly. One can, in fact, have almost a contrived electronic input in respect of mail which would, in my view, allow the monopoly position to be avoided. I do not suggest that the Opposition had that in mind when moving its amendment but I think there are lot of difficulties in respect of that aspect. I do not think there is any argument in favour of it.

The exemption from a monopoly of the carriage of letters to any post office rather than the nearest post office, as is the case in the present Act, is a matter which I would be prepared to examine further on the basis the Opposition has put forward. We can have another look at that. That is a matter which I think-

Mr Lloyd —The point has been made.

Mr DUFFY —The honourable member has had his go. I have taken the point that he has put forward that he considers that that is unsatisfactory. That is a matter which the Government- we are now the Government-will consider.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Lloyd's) be agreed to.