Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

We need to get political about Australia Post

Mark Fletcher
March 10th, 2012 · 35 Comments

Reading the latest Australia Post catalogue it is clear that the operators of the government owned and protected corporation will put the needs of their shareholders and protectors, the federal government, ahead of the needs of small businesses.

We newsagents complain but what are we doing?

Unlike supermarkets, convenience stores and others winning business from those who might otherwise have shopped at our businesses, Australia Presents us an opportunity because of the government ownership.

A relentless, professional and  co-ordinated campaign could get the politicians to have to make a decision. They go on about competition policy yet for selfish reasons ignore their own advice. I think that they are weak on this.

The problem is that Australia Post is not a broad small business issue. It is an issue particular to newsagency businesses.

It frustrates me that politicians on all sides support this government owned business and through their support permit it to continue to target small businesses, like newsagencies. They have to decide whether they want profits from Australia Post or jobs in newsagencies.

Look at the items on the front cover of the catalogue. What do they have to do with postal services?

Section 14 of the Act requires Australia Post to provide a postal service first and foremost:

The principal function of Australia Post is to supply postal services within Australia and between Australia and places outside Australia.

Section 15 talks about permitted subsidiary functions:

A subsidiary function of Australia Post is to carry on, outside Australia, any business or activity relating to postal services.

Section 16 talks about other permitted functions:

Functions incidental businesses and activities

(1) The functions of Australia Post include the carrying on, within or outside Australia, of any business or activity that is incidental to: (a) the supplying of postal services under section 14; or (b) the carrying on of any business or activity under section 15.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the functions of Australia Post include the carrying on, within or outside Australia, of any business or activity that is capable of being conveniently carried on: (a) by the use of resources that are not immediately required in carrying out Australia Post’s principal or subsidiary function; or (b) in the course of: (i) supplying postal services under section 14; or (ii) carrying on any business or activity under section 15.

The last federal government and the current one have permitted Australia Post to take millions of dollars in revenue from small business. The situation is getting worse.


Category: Australia Post · Ugh!

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Luke // Mar 10, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Never going to happen Mark, the only way the pollies of either side will listen is if employees of newsagents fear for their jobs on mass.
    Both sides of politics harp on about workers rights and employment, but never about the employers, so as long as we bend over backwards to look after our staff and treat them like family then no one will listen.
    Look at recent history everyone that threatens to close down or shed staff have been given assistance by the Govt but small business are left to walk away with nothing.
    Aust post employs a large amount of public servants that are union backed so if they look like being hurt you will see a shit storm of protest. Small operators cannot compete with that, sad but just a fact of life.


  • 2 Peter // Mar 10, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Perhaps we should all emil the mornng shows… A Curent Affiar and the like and see if we can actually get a story happening in the public domain… If there is enough interest, they may run something…

    Or even lets think out of the box – what is we all pulled together through associations and launched some sort of media attack… All we need is one journo to actually take an interst and run with it…


  • 3 Peter R // Mar 10, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Right now the US Postal Service is going through Major change and job shedding as it is no longer profitable and the State is refsuing to support it as loss making institution. An interesting comparision to here.


  • 4 Jim // Mar 10, 2012 at 8:27 PM


    I am all for a campaign to put a stop to the Australia Post sort but wouldn’t taking aim at the Australia Post catalogue also include LPOs who, presumably, can buy this tax-payer subsidised stock as well thus enabling them to compete on an un-level playing field.

    I know this comment will get me off-side with newsagents who are also LPOs but in my case the LPO in this town is a trinket store for most of the year and turns in to a stationery business for the duration of the Australia Post catalogues.


  • 5 Realist // Mar 10, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    I am being purpously anonymous. As one of those LPO / Newsagency combos I can tell you that Australia Post are absolutely clueless when it comes to anything outside of their classic postal services. Their merchandise, gift and stationary lines are non-branded over priced cheap rubbish with absolutely pathetic margins. Any 2 bob junk store with an ABN can buy better than an LPO can buy off Australia Post.

    The Australia Post people do not share a commercial chromosome between them. They are a bunch of public service bullies who will stop at nothing to impose their unwelcome will on the small business LPOs in their custody.

    Don’t beat yourself up newsos, Australia Post are just too useless to be of serious threat to our channel.


  • 6 Vicki // Mar 11, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    Okay, to try and put the LPO perspective forward…

    I agree that the corporate stores need to butt out and stick to being post offices.

