Monday, 8 February 2016
Maranoa Electorate: Postcodes
I am not a particularly superstitious man, but many who are superstitious believe that the number 13 is unlucky. I rise tonight to speak about a postcode the digits of which add to 13, a postcode that defies logic, and about why now is the time to undertake a full review of postcode allocation in this country.
The original legislation dates back to 1967. Since this time there has been a significant growth in the past 49 years, in particular, the extensive growth areas in the electorates of Maranoa, Groom, Ryan and Wright. To address this growth, it appears that a postcode coverage area has increased in geographic size and that very few postcodes have been created. Take the postcode of 4306: add those numbers up and you get 13—maybe I am superstitious—but this postcode remains one of the unluckiest Queensland postcodes for 57 separate localities. This postcode is shared by 57 localities and one Queensland city.
The rural region of Blackbutt-Benarkin in my electorate in South Burnett shares the 4306 postcode with suburbs of Ipswich city, some 140 kilometres away. For these two regions to share a postcode is bizarre, to say the least, because the two regions do not share a border: one is right up on the Great Dividing Range; and one is just outside the city of Brisbane. They are quite clearly two totally separate regions.
The 4306 postcode stretches from Brisbane in your seat, Madam Deputy Speaker Prentice, the electorate of Ryan, through to South Burnett in my electorate. It crosses four different electorates including Maranoa, Blair, Ryan and Wright. As I said, Australia Post governs postcodes. Australia Post maintains that a postcode is distributed for mail sorting purposes only and that it has no control over how postcode data is applied by other agencies, and this includes other government agencies. This is a contentious issue.
Due to the fact that Ipswich-Amberley 4306 is metropolitan and the Blackbutt-Benarkin region is rural, the erroneous allocation has resulted in a diverse and significant range of detrimental outcomes for the Blackbutt-Benarkin region—for example, insurance premiums are adversely affected. Blackbutt-Benarkin is lumped in with the woes of metropolitan cities—for instance, in relation to crime. Home, contents and motor vehicle insurances are based on postcodes. The rural Blackbutt region does not have the perceived threat risk on many levels associated with the Ipswich region. However, if you live in Blackbutt's neighbouring town of Yarraman, the circulation of insurance premiums mean that recently a Yarraman resident was quoted a premium $600 less than their Blackbutt neighbour. This is simply because Yarraman, 14 kilometres away from Blackbutt, does not share the 4306 postcode.
In efforts to obtain a better deal for Blackbutt-Benarkin residents and after consulting with Australia Post, I wrote to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Insurance Council of Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, all of whom advised of their powerlessness to influence insurance companies or to effect change.
Blackbutt was also reported to have the highest drug related problem in the greater area. Again, this was based on postcodes. With Blackbutt having the same postcode as Ipswich, the Blackbutt region was unfairly maligned, because of the postcode. It does not have the perceived high-drug use issue in its area.
There have been a number of complaints from people across the Maranoa electorate relating to these issues of shared postcodes. On the same basis, the 4352 postcode, based in Toowoomba, is shared by 72 localities across Maranoa, Wright and Groom. The people in the far west of my electorate in Bedourie share a postcode with Boulia, which is some 200 kilometres away.
Other postcode issues relate to remote communities in the west of my electorate—for instance, the Longreach Regional Council has raised concern that the Yaraka 4702 postcode is related to Rockhampton that is 800 kilometres away—in fact, on the other side of the Great Dividing Range. It is 800 kilometres away from the postcode that is allocated to Yaraka. I understand Yaraka was allocated the 4702 postcode, because this small remote town received its mail by rail from Rockhampton many years ago—and I can assure you many years ago! Again, Yaraka and Rockhampton do not share a boundary and are two totally separate regions. Rockhampton is in a cyclone zone where insurance premiums are adjusted accordingly and it has no correlation to Yaraka residents.
Madam Deputy Speaker, there is a way to fix this. As you know and as I know, many of us that have this problem in our communities have talked about this. Many years ago Australia underwent a complete telephone number and area code review. Now is the time for a total review of mail delivery and our postcode system. I believe a review will ensure that communities will be provided with a unique and publicly recognised postcode or, at the very least, a postcode relevant to the community of interest, which is the fact that we are pushing. For the Blackbutt-Benarkin region, community consultation has indicated that the postcode should be changed from 4306 to 4616. 4616 is unallocated and is a logical choice because of the adjoining postcode of Nanango, which is 4615, and Yarraman on the other side, which is 4614. It is logical; it is simple.
Another issue relates to people working in rural areas in this region of Blackbutt-Benarkin who want to have a work visa extended. When the department look at their application they see the postcode. They say, 'You're not in a rural area. Your postcode does not indicate that you are in a rural area.' This is an issue that is hurting communities. It is hurting families. It impacts on business. I call on Australia Post to take this issue seriously rather than just push it under the table.
Madam Deputy Speaker, as you and I would know, there is a new member on the board of Australia Post. I would hope that with the knowledge he may bring to the board he is able to move this issue forward to the benefit of so many communities that are impacted adversely because Australia Post have not done a review or reallocation in areas where the population of Australia has expanded and grown. I, like you and others in this House, will remain active in raising awareness of this issue. This postcode system is broken. It is adversely affecting communities in my electorate and many other electorates. It is now time for Australia Post to heed the voice of the people that they are going to make their money from. An area has an identity, which is the postcode. I call on Australia Post to now hear the voice, to expand the postcodes across Australia and do the complete review. When you look at our telephone numbers over the years, we have seen them expand over time as the population has increased. I pose the question: why not Australia Post? We all join on this one, Madam Deputy Speaker.