Australia Post Senate Inquiry report findings

24 September 2014

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (17:50): I, too, rise to take note of the report. I particularly want to support the comments of the previous speakers in relation to the level of cooperation between all of the parties, including the Independents in this place, who participated in this inquiry. What bound us all, I think, was a sense of fairness—or lack thereof—with respect to the treatment of so many of these small businesses known as licensed post offices around Australia. I would like to recognise the chairmanship of my colleagues Senator Williams and, later, Senator Ruston. And I would like to compliment the secretariat on a very comprehensive and, I think, excellent report.

I would like to briefly mention, also, retired senator Boswell, who made a big contribution to this in the beginning, and certainly inspired and motivated any number of us to stay the course, as he used to stay, to see that this work was done. I also recognise the work of Angela Cramp and Andrew Hirst and, through them, the dozens and dozens of licensed post offices who went way above the call of duty in making contributions to equipping those of us in this inquiry to remain up to speed with what was happening, and to providing us with data and research. Your contributions are seriously acknowledged, and we thank you on behalf of the entire licensed post office network.

I am going to be brief because a number of people want to speak. I want to put a couple of points on notice. We should never forget in this place or in the House of Representatives that we are the owners of Australia Post. In fact, the minister owner sits with us here today, so he will be able to listen to the recommendations we are making. It is owned by the Minister for Communications and now Minister for Finance. So we do not have to look too far to find out who was responsible for us being in the position that we are in with these licensed post offices. We do not even have to look any further to find where the solutions to these problems exist.

There have been failures on behalf of the Commonwealth owner of Australia Post for literally decades in keeping the principle of using the base postal rate to increase the payments to these post offices for the services that they provide. These are very vital public service commitments that we have made. I am told that delivery of post was one of the first obligations that we made as a nation when we settled here in 1788.

Finally, I want to put Australia Post on notice. These are my words and I do not speak for anyone else in the inquiry. At times I found Australia Post frustrating. I do not think they were as forthcoming as they ought to have been. I found their attitude wanting on occasions when we were looking for their cooperation to work with this investigation to determine the depth and the breadth of the problems within these post offices. So I say to Mr Fahour: it does not end here today with this report; it begins here today and we will be watching. The same collection, the same cohort, of senators from this place who have taken this challenge will be watching.

I urge Mr Fahour and his executive management team to get out in front of our ministers, to get out in front of the owners, and fix these issues over the coming months. These are very seriously urgent issues. There are many people on the breadline. They have been waiting patiently for us to stand up because we are their cul-de-sac. There is nowhere for them to go after they have been to us. We stand between them and viability of their businesses. I say to Mr Fahour: keep an ear to the ground and keep an eye on what is happening because I promise you that that is what I am doing with you, and I am certain that is the case with many of the other senators who make a contribution.

We will see justice done here because we have no other course to take. This is an unusual relationship between this government and these people and we have a responsibility to ensure that we behave in a proper manner. While ever I am in this place—and I speak for the others in this place—we will see that that outcome is achieved. I thank you for the chance to speak.