Monday, 15 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Senator Reynolds. The CEO of Australia Post argued as justification for the government's proposed changes to service requirements that there was a 50 per cent drop in addressed-letter volumes. But today Australia Post admitted that the drop in addressed-letter volume for March was seven times smaller than it had claimed, and largely in line with forecasts. Why hasn't the government been honest with the Australian people about why it wants to slash postal services?
I thank the senator for that question. I find it quite extraordinary that Senator O'Neill could actually ask this question, for a number of reasons, because the only mistruths that are coming are from those on the other side of the chamber. In fact there are seven mistruths, including the one that Senator O'Neill has just mentioned. I thoroughly reject the whole premise of her question.
Let me give seven reasons why the premise of this question is not true. Labor has claimed that Australia Post will cut jobs and remove one-in-four posties. This is a lie. It is not true. Secondly, it's also been claimed that Australia Post wants to cut delivery services in half. This is also not true. Labor has also—
It is on direct relevance. I know the minister is reading out the very lengthy press release that Senator Cormann put out. What we actually asked her about was material released today by Australia Post, which is their own numbers as to the drop in letter volumes.
On the point of order: the minister directly dealt with the question in her opening statements by rejecting the premise of the question. Senator Wong might want to tell the minister how to answer the question, but that is not in her capacity to do. The minister was being directly relevant and she was providing further context for the Senate in an abundance of helpfulness.
On the point of order: I am listening carefully to what the minister says. Senator Cormann is correct; I cannot instruct a minister how to answer a question. However, once a minister has addressed part of a question, further material provided must also be directly relevant. I am listening carefully to the minister. The part of the question I took related to volumes of business being conducted by Australia Post. Material that refers and relates to the volume as asserted in the question is directly relevant. I'm listening to the minister's answer. She has one minute and 17 seconds remaining.
Yes, I am seeking to be complete and thorough in my answer on all of the mistruths that have been told by those opposite in relation to Australia Post. Parcel volumes are actually up 64 per cent—you asked for the latest numbers—and letter volumes are down 36 per cent from May last year.
Let me get back to the fourth untruth from Labor. Fourthly, Labor has claimed Australia and small business will be disadvantaged, compared to metropolitan areas—the fourth untruth. The fifth untruth is that it's been claimed by Labor that vulnerable Australians will be most impacted by the changes. Guess what—it is also untrue. Labor has also claimed that the changes this government has implemented during COVID-19 are permanent. Again, guess what—it is untrue. And the seventh big lie from Labor in relation to Australia Post is that the government wants to privatise Australia Post. Again, guess what—it is absolutely untrue.
The CEO of Australia Post has refused to provide a guarantee that there will be no forced redundancies. Will the minister give a guarantee that no Australia Post employees in delivery, transport or processing will be forced into redundancy? If not, how many people will lose their jobs, Minister?
I think Senator O'Neill didn't listen to the first of my seven untruths—clearly the senator hadn't heard the first one. So, let me just repeat the first big untruth that Labor is peddling. As you've just said, it has been claimed by Labor that Australia Post will cut jobs and remove one in four posties. This is simply not true. Australia Post has said repeatedly that there will be no forced redundancies nor plans to cut—
Senator Reynolds directly addressed the question—no forced redundancies. This is a complete and utter furphy—the Labor Party pursuing conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory—and completely destructive.
If I can continue on that first point: Australia Post has said there will be no forced redundancies or plans to cut posties' take-home pay—new to the new temporary arrangements. Many posties will continue delivering letters on bikes and others will be retrained to deliver parcels in vans, because they're up 64 per cent, putting them where—and she will be putting her posties—where the work is, and that is with Parcel Post, in particular.
Senator Colbeck told this chamber that the government's proposal to double letter delivery times for many Australians was a response to COVID-19. Can the minister guarantee that Australia Post has not proposed similar changes prior to COVID-19?
Again, Senator O'Neill clearly didn't hear my third great myth being peddled by Labor. I'll repeat that again for the benefit of those in the chamber. It has been claimed by Labor—again, repeated now—that wait times for letters will more than double, from three to seven days. That is not true. Mail speed standards for regular interstate letters—
Direct relevance: we can repeat the question if the minister didn't listen the first time. We are referring to an answer given by Senator Colbeck, where he indicated that this policy response was a response to COVID-19, and we've asked the minister to guarantee that Australia Post has not sought similar arrangements pre-COVID-19.
On the point of order: the quotation asserted from an answer last week did refer, I believe, to lengthening times of delivery. The minister is in order if she is addressing that particular point, because that is directly relevant, because it was part of the quotation. Senator Reynolds.
I say again that you've claimed there will be an increase in wait times for letters from three to seven days. This is not true. Mail speed standards for regular interstate letters, which is mail travelling around our country, have not changed.
We've heard a lot from Senator Reynolds about my hearing capacity; I want to say it's pretty good. Senator Reynolds has not heard the first part of the question. Clearly, it was Senator Colbeck who told the chamber that the government's proposal to double letter delivery times for many Australians was in response to COVID-19. It was Senator Colbeck who made that fact known.
Senator O'Neill, you are going to the substance of an answer. I cannot instruct a minister how to answer. If the minister is talking about a claim that was made in a quotation you've used in your question, she's being directly relevant. Senator Reynolds.
Thank you very much, Mr President. I think I've now made the point for the fourth time that there have been no changes—no changes, no changes, no changes, no changes! As my colleague Minister Fletcher said, Labor is again resorting to its usual by-election tactics of whipping up a baseless scare campaign for those in aged care and in Eden-Monaro (Time expired)