Australia Post’s coronavirus delivery cuts are facing the scrap heap as posties warn that the changes have “degraded” the firm’s quality of service.
The ‘Alternating Delivery Model’ (ADM) has allowed Australia Post to halve the frequency of letter and small parcel delivery services in metropolitan areas, stretch letter delivery times, and scrap its priority mail service.
Now, a bipartisan senate committee has announced that it will junk the ADM at the start of next year unless communications minister Paul Fletcher can convince them that adequate consultation was undertaken.
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation is chaired by Liberal senator for New South Wales Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
On October 6, Senator Fierravanti-Wells issued a notice stating that the committee would move to disallow the regulatory relief granted to Australia Post “in 15 sitting days”, which sets the deadline as the first sitting day of 2021.
The committee operates on a consensus basis, and has been corresponding with Morrison government communications minister Paul Fletcher about the ADM.
It is now up to Mr Fletcher to satisfy the committee that sufficient consultation was undertaken with parties impacted by the service cuts.
A spokesperson for Mr Fletcher told The New Daily that a previously scheduled review into the ADM is currently “underway and will determine whether the relief should continue for the full period up until 30 June 2021”.
The review will be finalised before the end of the year, the spokesperson said.
“As part of the review, the Minister has written to representatives of Australia Post’s workforce, Licensed Post Office franchisees, large and small businesses and the print industry seeking views on the impact of the regulatory relief,” they said.
The regulatory relief was requested by Australia Post boss Christine Holgate in March, and approved by the Morrison government in April.
Ms Holgate argued that the ADM was necessary to allow the firm to shift its focus from letters to parcels in order to better meet the pandemic surge in delivery demand.
But that claim has been fiercely contested, with Victorian posties this week slamming the changes in a survey released by their union.
Of the nearly 400 posties polled, more than 93 per cent said the ADM had “degraded” the quality of service Australia Post offers.
Customers and businesses across the nation continue to be frustrated by ongoing delivery delays, and the survey revealed just how much the postal service is groaning under the weight of demand.
Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of posties surveyed said they were unable to take all their breaks while ensuring their round was delivered.
Under-resourcing appears to be exacerbating delivery delays, with 89.5 per cent of posties saying that some parcels had to be left behind or brought back undelivered at the end of their round.
“Our members have made their views clear, the alternate day delivery model has made an already difficult situation in Victoria worse,” Communications Workers Union Victorian state secretary Leroy Lazaro said.
“Around 50 per cent of the most efficient modes of delivery that deliver small parcels via the footpath, which make up an estimated 70 per cent of all parcels, have been replaced with less efficient vans.
This is leading to further parcel delivery delays than otherwise would have occurred.”
Mr Lazaro called on the government to “restore the traditional mail service standards as soon as possible”.
Australia Post must also “provide the extra resources needed in delivery, not less, to deal with the new norm of eCommerce”, he said.
Despite playing an essential role in keeping Australia running during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Lazaro said that the morale of posties “is at the lowest ebb ever and stress levels have never been higher”.
“If the government and Australia Post had engaged in proper consultation with us and our members, many of the issues could have been avoided,” he said.
In a statement to The New Daily, Australia Post said it noted that the survey results were understood “to involve a small sample of our large postie workforce”.
“We look forward to the Victorian branch of the union sharing the details of their survey results which we understand these claims are based on,” it said.
Australia Post said posties had delivered 118 million parcels in the last quarter alone – “more parcels than ever before”.
“By moving posties into vans we have been able to deliver 600,000 additional parcels in vans on a monthly basis compared to last year,” the statement read.
“This includes many large parcels which simply cannot be delivered on a motorbike.”
Pauline Hanson stubby holders and the ADM
Ms Holgate is Australia’s highest paid civil servant, and lobbied hard for parliament to back the ADM.
Ms Holgate’s efforts included a trip to Queensland to give a personal tour of an Australia Post facility to One Nation senator Pauline Hanson, whose support was essential to the passage of the service changes.
Ms Holgate later came under fire when it was revealed that she had personally intervened to advocate for the delivery of stubby holders sent by Ms Hanson to residents of Melbourne public housing towers in hard lockdown.