August 18, 2020

JENNY MARCHANT, PRESENTER: Australia Post has started letting our local MPs know that in some parts of the Hunter, mail will soon only be delivered every second business day rather than every day. They’re saying it’s temporary to help them deal with the challenges of COVID-19. Will that make much of a difference to you? Let us know.

DAN COX, PRESENTER: Pat Conroy is the Federal Member for Shortland and joins you now. Good morning Pat.

PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: Good morning, how are you?

COX: Well thank you. What has Australia Post told you?

CONROY: Australia Post have officially informed me that the entire electorate of Shortland will only be receiving mail every second business day. So from Budgewoi in the south up to Charlestown, Kahibah, Dudley and Cardiff in the north, we will only be getting our mail every second day and I think that’s a complete disgrace to be honest.

MARCHANT: As I understand it, it doesn’t only include Shortland, there are other parts of the Hunter that will be affected. I believe your counterpart in the seat of Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, is also sharing this information with her constituents.

CONROY: Absolutely, and this is being rolled out across every metropolitan area in the country. It’s something that this Government is doing to try and cut costs, and they’re trying to use the COVID crisis as a cover for that cost cutting measure.

COX: You say it’s a disgrace, let’s talk about the actual impact on your constituents, the people who actually live in the region. What’s wrong? Why can’t we have our mail every second day?

CONROY: Well many people in Shortland rely on the mail for basic communication. For example, I’ve got 30,000 people in Shortland that are over the age of 65. I’ve got the seventh oldest electorate in the country by age, and many of those people, thousands in fact, don’t have access to a computer, don’t want to train on a computer, they don’t want to go online for everything, or they’re unable to do that because their internet, for example their reception is patchy. So these people rely on mail. They rely on Australia Post delivering every day for basic services.

And it’s also people at the other end of the spectrum who enjoy getting mail. My five-year-old son got his first note sent by post yesterday and it was an incredibly joyful experience for him as well. So this is not just affecting senior Australians, it’s across the whole gamut of our population, but particularly in electorates like mine with more older Australians who don’t have access to computers. This is actually reducing their access to important services.

MARCHANT: Only reducing by the frequency of every second day rather than every day – does it make much of a difference to your constituents if they receive that letter on Wednesday as opposed to Tuesday?

CONROY: Well this is the start of the process. If anyone thinks this is the end of the process, I’ve got them a bridge to sell because this is all about cutting costs for the Government and Australia Post. They lose money for every letter sent and they make tonnes of money on every parcel sent, so instead of using the profits from the parcel business to subsidise the letters, they’re just cutting the letter delivery. So yes, this announcement is for post being delivered every two days. Very shortly after that I predict it will be every three days to even once a week, and then you’re fundamentally eroding a really basic service that every Australian should be able to rely on.

MARCHANT: That idea that there’s a plan to – are you suggesting there is a plan to stop Australians from sending letters, because that only works if we stop using the postal service doesn’t it?

CONROY: No, I’m suggesting there’s a plan for them to reduce the number of delivery days that goes beyond one every two days, because the basic fact is the way that Australia Post is constructed, they make a lot of money off parcel delivery and they lose money off delivering letters. And what should happen is Australia Post should subsidise the letter delivery business by the parcel business because receiving letters is a very important service. But at the moment what Australia Post is focused on and what this Government is focused on is maximising the profits from the parcel delivery business, and they do that by cutting the letter delivery business. They lose money on every letter delivered – it’s in their interest to cut the number of days that they will deliver them.

COX: Pat Conroy, it’s well documented that Australia Post has been struggling for some time now financially. Why don’t you believe the COVID reasons for cutting costs, and how can they go forward if they are struggling anyway? Should they not make the most of this time to see where they can save money?

CONROY: Well the leadership of Australia Post and the Government lied about the impact of COVID upon their letter delivery business. So they’ve made outrageous claims that the number of addressed letters has fallen by 50 to up to 75 per cent in some instances during the COVID period. We’ve received information back through the Senate Estimates process that in fact the addressed mail volumes are the same – there were 139 million letters in February before the COVID lockdown, they went up to 155 million in March, and they were at 139 million in April. So COVID has not affected the level of volumes of addressed letters that Australia Post is required to deliver. They are using the COVID crisis as a cover to cut a service that they lose money on and instead are using some of the Australia Post employees to deliver more parcels which they make lots of money on. So this is just using COVID as a political cover to cut a service.

MARCHANT: Well thanks for explaining to us your position on this, we will no doubt be discussing it further. Thank you very much.

CONROY: My pleasure, have a great morning.