Small centres ‘marooned’

A HOST of the region’s most vulnerable communities would be left “marooned” if calls to privatise Australia Post were acted on, according to a former post office owner.

Gerry Amer, the licensee of Bingara Post Office from 2002 to 2006, claimed there would be a rash of post office closures in the North West and New England if the federal government backed a recommendation from ACCC chief Rod Sims to consider selling off public assets.

He said any sale that resulted in closures of small town post offices would be devastating for communities.

“I doubt a lot of licensed post offices in this region would exist if the private sector had control,” Mr Amer said.

“It would be a real shame, especially if the mail service was removed.

“There are a lot of post offices for sale in the area at the moment and I wouldn’t like to be the one selling.”

Tamworth councillor Mark Rodda said privatisation could be a nail in the coffin for small towns.

“It’s a real concern because those small communities rely on their post office to pay bills, for banking and for sending and receiving mail,” Cr Rodda said.

“Shareholders want bigger dividends and if it was privatised, there’s no doubt they would make a decision to close the centres that weren’t making a big profit.

“Look at what happened to Telstra. There’s plenty of evidence of people having problems in small regional centres after the sale.

“It would just add to the decline of rural and regional NSW because of essential services being lost.”

Cr Rodda said any privatisation should include a universal service obligation, similar to what was required of Telstra, to ensure small post offices remained open.

Former ACCC commissioner Stephen King supported the sale of Australia Post, saying the national broadband network would make the old-fashioned letter redundant.

“It should certainly be looked at, and my own view is it probably should be privatised,’’ 

Professor King said.

The Leader contacted eight small post office owners in the region but all declined to comment on the record, saying Australia Post had threatened to revoke their post office licence if they spoke to the media.

“It would just be devastating if they privatised and a slap-in- the-face financially,” one owner said, on the condition of anonymity.

“They’ve already screwed us down on the margins the last couple of years and I can’t imagine what a private company would do.

“This threat has been around for a while but it would be a nightmare if it happened.”

He said if a privatised Australia Post removed post boxes in small centres, the inconvenience for residents would be profound.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had no plans to privatise Australia Post.

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