Australia Post reforms seal the deal for public ownership

August 22, 2023

Australia Post - Post Man in Hi-Vis on Motorbike

A modernised Australia Post will feature more services and continued support of regional areas, as the federal government wraps up consultation and plans for a “package of reforms” for the national postal service.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the government is committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of Australia Post so it can deliver essential services for businesses and people.

“Australia Post is owned by all Australians. I thank everyone who shared their views on how best to modernise this cherished national institution,” she said in a statement.

“This feedback will inform government decision-making on reform options to help Australia Post succeed now and into the future.”

Over 1000 individuals, community organisations, charities, businesses and government bodies made submissions during the consultation period, including Australian Red Cross, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Electoral Commission and Australia Post.

Emma Dawson, executive director of Per Capita, said her organisation’s 2020 report into the future of the organisation showed it performed better than other postal services internationally in adapting to the digital market and online shopping.

“It’s had one year since we published the report, in 2022-23, where it made its first financial loss since 2015,” she said.

“Aside from this, it has managed to remain profitable, provide services across the country, build up its parcel deliveries and really grapple with the fact we have an enormous landmass and a relatively small population.”

AusPost’s future

Australia Post’s own submission to the review states the executives support the government’s proposal for modernisation if it adheres to the following long-term goals:

  • AusPost remains fully publicly owned and is allowed to offer universal services
  • It remains financially sustainable and can invest in its networks and services through productivity increases supply chain resilience
  • Provides appropriate coverage of the post office network, particularly in regional areas
  • Reduces operating costs in delivering regulated letter services, freeing up delivery and resources for parcel delivery.
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AusPost executives welcomed calls to modernise its service. Photo: AAP

The government’s key findings from the consultation included that Australians support a financially sustainable Australia Post, there was wide support for improved parcel services and changes to letter delivery arrangements, and that retail outlets in rural, regional and remote areas are highly valued.

Publicly owned

When announcing the “modernisation of Australia Post”, Ms Rowland said there will be no privatisation of any part of the postal service.

Ms Dawson said while the government has committed to keeping the service publicly owned, “we need to know exactly what that means”.

“As a publicly owned company it operates under these legislated national service provisions that require them to carry all parts of the country to all businesses and households,” she said.

“It’s one of, if not the most, trusted brands in Australia. It is seen as reliable, ethical and trustworthy.”

Banking options

Ms Dawson said Australia Post should expand into the banking sector, particularly in hard-to-reach areas.

“It called on the government to establish a retail bank initially within Australia Post, akin to the New Zealand Kiwi Bank model,” she said.

“Australia Post or a licensed post office often remain the only public service outlet in many regional and rural communities and they’re already delivering banking services on behalf of established banks.”

In its submission to the government, the Australian Banking Association (ABA)  stated more than 80 banks and financial institutions have banking partnerships with Australia Post.

“Australia Post reports that over 14.5 million of these Bank@Post transactions were conducted at Australia Post outlets, last financial year,” the ABA’s submission stated.

“The ABA believes that Bank@Post provides a good example of how Australia Post’s service offering can be modernised and the financial sustainability of this important essential service, maintained and supported into the future.”

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Submissions highlighted support for letter delivery changes. Photo: AAP

Into the future

Ms Rowland and Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance, will now “work with stakeholders to implement a package of reforms that meets the modern needs of Australian communities and businesses,” according to the Department of Infrastructure.

“This government is committed to ensuring that Australia Post remains financially capable to provide the services that Australian communities need both now and into the future,” Ms Gallagher said in a media release.

Written by Parker McKenzie for The New Daily, Aug 11, 2023