    But as an LPO, there is no way to subsist, let alone make a living, from the commissions earned by regular post office duties. We need to sell other things in order to survive.

    That said, I am combined LPO and Newsagent. I’m not in the position where I have to participate in the Aust Post catalogues, and so long as I provide core postal services, I don’t have to stock their other products. So I largely don’t. Most of it I can source myself cheaper anyway and I get the benefit that the post office generates extra shop traffic.

    The problem with attaking Australia Post is the collateral damage it will cause to me and my fellow LPOs. The public as a rule don’t percieve there being any difference between LPO and corporate.

    I don’t know how to tackle it, hopefully the other LPO / Newsagents will have some ideas?


  • 7 Mark Fletcher // Mar 11, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Focussing on politicians is the key as they are the ones who understand the difference between the government owned outlets and LPOs.

    Around 8 years ago I met with several politicians on this issue and they know the value of the government owned shops. It’s why they will not divest themselves of them.

    The thing is, successive governments talk abut competition policy best practice. Well, best practice in terms of postal services requires competition. They need to live by the mantra they hurl at us.


  • 8 martin copelin // Mar 12, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    Mark, I think you will find that with the decline of letters in the last 5 years, Australia Post have to find alternative revenue. Unfortunately for your members in newsagencies, they will face even more competition from Australia Post in the future.


  • 9 Mark Fletcher // Mar 12, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    And be protected by the government while they do this.


  • 10 Jarryd Moore // Mar 12, 2012 at 4:25 AM


    Your statement that Aust Post “have to find alternative revenue” makes it sound as if they were a private corporation. Aust Post has no more need to “find alternative revenue” than the Department of Planning has to start selling their own house and land packages, or Medicare a range of pharmaceuticals.

    It is a government entity designed to provide an essential service (although one wonders how long a letter-based postal system will remain an essential service).


  • 11 Jim McDougall // Mar 12, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Might interest you all to know that Australia Post not only pays Tax it also has to pay a dividend to the government and also be profitable. I might be wrong but don’t newsagents have a monopoly on the sale of newspapers? I bet my bottom dollar there would be a bigger scream from the public if a post office closed in their town than there would be if a newsagent closed. Might be worth asking the newsagents who used to deliverer there papers to the outback stations and who they get to deliver their papers in small country towns. I will stand corrected but I think it could be mail contractors paid by Australia Post.


  • 12 Brendan // Mar 12, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    I have to admit that that AP have only mildly concerned me with their range of stock as we beat them hands down on service price etc but…….
    now they have gone too far look at this I am appalled and we need an organised campaign to rectify this intrusion into private business.


  • 13 rick // Mar 12, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    thank god they have such crappy customer service. Best thing we did was get out of Western Union, they all line up at the PO to do it now, its mayhem there on a friday arvo, i love it 🙂


  • 14 Kevin // Mar 12, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    The CEO of POAAL has already met with Stephen Conroy this week. I wonder if ANF /VANA have yet planned to meet with Brendan OConnor.


  • 15 Ian // Mar 13, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    This is my take and correct me if I’m wrong; the catalogue is part of AP’s retail branch and at the retail they sell stamps. So according to the sections posted, specifically S16-2a where AP staff sell stamps but while they are not busy selling stamps they can carry out other activities i.e. selling other stuff. It just happens to be stationaries and what not. I’d be surprised if they didn’t run pass legal before actioning.

    In any case, I find that the catalogue is perhaps a waste of marketing fund. The market segment has shifted, less people go to retail stores these days and the people who do isn’t the target segment intended by the catalogue.

    For the target segment, when they see the price they’d compare it with officeworks. Usually OW beats AP by a mile. Heck, sometimes they even beat eBay.

    So Mark, I think you’ll find that AP is struggling and their catalogue won’t be effective in taking News Agent’s market share (which is usually your local area). Really it’s OW that is the main competitor.


  • 16 Mark Fletcher // Mar 13, 2012 at 9:08 PM


    I’m not sure if you have shopped in a government owned post office recently. They struggle to get to postal service customers in a timely manner.

    Whether them encroaching on newsagents works or not, they should not do this.

    They should hold themselves to account on the competition front just as their shareholders hold us.

    Our biggest competitors are: Officeworks / Staples, supermarkets, organised convenience and petrol. AP could be in that list if their next restructure of retail works.


