Thursday, 25 February 2021
Australia Post recently announced, without adequate consultation, that it would end the delivery of perishable goods, abandoning our world-class producers in my home state of Tasmania. The Morrison government has since intervened, I understand, and this service that was going to end on 31 March is now going to end on 30 June. Whilst this extension is appreciated by primary producers in Tasmania, there is still a lot of angst and a lot of concern from these primary producers about how they're going to get their fresh perishable goods out of our home state when this service by Australia Post finishes.
Indeed, I got another letter just this week, after it was raised in the local media last week, from another Tasmanian company who is very concerned that Australia Post only contacted him just last week—just last week—to say that this service would be ending. As this company said to me: 'Perishables require express delivery from door to door. Our understanding is that, whilst there are other freight companies, there is nobody of the size of Australia Post that can currently offer the express or guaranteed overnight service that perishable goods require.'
I want to quote some other primary producers in Tasmania. Indeed, the first one is from my electorate. People may have heard of Nick Haddow and his world-class Bruny Island Cheese Company. He said, as reported by the Mercury:
… the announcement felt like "the trapdoor has fallen out from underneath us".
He went on to say:
The choices of freight provider are very limited in Tasmania so when the largest one pulls out it leaves those customers extremely exposed …
We also have Anne Bennett from Ashgrove cheese in north-west Tasmania. She said:
… 60 per cent of Ashgrove’s online sales comprised of perishable goods, making guaranteed 24 hour delivery "essential".
This is what is being said. I have another producer in my electorate who said to me that in the last 12 months he's been sending in excess of 13,500 parcels via this service. His company provides gourmet baskets and it is supporting other small Tasmanian producers right across the island state. This is simply not good enough from the federal government—the Morrison government—and from Australia Post. They need to do much, much more consulting with businesses about how this can be made to work, rather than saying 'it's is all too hard' and throwing up their hands.
The primary producers in Tasmania who have been relying on this service, particularly during times of COVID last year, are innovative and they have moved more to online sales. One of the producers was telling me their sales online are up nearly 300 per cent. This is the way that they were innovating to make their businesses survive and to keep jobs in Tasmania, particularly in the regions, where a lot of these small producers are. So I call on the government, the minister responsible for Australia Post and the minister for agriculture to do a lot more and to have a lot more discussions with Australia Post to ensure that this essential service remains.
In regional parts of this country, not just in Tasmania but right around the country, I'm sure there are a lot of other producers who are relying on this extremely valuable service. Australia Post say, 'We're just going to end it; that's the end of it,' when there is no alternative and there is no other organisation that provides the service that is currently provided by Australia Post. Last time I checked, this business was owned by the Australian taxpayer. It is there to service the people of Australia. I don't know anybody in this country who wouldn't think it reasonable that Australia Post actually deliver these items as it has been doing up until this point. It just seems extraordinary that they can just go: 'We're not going to do it anymore; it is all too hard,' when these people and the businesses and, importantly, the jobs in regional areas have been relying on being able to use this essential service.
The mail, particularly in rural and regional areas, is an essential service. It should be delivered by Australia Post. The government needs to talk to Australia Post and to tell Australia Post that this is not good enough and that it needs to find a way to continue to be able to offer this service right around the country, particularly for those primary producers with perishable goods in my home state of Tasmania and particularly in regional areas that are relying so heavily on these types of services. I say to the government, to the ministers and to Australia Post: 'Get your act together. Fix it. It's not good enough. We won't stand for this ending on 30 June.'