5AA Mornings with Leon Byner

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Wednesday, 21st April 2021

5AA Mornings with Leon Byner

Discussing the proposed privatisation of Australia Post and more.

SUBJECT: Proposed privatisation of Australia Post.

LEON BYNER, HOST: Anthony Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G'day. How are you going? 

BYNER: I'm very good. And I want to talk to you about the business of perishables in Australia Post. It is a complex food safety issue. However, why is it, from your reading, that Australia Post has now decided that it can't deliver perishables? They're going to do this as of June 30. What is the reason?

ALBANESE: Well, this is quite extraordinary. They've been able to do it for some period of time. And indeed, it's been a growing area of the business. It seems to me that, and Christine Holgate's evidence before the Senate committee helped reaffirm this, that Australia Post are being set up for potential privatisation. They're talking about getting rid of all of the parcel business, potentially, and there was a secret report to that end. They're talking about closing regional post offices, making an enormous difference with thousands of people losing their jobs. This is just the latest in what is incomprehensible policy making. It is quite clear that this would have a real impact on particularly our agricultural sector, particularly the small players in the industry.

BYNER: My problem with it is this, it is a statutory authority. It is owned in trust and managed by the government of the day. It's not theirs to sell, is it?

ALBANESE: Well, that is certainly my view, my very strong view. But it is clear with this secret report that was commissioned and never published that selling off the Australia Post is indeed on the agenda. It has been floated from time to time by various Coalition members. And I think it just comes down to an ideological opposition to the idea that the public sector should play key roles. But for essential industries, like the delivery of letters and parcels, it's very clear that it should be in public hands, it should be in a corporation that's accountable to the people. And the government of the day, as you say, are just the guardians for that public interest that has been built up over such a long period of time. And the withdrawal of services, whether it be the delay in the delivery of letters, or this proposal, are all negative and should be resisted. 

BYNER: So what happens from here? Because I'm damn sure the public would regard this as a very bad move.

ALBANESE: We are going to address this, and particularly when it comes to the Senate estimates process after the Budget. This change has been flagged to come in from July 1. Well, the Budget comes down in May. Senate estimates will be in late May. We will proceed to run the full gamut of questions to the Australia Post board about why these proposals keep being pursued. We shouldn't have to run a public campaign. But let me tell you, I think people will. And I'm sure that your listeners will be a part of that.

BYNER: It seems to me, just sitting on the fence here at the moment, that what they're trying to do is fatten it up to flog it and get the most out of it and get rid of anything that doesn't make them the most profit. It looks that way to me.

ALBANESE: Well, that's exactly right. And either that or, in the first instance, flog off the most profitable areas of the business. And what that will mean, of course, is that then they will say, 'Well, the Australia Post isn't making money, so we need to get rid of it from public hands completely'. The truth is that Australia Post produces revenue for taxpayers. Revenue that can go towards healthcare, that can go towards education, it can go towards infrastructure. That's why it's a national asset. It's one that we should be proud of. But the undermining of it has got to stop. We have a board that is stacked with former Liberal Party and Nationals MPs and staffers. It is a business that should be run properly and should be run in the public interest. And the withdrawal of services to regional agricultural communities in particular will hurt that, hurt those communities, will cost jobs, and it should be opposed.

BYNER: I reckon that this is an election issue.

ALBANESE: I think that this Government's whole failure to govern in the national interest is going to be a major election issue. Wherever we look, we have real short-termism. No long-term vision for the nation, particularly coming out of the pandemic. And one of the things about these smaller agricultural producers is that they kept the country fed during the difficulties, during the pandemic of 2020. Things have gotten a little bit better, but we're not out of the woods. And for them to then cop these decisions without any proper consultation is not on.

BYNER: Anthony, thanks for your time. We will put it to the public this morning about what they think about this. You see, I keep coming back to one irrefutable fact. It is a statutory authority. No executive government owns it. It's held in trust. And were there to be any kind of disposal, surely, that's got to go to the full Parliament. But they won't do it because they know they won't get it up. So this Australia Post issue is going to be an election issue. Now, I've just looked at the latest Newspoll, which is a couple of weeks old, that's a general Newspoll number. And right now, Labor is 10 points in front, federally, in South Australia. So I just don't think, the way I read the room, that people would be comfortable with flogging off elements of Australia Post, because the way it's been run so far, and I can't but think that there is a little bit more to the issue of Christine Holgate, and the reason I think that is because the former employers speak glowingly of her and her expertise. And if ministers have got it in their button to sell something no matter what, anybody who disagrees is going to fall foul of them. There's more to come on this one, I promise you. And you'll be the first to hear it.

ENDS

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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