20 January 2011 – An estimated 600 residents and local politicians rallied in Sydney’s inner city suburb of Glebe on Thursday morning this week brandishing more than 4000 signatures in protest against the planned closure of the local post office.
The closure will be one of 27 post offices that Australia Post seems determined to shut nationally, citing falls of 5 per cent in business. All except one perhaps – Woollahra, in the electorate of former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, may have won a reprieve after intervention by Mr Turnbull with Post chairman David Mortimer.
At Glebe local residents and politicians such as Tany Plibersek, Verity Firth and Clover Moore who attended the rally said that the closure would severely disadvantage many local residents who were elderly and infirm and would mean the loss of an important community facility.
Local resident, Lynne Hutton-Williams said during a vigil outside the post office during the week that the post office was important to the older residents in the community who had little money, lived on pensions and sometimes needed walking aids.
“They are being encouraged to go to Broadway post office but this is continually filled, and harder to get to. A lot of people here don’t have cars. It is an appalling decision because it is so destructive to the community. The post office is there to serve the people and be part of the community.
Another Glebe resident, Rosemary Smith, said the post office was always full. “We understand the post boxes will be maintained so staff will be needed for that.”
Angry resident, Adrian Fletcher who has been lobbying local MPs disputes Australia Post’s claim of a “significant decline in customer numbers,” despite, he says, no noticeable shortening of queues. (See Mr Fletcher’s letter in Spinifex.)
At Woollahra, however, Mr Turnbull, writing on his website, said Australia Post had agreed to review its decision to close its Woollahra facility – “a big victory for local advocates who have worked tirelessly to prevent its negative impact on the community.”
He said that Australia Post chairman, David Mortimer, had “worked hard to address concerns raised by local residents” and had sent a letter “assuring us that Australia Post will review its decision and do everything possible to keep a presence in Woollahra.”
A letter dated 12 January Mr Mortimer told Mr Turnbull that, “In the case of Woollahra the 1100 post office boxes will be retained at the existing location.
“As discussed in our meeting yesterday I have also asked my executive to explore the opportunity of establishing a licensed office in the area. If that option was not to eventuate a postpoint will be established allowing customers to purchase stamps, packaging products and pre-paid envelopes and satchels locally.
“The existing double red and gold street post boxes will remain near the current Woollahra site. Parcel lockers will also be installed with PO boxes to enable customers to access oversized mail articles.
Calls to Mr Mortimer’s office and to Australia Post media representatives to see whether a similar arrangement would be considered for Glebe or other locations were not returned.
At Glebe counter services are due to cease on 4 February.
The taxpayer isn’t paying
In his letter to Mr Turnbull Mr Mortimer blamed the lack of taxpayer funding for the closures.
He said that Australia Post operated “the largest retail network in the country with well over 4000 post offices nationally and more than 1200 in NSW alone.
“It is Australia Posts duty to actively manage all our outlets financial and operational performance in a manner consistent with sound commercial practice as decreed under the Australia Postal Corporations Act 1989; as well as ensure that our network has the capacity to meet our customers needs.
“In situations where performance issues arise, Australia Post, as a matter of diligent process, examines all possible options to revive these particular outlets.
“Despite our best efforts to improve the trading position at Woollahra Post Office over several years, customer numbers and revenue have continued to decline. Specifically, over the past three years the outlet has achieved losses of $400,000 and is projected to lose a further $160,000 this financial year.
“As an organisation that receives no tax payer funding, we have a responsibility to remain financially self-sustainable so that Australians in cities, towns and rural areas continue to have access to postal services.
“To ensure we can meet the needs of the entire community we must occasionally close individual post office which are no longer sustainable for a variety of reasons such as leases changing or declining customer numbers and profitability.”
He also said that the financial strain would “place the whole network in danger of being unsustainable” and that Australia Post also opened new post offices in new suburbs or where there was increased demand.
Photos: Adrian Fletcher
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