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Australia Post: Costello's secret cash cow.



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M E D I A S T A T E M E N T

Senator Sue Mackay Senate Opposition Whip Labor Senator for Tasmania

2 9 M a y 2 0 0 3

Australia Post - Costello's Secret Cash Cow

Senate estimates has revealed that the Government raided Australia Post of its entire 2001/2002 profit of $291.8 million to prop up its budget bottom line.

Communications Minister Richard Alston then proceeded to shut down Labor's questions on the fate of the Australia Post's 2002/2003 profits by refusing to allow Australia Post to answer questions.

Given the entire purpose of budget estimates is to obtain information on 2003/2004 for the purposes of Senate scrutiny, this refusal to allow questions even on 2002/2003 is without precedent.

By shutting down questioning, Minister Alston has prevented the truth coming out.

We are left wondering what additional “special dividend” the Government is taking this financial year, on top of the usual dividend of 60% of Australia Post’s profit? Furthermore, how much are they planning to pinch next year?

Given the cost of ordinary stamps has risen this financial year from 45 cents to 50 cents and that Australia Post has admitted on Tuesday that the cost of parcels will increase by 50 cents per parcel, it is hard to see these price rises as anything other than another grab for cash by Mr Costello.

While Australia Post will justify the increase in the cost of parcels on the grounds that the new identification arrangements for people lodging parcels has cost them $4.1 million, Australia Post argued in Estimates that the “special dividend” of $116.7million paid to Mr Costello in 2001/2002 on top of the ordinary dividend of $175.1 million did not have an impact on their profitability.

It is therefore hard to see why they could not absorb the cost of the new arrangements.

Given Australia Post made a profit of $298.1 million, which was whipped away by the Treasurer, why should Australians pay extra for stamps and parcels so that the Government can secretly grab back the money in a dodgy sleight of hand?

The Government must come clean immediately on what it has been up to this year and what its plans are for Australia Post next financial year.

The clumsy and obvious move to shut down Senators' questions at this week's Estimates hearings, leads Labor to believe that the same misleading of the Australian public will occur again.

If the Government doesn't ‘fess up, Labor will force the issue when the Senate resumes on 16 June 2003.

Media contact: Emma Bridge (03) 6224 4022 or 0417 152 206