Queensland LNP Senators Barry O’Sullivan, Ian MacDonald, James McGrath and Matt Canavan have called on Australia Post to act urgently to ensure the viability of privately owned post offices across rural and regional Australia, following the release of a damning Senate Inquiry report yesterday.
The Environment and Communications Legislation Senate Committee report found Australia Post’s lack of consultation with its more than 3000 privately owned post offices was leading to a “growing divide” that threatened long term viability.
Among the 18 recommendations, the committee concluded that:
- Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull should commission an independent audit of the functions of privately-owned post offices (known as, Licensed Post Offices) and;
- Australia Post should be required to renegotiate the terms and conditions of some agreements with Licensed Post Offices to ensure they are fair and equitable.
Senator O’Sullivan said Australia Post must support the recommendations to ensure the viability of privately-owned post offices.
“Some payments to privately owned post offices have not kept up with the consumer price index over the past two decades,” he said.
“This is a great deal of money that privately owned post offices have missed out on. These are matters that make the difference between being profitable and unviable. They need to be examined through an independent audit process.
“Post offices stand alongside hospitals and schools as essential services for rural and regional communities. They are the maypole of some communities and we need to fight for their survival.”
Senator MacDonald said many Licensed Post Office operators had dedicated their life savings to the business.
“My primary concern is for continuation of services across Northern Australia particularly in the rural and remote areas that are more reliant on postal services,” he said.
“I know many small business people who put their life savings into LPO businesses in country areas and we need to make sure they are not being ripped off.”
Senator McGrath said rural and remote and small communities needed vibrant and commercially viable postal offices to ensure the communication services and social benefits they provided were maintained.
“I’m a big supporter of regional and rural and small communities, and I’m quite tired of big business – including statutory organisations – brushing aside the needs of these communities for the sake of saving a buck,” he said.
“Australia Post realises that its outlets provide more than a postal service to smaller communities – they also provide a social function, an avenue to maintain better contact with distant friends and retailers and service providers, and it is vital that this is recognised and valued and that it remains.”
Senator Matt Cananvan, whose office is located in Rockhampton in Central Queensland, said it was in the public interest to ensure privately-owned post offices remained viable.
“We must always be pushing for greater economic resilience across rural and regional Australia – but it cannot be at the expense of community liveability,” he said.
“Post Offices are vital communal hubs in rural and regional areas throughout Central Queensland and the rest of the Australia, and the Senate committee recognises that we must do everything in our power to prevent their demise.”
Office of Queensland Senator Barry O’Sullivan
Office of Queensland Senator Ian MacDonald
Office of Queensland Senator James McGrath
Office of Queensland Senator Matt Canavan
For Senator O’Sullivan: Troy Rowling 0400 386 666
For Senator MacDonald: James Hawthorn (02)62773722
For Senator McGrath: Richard Bruinsma 0438 105 686
For Senator Canavan: 0429 680 276