Politicians insist Australia Post priority mail changes will have minimal impact

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (left) and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher say the changes are necessary and only temporary.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (left) and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher say the changes are necessary and only temporary.

FEDERAL politicians insist the suspension of Australia Post's priority mail service will only have a minimal impact but concern is mounting that rural and regional residents will bear the brunt of service delays.

Australia Post stopped the service in mid-May, as part of a number of changes to "redeploy its workforce" in the midst of a surge in demand for parcels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were hit with thousands of negative comments on their Facebook page, with many customers complaining of lengthy delays for both regular and priority postal services. Many are also concerned Australia Post is still charging for express post when delivery time frames cannot be met.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said priority mail only accounted for about 12 per cent of all mail and said regular mail services in regional, rural and remote areas would be unchanged.

The changes will apply until June 30, 2021, but could be subject to review.

"Australia Post is aware that this change has an impact on customers who utilise priority mail," he said.

"It is working with customers to mitigate impacts wherever possible. Australia Post account managers are also working with customers to explore support options."

Bush impact unknown: Australia Post's priority mail service has been suspended until June 30, 2021, subject to review.

Bush impact unknown: Australia Post's priority mail service has been suspended until June 30, 2021, subject to review.

Both Mr Cormann and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher were asked if the disproportionate impacts on regional Australians were considered when the decision to cancel priority mail was made, however neither directly answered the question.

Mr Fletcher said the government understood the importance of a timely postal services for regional Australians, but the temporary changes had to be made and should not have a major impact to the overall service.

"While the delivery frequency of regular mail has been adjusted in metropolitan areas, the delivery timetable for regular mail for rural, regional and remote areas was protected and remains unchanged," Mr Fletcher said.

"Australia Post has implemented a way for bulk letters to continue to be delivered as a matter of urgency Monday to Friday under a temporary alternative priority timetable."

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack was approached for comment, however his office referred the inquiry to Regional Communications Minister Mark Coulton.

Mr Coulton's office said the issue was not within his ministry and any response from Mr Coulton would be crafted by Mr Fletcher's office. Under the adjustments, Australia Post will be able to "focus its workforce to critical areas experiencing a surge in volume", such as parcels and essential services.

Comments on the Australia Post Facebook page highlight the frustration of customers across a range of services.

"I had a parcel posted from Victoria last Monday. It's sat in Dandenong for an entire week, and this morning my update documents the package is in SA, but has pushed my delivery time frame from tomorrow until next week. I don't understand how it can be so hopelessly slow, or how you can be so expensive and not deliver within a reasonable timeframe. Service times are getting worse," wrote Kimberley Cepon.

"Australia Post Why are you offering express post services and taking our money for said services, when I've now been told that it could take up to 17 business days for my parcel to reach me? Be upfront and honest about it at least, and people will be a lot less disgruntled," wrote Cammie Teoh.