  • 17 Luke // Mar 14, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Jim McDougall, YOU ARE WRONG, at no point do newsagents have a monopoly on newspaper sales. Have a look where papers are sold, most of these service stations, supermarkets, convenient stores can have direct supply contracts from publishers IF they want it but a lot choose to be a subagent to a newsagent simply because it is less work for them.

    But as you say not too many people care if a newsagent goes out of business and families lose their livelihood its all about cheap stuff right?


  • 18 Derek // Mar 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Jim M- Aust Post is a Government owned entity. The Government Pays its employees wages.

    The subject we are talking about does not extend to delivery of mail services it is about Government Owned Post Offices and competing with a variety of small business’s including Newsagents.

    The problem is how do you separate the Retail side from the delivery services side, Although I do not have conclusive proof due to the interpretation of Annual Reports from AP, Government owned Post Offices are not profitable, and they do not provide the service that it was designed for because they have encroached into retail.

    The Government and Small Business Association have to come up with a Model that which Australia Post only does the Delivery side and get out of Retail altogether. Their are a number of Small business primarily Proactive Newsagents who could take on the Government Owned Retail business and provide better service, better business hours, less demarcation and the list goes on. The Retail arm of the Government Owned Post Office is still living in the Dark Ages.


  • 19 Jim McDougall // Mar 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Luke, I stand corrected but I think you will find that they did have a monopoly at one stage and it wasn’t the PMG or Australia Post that took that off them. With regard to newsagents going out of business can I just add I worked in a lot of small country towns years ago that didn’t have a newsagent, some still haven’t and guess how we got our newspaper. No one wants to see anyone go out of business because no one wins. What do you think happens when a post office closes, it does happen.


  • 20 Jim // Mar 14, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Might be worth asking the newsagents who used to deliverer there papers to the outback stations and who they get to deliver their papers in small country towns. I will stand corrected but I think it could be mail contractors paid by Australia Post

    Jim M – Please stand corrected.

    This small country town newsagent delivers his own papers and the same small country town newsagent pays the mail contractors to deliver to customers on mail runs in yet another loss making activity not subsidised in any way by newspaper publishers i.e. I get the same fee for sending out papers on a mail run as I do for delivering in town – a pittance. And I wear the balance!


  • 21 Kevin // Mar 14, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Jim McDougall: please stand corrected !
    Australia Post have nothing what so ever to do with our rural newspaper delivery. The independent contractor, paid by Australia Post for mail delivery, also has a separate contract with us to deliver newspapers along the same route. He doesn’t work public holidays or weekends. We do it ourselves on these days. This is not new. It has always been the case.
    Moreover Newsagents do not have a monopoly on anything that they sell. On some lines (eg newspapers & magazines) they may have a degree of exclusivity to market and sell into a particular territory. These agreements are purely commercial arrangements with specific suppliers and afford the newsagency no protection at all from others who may have similar agreements with suppliers.

    Please check your facts next time.


  • 22 John Dixon // Mar 14, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Licensed Post Offices are Small Businesses, owned by Licensees.
    At 30 June 2011, the following number of outlets existed in Australia:
    Government-owned 786
    Licensed & Franchised 2,948
    Community Postal Agencies 685
    I calculate 17.8% are Government-owned.
    That leaves 82.2% of postal outlets being privately owned small businesses.
    OfficeWorks and many newsagencies sell postage stamps, and other postal stationery items.
    Mark’s comment:
    “The last federal government and the current one have permitted Australia Post to take millions of dollars in revenue from small business” is clearly not correct, since 82.2% of postal outlets are privately owned.


  • 23 Brendan // Mar 14, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Telecom privatised in the interest of the public, Utilities privatised in the interest of the public, Trains 7 trams privatised in the interest of the public yet Postal Services remain a monopoly AND NOW attack the interests of mum & dad businesses. A.P’s strategies even hut their own LPO’s and as an ex LPO operator I have seen this happen. How do they get away with this. They appear unaccountable to anyone and do as they please.

    Jim walk a mile in our shoes….you wouldn’t make it.


  • 24 Max // Mar 14, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    The trouble is who would want to take on the Postal Delivery side of Aus Post?
    Most sides of it are unprofitable. The parcel side of things are the only things holding it up at the moment, but that is changing as more & more couriers enter the game, because they can see an opportunity.


