Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan says a national review into Australia Post’s current payment systems to Licensed Post Offices (LPO) is urgently required to prevent the closure of outlets across rural and remote areas.
Senator O’Sullivan’s call has been sparked by the announcement that the Quilpie Post Office, which services more than 17 per cent of the Queensland landmass, could be forced to close its doors at the end of the year unless Australia Post is able to offer a different payment system that improves profitability.
Senator O’Sullivan said he has also been contacted by other Licensed Post Office operators from across rural Australia that claim they are unviable and may be forced to close their doors due to the outdated and unsuitable payments offered by Australia Post.
He said he was also aware some LPOs have been taken over by local councils, sometimes running annual losses of more than $100,000 each year.
Senator O’Sullivan said there was clear evidence the current system was broken and unless urgent action was taken to ensure communications delivery to the bush was profitable and viable in the long term, the ‘tyranny of distance’ would continue to stymie economic growth and liveability in rural Australia.
“The tyranny of distance has been the bogeyman that has always haunted the economic potential of rural Australia,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“But our move to the communications age was supposed to tackle these challenges. Things have improved in some ways but we need a much more focussed effort to make sure our rural communities are not left behind.
“The delivery of reliable and viable communication systems, such as the internet and postal services, is essential to enable our rural communities to be innovative, productive and competitive in the global marketplace.
“To deny these communities a strong communications sector is to deny their ability to reach their economic potential and, as a consequence, treat them as second class citizens.”
Senator O’Sullivan said the Quilpie LPO does not have street delivery in their area, only Post Boxes.
He said this means that all mail, including parcels, are delivered to the Post Office for processing, meaning the Post Office is only entitled to $0.25 for each article processed.
In comparison, a LPO in a more metropolitan area only has to process street delivered articles and parcels when they receive them from an Australia Post contractor who has not been able to deliver them successfully the first time due to the recipient not being home. This LPO receives $1.60 for processing this article.
Senator O’Sullivan said it was clearly not equitable for Australia Post to expect the Quilpie LPO to carry out tasks for $0.25 that Post Office outlets in more populated areas were being paid $1.60.
“We should remember this post office has been a maypole for the Quilpie Community,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“It was established in the town in 1921 – years before the first court house and the first telephone line were set up.
“When you take a service like the post office out of a place like Quilpie, the whole town and the entire region are affected forever.
“The Australian postal service has confronted financial difficulties multiple times throughout its long history due to the huge distances required to service our nation.
“But despite the cost of ensuring postal routes and mail networks are maintained, few would dispute the absolute importance of postal outlets and facilities to develop and sustain all Australian communities, especially those in rural and remote areas.
“The time has come to tackle this issue head first so we can ensure our rural and remote Licensed Post Offices can provide their essential services and local employment for many, many years to come.”