Why would Australia Post go out of its way to deliver Pauline Hanson’s stubby holders?


Lukas Coch/AAP

Carl Rhodes, University of Technology Sydney

Back in July, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson appeared in her then-regular spot on Channel Nine’s Today program.

During a discussion about the hard lockdown of Melbourne’s public housing towers Hanson said:

A lot of these people are from non-English speaking backgrounds, probably English as their second language, who haven’t adhered to the rules of social distancing

Hanson added “a lot of them are drug addicts,” and “alcoholics” before noting if people were from “war torn countries” they “know what it’s like to be in tough conditions”.

The comments – and the way Channel Nine presented them – caused a storm of controversy. And Hanson lost her regular spot on the program.

But the episode didn’t stop there. Hanson then sent a gift to each of the residents of one of the towers in North Melbourne.




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What is even more perplexing, the head of Australia Post reportedly intervened to make sure Hanson’s mail was delivered to their intended recipients.

Hanson’s ‘gift’

For $A7 you can buy your very own branded stubby holder from the One Nation website.

Featuring Hanson’s image against a sunset orange background it is emblazoned with the words: “I’ve got the guts to say what you’re thinking”.

These were the stubby holders sent to the tower’s residents, which came with a note saying “no hard feelings”.

It’s difficult to imagine what kind of reasoning was behind this “gift”.

To their credit, the people managing deliveries to the tower discovered what was in the parcels, each addressed only “to the householder”. Fearing, quite reasonably, the deliveries would inflame an “emotional tinder box”, the deliveries were withheld.

Australia Post gets involved

If one’s political suspicion was roused by the stubby holder stunt, things became even more unbelievable when Australia Post chief executive Christina Holgate, was implicated in trying to make sure the parcels were delivered.

On hearing the people managing the locked down tower had intercepted the deliveries, Holgate’s legal counsel reportedly sent a threatening email to Melbourne City Council.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, who saw the email, reported it gave Melbourne City Council five hours to deliver the parcels, or said police might be notified.

Australia Post under pressure

Holgate has come under additional scrutiny of late. Australia Post has been breaking delivery records during the pandemic. But has also faced concerns about delays and service cuts.




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You’ve got (less) mail: COVID-19 hands Australia Post a golden opportunity to end daily letter delivery


Holgate is the highest paid public servant in the country, earning more than $2.5 million in pay and bonuses in the 2018-2019 financial year.

Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate at a Senate inquiry
Australia Post head Christine Holgate is the highest paid public servant in Australia.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

OK, CEOs earn a lot. But at a time when Australia Post is asking staff to work extra hours and use their own cars to deliver a backlog of parcels, its executives have still been eyeing up huge bonuses.

Following a heated debate, they will not have bonuses for 2020. But there is still a pool of more than $825,000 in payments coming from 2019.

Corporate politics

It is difficult to understand why Australia Post got involved in the stubby holder saga. Why would it want to stand up for a political stunt aimed at people in a hard lockdown?

Several media outlets have been quick to point out that at the time, One Nation senators were considering whether to support overturning a temporary relaxation of postal delivery rules.

Postie on a motorbike
Parcel deliveries have skyrocketed during COVID.
Australia Post

Back in April, Australia Post’s regulatory requirements were adjusted due to COVID-19, allowing them to focus on parcel rather than letter delivery. The changes, backed by Australia Post, are due to end in June 2021.

This was a political hot potato, with the two major parties taking opposite sides and Labor pushing to “disallow” the changes in the Senate, amid union concerns about job losses.

More than a storm in a stubby holder

In a statement, Australia Post said Holgate did not personally intervene in the stubby holder deliveries.

“Australia Post confirms that Ms Holgate did not speak to Senator Hanson or One Nation on this matter, nor did she threaten Melbourne City Council.”

Australia Post’s response has been to justify their actions purely on their legal obligation to prevent interference with the mail. No politics at play here, they claim, they were just doing their job.

As for Hanson, she was unconcerned, describing the whole thing as a “storm in a stubby cooler”.




