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Tuesday, 8 March 2005
Page: 3

Senator CONROY (12:42 PM) —I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 4446:

(1)    Schedule 1, item 11, page 19 (after line 31), after subsection 19ZA(2), insert:

      (2A)    Notwithstanding subsection (2), where a PPO meets the conditions specified in this section, it must apply in writing to the Postal Industry Ombudsman to be registered for the purposes of this Part where:

              (a)    the PPO comprises 20 or more employees; and

              (b)    the PPO annual financial turnover threshold is greater than $1,000,000.

This is a straightforward amendment. As I indicated in my remarks during the second reading debate, this amendment seeks to expand the jurisdiction of the Postal Industry Ombudsman by requiring significant private postal operators to join the scheme. This contrasts with the government’s approach to the bill, which says that private operators can choose to opt in to the scheme. The amendment inserts a new subsection into section 19ZA of the bill to require private postal operators to register with the PIO if they have more than 20 employees and an annual turnover that exceeds $1 million. This should capture major private operators like DHL and UPS and improve the level of consumer protection offered by the scheme. Mandatory registration should not be a major financial impost for these large private postal operators.

As was noted during the second reading debate, the costs of running the PIO are recovered from postal companies based on the number of complaints that the PIO receives relating to that company. Companies with high service standards are unlikely to have to make major contributions to the PIO. The government has argued that operators who do not join the scheme will still be regulated by state offices of fair trading. Where is John Howard’s centralism when you need it, Senator Cherry!

Labor does not believe that this is a satisfactory justification for limiting the scope of the PIO scheme. The growing significance of the major private postal operators means that users of their services should also be entitled to call on the services of the dedicated Postal Industry Ombudsman. A PIO with a broader jurisdiction also has the potential to raise standards across the entire industry. In addition, Labor believes that it is appropriate that Australia Post’s major competitors are also subject to the scrutiny of the PIO, so I commend this amendment to the chamber.

I again make the point that this is simply about trying to hold the government to its own promise, made in the year 2001. Richard Alston promised to deliver a robust PIO, similar to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. This government, after three years, is trying to crawl away quietly from this commitment. This is a small and simple amendment, which is the minimum needed to make this a reasonable scheme. I urge senators to support this amendment and I even call on Senator Coonan to accept this as a reasonable proposition. Let us move forward and hope this new jurisdiction works successfully on behalf of consumers.