Australia Post is one of the nation’s most trusted and valued public institutions.
A national postal service has existed since Federation in 1901, when the Post-Master General’s Department was established. The PGD operated for three-quarters of a century, keeping Australians connected throughout our country and across the world until its replacement in 1975 by the Australian Postal Commission.
In its current form, Australia Post has operated a world-class postal service, spanning our vast landmass, since the establishment of the Australian Postal Corporation as a Government Business Enterprise in 1989. Australia Post has maintained a reliable, secure and trusted public service to the Australian people for almost 120 years, maintaining the essential lines of communication through two world wars and the Great Depression. It survived, and has thrived, since the advent of digital communications in the early 2000s, while many other public postal services around the world surrendered to the forces of privatisation and the shift to online communications.
In the last 35 years, only once has Australia Post recorded a financial loss: in the 2014-2015 financial year, as its reserved letters service was hit by a severe decline when the adoption of email reached a critical mass. Yet in the face of this great digital disruption, Australia Post adapted its business model quickly, with minimal loss of service or jobs, and returned to profitability on the back of a strategic investment in its parcel delivery and courier services.
Today, Australia Post operates three core business areas: letters and associated services; parcels and logistics; and retail merchandise and agency services.
It is a cost-positive Government Business Enterprise, funding its operations entirely through revenue, and returning a dividend to the Federal Government in every year other than 2014-2015 since its incorporation more than three decades ago.
The Corporation has, throughout that time, adhered to the community service obligations set out in the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989, delivering mail to Australians five days per week, wherever they live.
Australia Post delivers to more than 10 million Australian addresses, across almost 8,000 postal routes that are serviced by more than 10,000 “posties”. It operates almost 7,000 retail outlets nation-wide, serving more than one million customers per day, and provides such essential services as bill payments and financial transactions, passport applications, identity verification and secure parcel delivery and collection.
According to the 2019 Annual Report, Australia Post delivered 40 million parcels in December 2018, generated revenue of A$6.99 billion, with before tax profits of A$41.1 million, created over A$250million in business efficiency savings, and delivered to 214 countries in its international network.
It maintains over 4,342 post offices, including 2,529 in rural and remote areas of the country, 15,037 street posting boxes and employs over 80,000 Australian workers.
As with all postal services, Australia Post’s revenues have been under pressure since the advent and wide adoption of digital communications. While offset by the rise in parcel delivery through online shopping, and effective innovations to its products and services over the last decade, Australia Post is still faced by significant operational pressures. Government should consider expanding, rather than contracting, the services provided by Australia Post, both in the interests of its customers and to strengthen the revenue base and viability of the enterprise.
One way to do this would be through consideration of establishing a public bank in Australia by providing Australia Post with an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution (ADI) licence. The establishment of a postal banking service in Australia would, by operating within the existing infrastructure footprint of Australia Post outlets nation-wide, provide banking services to Australians who are currently underserviced by the existing banking sector, including in regional and rural communities. Moreover, it could ensure the continuation of postal services in these communities, and underpin the ongoing viability of Australia Post’s services across Australia. This idea will be explored in detail in an upcoming Per Capita report.
Australia Post is a treasured national institution, essential to Australia’s prosperity and security. Its future must be safeguarded and strengthened in the interests of all Australians.