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But nobody said anything about the well-being of residents of the towers, who were the target of this terrible exercise in populist publicity.

Those residents, many of them vulnerable, were treated as collateral damage in this episode.

It doesn’t take a lot of guts to say Australia should expect much more from its politicians, its business leaders and major service providers.The Conversation

Carl Rhodes, Professor of Organization Studies, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You’ve got (less) mail: COVID-19 hands Australia Post a golden opportunity to end daily letter delivery



Shutterstock

Paul Alexander, Curtin University

Australia Post delivered more than 3.3 billion items last financial year. That’s almost 14 million deliveries a day (not counting weekends and public holidays).

Its 2019 annual report itemises the massive logistical network required: 15,037 street post boxes, 4,343 post offices, 461 sorting and distribution facilities, 4,845 delivery vans, 2,600 trucks, six airline freighters, rail assets, and 8,992 motorbikes and electric delivery vehicles.

Letters and parcels move in “waves” to 12.1 million addresses daily. Federally legislated service standards oblige Australia Post to deliver a letter within the country in no more than four days at a fixed rate (currently A$1.10). And to do so every week day to 98% of all delivery points.

Or at least Australia Post did so until late April. That’s when the federal government granted a temporary suspension of the services standards, allowing it to deliver letters every second business day in metropolitan areas.

The rationale was to enable Australia Post to divert resources from letter delivery – the part of its business in decline for at least a decade – to the booming demand for parcel delivery driven by COVID-19.




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In May, with support from the Senate crossbench, the government passed amendments extending the suspension to June 2021.

That move is not universally supported. Unions fear postal workers will lose jobs. Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has signalled Labor Party support for a Senate motion to overturn the changes.

These cuts are to jobs, these cuts are to services that are absolutely essential […] In particular, older Australians really rely upon their postal services.

It’s true Australia Post provides an indispensable service. But its revenues tell a story of people relying on postal services less and less.

Lost letters

The decline of the letter business over the past decade has been relentless.

In 2009 Australia Post made a profit before interest and income tax of A$384.5 million. Of this its letter business generated A$52 million. Parcels and logistics made A$187 million. Other business (such as agency services and merchandise) made about A$146 million.

In 2019 its net profit was down to a razor-thin A$41 million. Profit before interest and tax for its non-letters businesses was almost A$259 million. Its letters business lost almost A$192 million.

Australia Post can still make profits delivering letters in major cities and regional centres, where population density is high and distances short. But not in in rural areas, where per-delivery costs skyrocket. Its commercial competitors, meanwhile, can cherry-pick the most lucrative market segments and avoid the loss-making ones.

Parsing parcels

Australia Post has long yearned to be freed from its obligation to deliver letters daily. In 2015 then chief executive Ahmed Fahour declared letter posting “in terminal and structural decline” and that Australia Post “is a parcels company more than a letters company”.

In March, current chief executive Christine Holgate told a Senate estimates committee:

Our most significant challenge is managing the tipping point of that transformation from letters for our delivery network, which is about 70% of our costs, which is actually now in need really of a significant transformation.

The cost of delivering a $1.10 letter is not much less than a $10 parcel. It makes no commercial sense to utilise resources on loss-making activities at the expense of profitable ones.




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But Australia Post is not just another corporation. Profits are not its only measure of success. It is owned by the nation. Its services are essential, particularly to rural communities.

Fingal Post Office, in north-east Tasmania.
Shuttterstock

At this time, a strong case can be made it is a better social service to ensure timely parcel delivery.

In the longer term, the issue for policy makers is whether the social good is best served by keeping Australia Post to its historical obligations, or allowing it to meet burgeoning parcel demand and return a bigger dividend to the federal government to help fund other public services.




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While opinions will vary, the numbers make a compelling case. They show a mail delivery system designed before the advent of the internet doesn’t need to be daily any more – just as the telephone last century helped end the importance of mail being delivered twice a day.The Conversation

Paul Alexander, Associate Professor, Network analysis, Procurement,Supply Chains, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.