The head of Australia Post says it makes “no sense” for the institution to keep open the same number of post offices it had 34 years ago, as fewer Australians send and receive letters.
Paul Graham, appearing before Senate estimates on Tuesday night, said the agency was currently running a “two speed business” where its parcels services were performing well, but the decreasing need for letters risked further burdening the business.
The company posted a $200m loss in the 2022-23 financial year, only the second loss since 1989.
Mr Graham said the agency’s ability to remain relevant had “been challenged like never before”, and warned that without regulatory support, Australia Post would need taxpayer funding to stay afloat.
He called on the government to update regulation that has remained unchanged since 1989, requiring there be at least 4000 post offices across the country, 2500 of which must be in rural and regional Australia.
Mr Graham said as it stood, there were 4271 post offices across the country, with most of the metropolitan outlets experiencing overlap. He said that the business did not think that number was “appropriate” and outlined the “significant challenges” of those outlets’ long term sustainability.
“We will never abandon the regions and rural Australia, but it makes no sense for Australia Post to keep the same number of post offices where there is a clear oversupply and where customers are simply not using the service,” Mr Graham said.
“For example, in Camberwell, in Victoria, there are 84 post offices in a 7.5km radius … The number of post offices in our major cities is not sustainable or sensible.”
He said the minimum number of post office outlets was set in 1989, before the internet boom.
“Most Australians no longer visit the post office, but we are required by regulation to operate a network larger than all the supermarkets combined,” he said.
“It’s easier to buy a postage stamp than a loaf of bread.”
He said the “good news” was that, “collectively, we have a great opportunity to turn this 214 year old business around and have success over the long term … without the need for government funding.
“We’re focused on doing everything in our power to improve our business … We will return to profit … We’re doing everything within our control to build a sustainable business.”
ABC journo ‘rotated’ from Israel
Earlier, the ABC confirmed the journalist who caused a media firestorm after dismissing reports of Jewish babies being beheaded by Hamas terrorists is no longer in Israel and is under investigation.
ABC director David Anderson, who appeared before the Communications Legislation estimates hearing on Tuesday, confirmed the broadcaster had launched an internal investigation into Tom Joyner’s conduct in the Middle East after he sent a text to several hundred other journalists in Israel that read: “the story about the babies is bulls**t”.
The Israeli Defence Force later confirmed Hamas terrorists had slaughtered and beheaded babies in their October 7 terror assault.
“I know that Mr Joyner is quite remorseful and apologetic for the words that he used,” Mr Anderson said under questioning from NSW Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes.
He later revealed Mr Joyner has been “rotated” out of Israel and was taking a break before returning to his usual post in Istanbul.
“He was at the time trying to do what journalists were doing, he was trying to verify what sources could back up what claims were being made at the time,” Mr Anderson said.
Mr Anderson said the ABC had contacted the IDF to confirm the shocking report, but the Israeli military could not verify the report at the time of contact.
Mr Anderson said Mr Joyner’s message had caused “distress” but he would have a right to “procedural fairness” in the investigation.
“My Joyner does have a right of reply here when we do look at it,” he said.
“I am sorry that it happened.”
Senator Hughes suggested in her questioning of Mr Anderson the ABC’s coverage of Israel contained an anti-Semitic bias, something Mr Anderson roundly rejected.
“I do not think the ABC is anti-Semitic in any way,” he said.
“We are impartially reporting what info we have available at the time.”
Senator Hughes blasted a 7.30 interview with Hamas terrorist Dr Basem Naim from October 17, saying she had “zero comprehension” why the ABC had platformed a prescribed terrorist and suggested the public broadcaster had “legitimised” a terrorist.
“It is not legitimising terrorism,” Mr Anderson said.
“One of their lies was that they didn’t harm Israelis.
“Through that interview, we challenged them and they admitted that they had done that.
“This is editorially justified to interview that representative given the heinous act that they did, to challenge them on the claims and the misinformation they spread.”
ABC’s Garma cost revealed
The ABC spent more than $150,000 in flights, accommodation and taxis to send 37 staff to Garma Festival in remote northeastern Arnhem Land in August.
ABC chief financial officer Melanie Kleyn said the broadcaster had spent less in 2023 than it had the year prior, when 38 staff had gone to the tune of $186,000.
Ms Kleyn said the dozens of staff had been necessary to broadcast programs including Q+A and Insiders.
The national broadcaster will carry out two reviews of its Voice to Parliament referendum coverage, Mr Anderson confirmed to estimates.
One review will include external reviewers to assess the ABC’s coverage and “give their assessment”, similar to what happens after a federal election.
“The other sort of review we’ll do is within the ABC, what learnings did we have from it,” Mr Anderson said.
On the night of the referendum, the broadcaster reached an audience of 3 million people.
“It was, I think, the go to coverage on the night, I think it was outstanding … it was impartial,” Mr Anderson said.
“Throughout that period, I’ll just say our coverage was outstanding.
“We were reaching people in regional, rural and remote areas like no other media organisation to gain those perspectives.”
“I am not going to apologise”
Mr Anderson has refused to apologise to former Australian commando Heston Russell after a judge found ABC journalists had defamed the veteran as a war criminal.
Justice Michael Lee has awarded Mr Heston more than $412,315 in damages after the commando won his battle in court against ABC articles surrounding the death of an Afghan prisoner in 2012.
Mr Anderson said the ABC was still considering its options during the 28-day appeal window.
“I am not going to apologise to Mr Russell,” he said.
“It was the first time we have tested a public interest defence in defamation, there is a lot to learn from it.
“Whatever happens here, appeal or not, there is a lot to learn from the ABC’s perspective.”
Mr Anderson said it was not the intention of the ABC to “damage anyone” but the broadcaster had a responsibility to hold people to account, including Australian Defence Force personnel.
“As an agency head, I am going to take legal advice on what to do next,” he said.
“As you have pointed out, we have spent a lot of money on this and I want the legal advice on what we do next.”
The ABC has spent some $800,000 in legal fees on the case in addition to Mr Heston’s $400,000 payout.
Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson blasted the ABC’s legal representation and the judgment of news director Justin Stevens, but Mr Anderson defended Mr Stevens as an “excellent director” of news.
The Daily Telegraph has reported the ABC’s source for the articles, a former US Marine, apologised to Mr Russell on Monday.
10,000 sign up for BetStop
Later in the day, the Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed to the committee that almost 10,000 Australians – the vast majority of whom are under the age of 40 – have signed up to self-exclude from gambling websites.
BetStop was launched by the federal government two months ago, and requires wagering providers to close the betting accounts of people who have registered for self-exclusion.
Under the legislation, wagering providers cannot let registered people bet or open a new account, nor can they send marketing messages to anyone on the register.
ACMA char Nerida O’Loughlin told the committee the “vast majority” of those who’d already signed up had registered to be excluded from betting sites for life.
“We’re seeing this combination of younger people excluding for life, which we think really explains the importance of this initiative, particularly for younger Australians, who want to be in more control of their gambling,” she said.
She noted people were also registering for a support person to help them stop gambling.
She told the committee the focus was now on ensuring industry complied with the register.
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/abc-reveals-investigation-into-controversial-reporter-tom-joyner/news-story/1c4cab7b16e084c2aefad0aa1e3a3a4b Australia Post: country doesn’t need as many post offices in 2023