Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Regulations and Determinations

Australian Postal Corporation (Performance Standards) Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2020; Disallowance

7:02 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to contribute to this debate this evening. As one of the co-sponsors of this motion, I of course wholeheartedly agree that this regulation should be disallowed. We've heard time and time again in the midst of this debate that the reason this regulation is needed is that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, what type of government cuts essential public services in the middle of a health crisis? What type of government cuts essential public services when everyday Australians are being told, 'Stay home and don't go anywhere; do everything from your lounge room, your kitchen and your back porch'? What type of government cuts essential public services in the middle of a pandemic? This government. It's this government that is using the pandemic to allow its creep of privatisation into Australia Post.

We heard from Pauline Hanson and One Nation tonight that they are prepared to take the word of the Australia Post boss and the minister that everything's going to be okay. Here on the Greens benches, we are not so foolish. We are not so gullible. There has been no commitment given that this would be a short-term suspension, and in fact it's not. This regulation would put in place new rules to cut delivery services, resulting in job losses, for another 12 months. And we know what happens when the government cuts public services—it's very, very hard to get them back.

I'm quite concerned about the principle of this, because I do believe that Australia Post is an essential service that needs to remain in public hands, for metro, suburban, rural and regional areas—for everyone. I do have a particular concern that, for senior Australians, this is going to be a blow. They are people who are more likely to engage with government agencies, with utility services and with friends and family via letters as opposed to electronically. It's senior Australians who are going to cop it because of this cruel and cynical move from the government.

I've also got a particular concern for those who live in rural and regional Australia. I grew up in a country town. I know what it's like when the government of the day decides to cut public services and says: 'Oh, well, it doesn't really matter. You're just a small town. You can drive 100 kays down the road to the next post office.' In some cases, maybe it's 150 kilometres, maybe it's 200 kilometres or maybe it's more.

I also happen to be the sister of someone who's been a postie. My brother's been a postie in a country town, the country town I grew up in. It is absolutely essential that, in country and rural areas, the people who have these jobs right now are able to keep them. We know that we are heading to a cliff of unemployment that is going to start rising more and more. We already had hundreds of thousands of people—a million people—lose their jobs in the last three months because of COVID-19. Millions more are worried about what happens come September, when the government cuts JobKeeper. Are we going to allow a cut to public services through this regulation that is going to mean more Australians out of work not because of COVID-19 but because of the government's actions, and not because of the virus but because of the government's obsession with cuts, deregulation and the slow creep, creep, creep to privatisation?

Thousands of Australians who currently work for Australia Post could be out of work because of this regulation. One Nation and the minister tell us, 'No, it's just for 12 months.' No-one believes that, and if you do you're a fool. The slow creep to privatisation is the hallmark of the conservatives in this country—state and federal. It's not going to change. Senior Australians should be very upset that their government is about to sell them out, rural and regional Australians should be very upset that the government doesn't think they deserve these basic services, and everyone should be worried that the government is once again using COVID-19 as a cover for its reckless and cruel policy agenda.

Only a couple of weeks ago, last month, the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, proudly said on radio that the government is going to use COVID-19 for an 'aggressive deregulation agenda'. Well, here is just one simple example of that. This government couldn't lie straight in bed when they talk about their commitment to essential services, to public jobs. Every single time they utter their words of, 'Oh, no cuts, no privatisation,' look behind their backs and see their crossed fingers. We know the hallmark of this government is cuts, deregulation and job losses. This disallowance should be supported by the chamber tonight.


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