Australia Post – still getting the stamp of approval? 6



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The news that the price of some postal services – although not the price of the basic stamp – will rise in March got me thinking about good old Australia Post where, many moons ago, I earned my keep.

Last December, as I was waiting in line to buy our Christmas card stamps, a nice young lady holding a clipboard asked me if I would like to participate in a survey which, she explained, was designed to rate customer satisfaction of Australia Post’s service.

Given that the line to the counter stretched out of the post office and into the mall, I thought her mission was one fraught with problems right from the outset. However, I like to think that I am a co-operative sort of chap and, anyhow, I had nothing else to do.

The woman behind me, struggling with a pram laden with parcels, made a snorting sort of sound of disapproval. Frankly I was wondering if she should be reported to the child safety folks because if there was a baby in that pram it was in imminent danger of being crushed to death. But I keep myself to myself, for which everybody I know is grateful.

I pondered the opening question, “What do you think of Australia Post’s services?” I thoughtfully asked, “Do you mean today?” then a parcel slipped off the pram and landed heavily on my foot. Bloody hell, I thought, this woman is sending lead bricks to her loved ones.

“Well, no. I mean, ummm, like overall,” my inquisitor gently inquired.

“Well dear,” I replied through teeth clenched in pain, “I’m old enough to remember when the postie came twice a day – morning and afternoon – during the week and on Saturday mornings as well. And on a push bike. And he blew his whistle”.

She showed signs of backing away. The line wasn’t moving so I pressed on with my interesting, helpful and insightful observations. “You weren’t born then so you wouldn’t know. But that was service dear. That was service”.

But, for some reason, she didn’t write anything of this down and turned tail and fled.

Letter volumes peaked in 2007-08 with 4.6 billion letters posted and there has been a steady decline ever since..

Australia Post has to obey its Community Service Obligations which basically means they have to be able to deliver letters from anywhere to anywhere and for the same basic cost. It is plainly absurd that it costs the same to send a letter from Cairns to Perth as it does to send it next door.

A truly commercial operation would charge by distance but Australia Post is not a truly commercial operation and has to pay a dividend to the Federal Government.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says there are no plans to sell Australia Post – and Labor agrees – and the question does arise: who would want to buy it when it is tied down by Community Services Obligations?

The boom in online shopping has been a winner for Australia Post and its parcels business is growing by some 10 per cent a year but this revenue increase doesn’t cover other mounting losses.

Back in July 1975, when Australia Post emerged from the Postmaster-General’s Department, the price of the standard stamp went from 10 cents to 18 cents which was a whopping increase and caused a public outcry. The then-Opposition ran huge two-page newspaper advertisements with the 10 cent stamp on one page and the 18 cent stamp on the other. The caption read, “What Labor has done to the stamp, it has done to Australia”.

It was a powerful message. Later that year when the Coalition became the Government it did exactly nothing to cut the price of stamps. In 1966, the first year of decimal currency, the stamp cost 4 cents.

Nowadays, the single daily delivery to households and business is, well, problematic. A letter might get to its destination the next day, or the day after or the day after that. No guarantees at all really. Australia Post will get it there as fast as possible.

So now we have Express Post which guarantees next day delivery and Courier Post which guarantees same day delivery in metro areas of the same state within a defined network. Naturally, the charges are pretty stiff and nobody blows a whistle either when they are delivered.

Registered post is supposed to ensure they won’t lose it which to my mind implies that your regular letters could be pinched, lost or just thrown away which is a discomforting thought. We didn’t get as near as many cards for Christmas last year as we once did.

I could have told that nice young lady doing the survey that I also remember when post boxes and vans all carried the Royal Mail insignia – that quietly vanished when Australia Post paid a fortune for its new corporate look. Republicanism by stealth I call it.

What do you think about Australia Post’s service? Have they improved or worsened? Do you think they charge too much to send a parcel or letter?

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. Ah yes – twice a day and Saturday mornings, on his push bike, rain hail or shine – and a whistle to let you know you had mail. Those were the days….Australia Post can’t be doing too badly. Whenever I have a need to visit I invariably find a queue that stretches to the door or beyond.

  2. I, too, remember the postal service as it used to be. But, from what I’ve read, Australia Post seems to be doing its best to put itself out of business.
    If standard postage is raised from 70 cents to a dollar, a lot more A-P traffic is going to vanish.
    For example – I’m a Board member of a voluntary, non-profit organisation. Every month-or-so, we produce a newsletter. Our funds are crucial – we don’t have money to waste – so, as many as possible of these newsletters are circulated by e-mail as .pdf documents.
    There are still quite a few members who don’t have e-mail access, so hard copies have to be printed and posted. That in itself comes at a cost, particularly the postage.
    Raise postage to a dollar, and it will become more economic, and quicker, to drive a car around local addresses and hand-deliver. Australia Post loses out again.

  3. The service has deteriorated something shocking. Mail never arrives, I have never known so many letters just never arrive. The idea that they will increase postage, and take longer to get there is a joke. I have tried to keep letter writing to support them, especially with the concession stamps, but they are doing themselves no favours. I posted a letter on 16th Feb from Gympie to Bouldercombe, still not there. It had a postal note in it, I still have the receipt, and the $25 postal note cost $8 . Never again.

  4. Before Christmas I posted a small parcel on Express post and of course you can track it. It had to go from Wollongong to Kempsey on the North Coast. Posted in Wollongong and arrived in Sydney then sent to Albury – 2days of weekend – no trace of leaving Albury until it arrived ed in Brisbane 2 days weekend – finally arrived in Kempsey the following Tuesday – now that’s what I call real service and it only cost me $8!

    1 REPLY
    • Express Post is “hand sorted” and care has to be taken. Sounds like it missed the BNE bag altogether.

  5. I thought postcodes made sorting mail easier. How come mail correctly addressed to me in SA 5109 are sent to Qld 4107 before being redirected to me?

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