  • 25 Mark Fletcher // Mar 14, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    John, My comment is correct. Further, I would note that my often stated concern is about the government owned outlets. I have been id direct competition with a government owned outlet. They used their monopoly protection to try and take business from us. No government owned business should try and do this.

    Double standards should be eliminated. Competition policy we live under should apply to Australia Post.


  • 26 h // Mar 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Of course John Dixon, you are aware that although newsagents and Officeworks may sell AP stamps, we are not allowed to make a profit doing so. I buy 60c stamps for 60c and sell them as a customer service.


  • 27 Derek // Mar 15, 2012 at 1:15 AM


    We are only talking about government owned Australian Post Offices. Please tell me the percentage that the 786 are located in Shopping centres or in City & Major regional centres. The 786 Government owned Post Offices are in competition against many Small Business’s particularly Newsagencys.

    It is not a level playing field. Their are many posts regarding this issue.

    I do not think we are having a go at licenced Post Offices / Agencies.


  • 28 rick // Mar 15, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    i dont like it as much as the next person, but cant see anything changing.
    Even if we made enough noise about his issue and the govt was forced to act, very unlikely, but anyway.What would be easier for the govt to do
    a) stop selling products not related to postal services or
    b) change the charter so they can carry on as they are?
    We should just be thankful they do a lousy job at retailing.


  • 29 Brendan // Mar 15, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Max, AP have there own courier service too. I know as I was once the Admin Manager and then the Operations Manager. They have taken over numerous smaller courier companies since I left so only their mail deliveries are challenged and they are big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves in this area to without encroaching on private business any mare than they already have.

    rick, you are right their corporate outlets are ordinary at best with retail and I don’t begrudge LPO’s doing what they need to to survive. They are in a similar situation to us losing business to new technology but AP going online is just plain wrong!!!


  • 30 SHAUN S // Mar 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Yep buy stamps for 60c and sell for 60c get abused when we do not have these stamps that we do not make a cent on . line up for 30 min to get these stamps we make nothing on ,wouldn’t have to line up for 30 min if they were only selling stamps , everyone in front of me had everything bar postal items eg phones , books , cards, printers , ink ,etc .


  • 31 Brendan Mason // Mar 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Shaun S, I’ve said it before, we refuse to sell stamps on a non-profit basis. Unless I can make something out of it I’d rather see the line at the post office grow longer in the belief that customers will come to us for ink, stationery, books etc rather than queue up in a long line. We give them a free kick every time we reduce their queues so why do it for nothing???


  • 32 Max // Mar 15, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    That is basically what we have adopted now, as well.
    When we took this place on we thought ok, we’ll do it as a service. It didn’t take long to realise that the majority were just marching in demanding stamps & then leave. No other purchase.
    We now only sell to a few people that are good customers, and also appreciate that we make nothing out of doing this.


  • 33 shaun s // Mar 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Brendan i see it like this it keeps them out of that post office so that maybe they do not even know they sell all these extra products . Just think the longer they line up at the post office the more time they have to look at the products we do not want them to buy .


  • 34 June // Mar 15, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    At least we haven’t stooped to importing guns into our newsagency — see news this
    week re sylvania waters post office owner
    being arrested for doing this.
    One of my sons was a courier for AP and 99% of his deliveries were for items purchased online. Obviously this is their fastest growing area of business, taking over
    from letters (snail mail).
    Regarding stamps – I refuse to keep an item
    that returns me nothing and the people who
    want them are usually from the surrounding
    offices who can’t be bothered walking another 5 minutes to the Post office.
    I believe that AP’s retailing arm will grow smaller not stronger with the continued growth of online shopping. Consumers will
    not go to AP or to a freestanding LPO when they no longer need stamps. I don’t believe their retail offering is exciting enough. Personally, I only go to AP at Xmas time to get some Xmas stamps for personal use so for me it is 3 months’ since I entered either AP or an LPO.
    However, LPO’s within newsagencies have a great deal of potential to grow IMHO.


  • 35 Derek // Mar 15, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Shaun S

    I know I go on & on about this subject, your example is exactly why they should be out of retail – The monopoly on stamps is pretty much reason they get customers and then inpulse buys because of the time to get served.

    Brendan as a person with insight into the organisation, was their any scuttlebut about the Government Owned P.O’s? etc


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