Northwood: industry needs AusPost pricing reform

Paper lobby group the Real Media Collective is demanding changes to Australia Post’s pricing, having formed an industry alliance, submitting a report along and being set to meet the government on the matter next week.

The Collective, which is the newly formed coalition between the Australasian Catalogue Association (ACA), Australasian Paper Industry Association (APIA) and Two Sides Australia (TSA), is requesting six changes to the national mailer, including a reform to its weighted pricing for parcels, and including print and paper industry data within its auditing.

The Real Media Collective is meeting with a number of senators in Canberra to discuss its demands of Australia Post on October 17, having already met with the mailer.

It also says the Commonwealth Bank providing around $110m in backing over five years for banking services at Post Offices around Australia should be beneficial to printers, as long as cost savings are passed on to customers and industry.

Kellie Northwood, CEO of the Real Media Collective, says, “We met last week with Ingo Bohlken, the newly appointed Product and Innovation executive general manager of Australia Post, he oversees mail products. We tabled the six demands we are seeking.

“We will be meeting with the government in Canberra to discuss our own demands but also the feedback from Australia Post on the demands.

“We are calling on changes, it is untenable to keep going as the way it is.

[Related: AusPost receives a million complaints]

“The most direct changes for printers are in line with three of our requests. With commercial pricing, we have asked for price increases to implemented with the new financial year, on July 1. That would allow businesses to work with their clients and prepare them for upcoming changes, rather than being hit with a price increase ad hoc, like they were this October. Clients just had to drop volumes.

“We are also asking for price transparency and some forecasting of price increases. Printers are asking themselves should we invest in new mailing equipment, they need some outlook. We have also called on Australia Post to be more transparent on weighted pricing, in applying their price increases there, it can be misleading for customers and make a large difference in how much parcels cost.  

“Australia Post is audited, but as it is, the auditor general is not engaged with the industry. They are not aware of the context for paper and print. We want to be able to provide data on the size of the industry, the number of employees, location and spread of everyone. It is important they have the data and understand it, to give context of the main concerns of the industry. They are not asking for it because it is not even within their scope.

“At the moment, auditing does not include that information and they are not asking for it because it is not in their scope.

“The other two demands include meaningful consultation with the industry and industry partnership, which we have already done.

“We continue to be open to discussion and negotiations. We are working through what we need.

“It all relates to press, if people are not mailing volumes, they are not printing it. As it is, the industry is carrying Australia Post on its back.”

[Related: Industry associations consolidate]

Australia Post is also launching a partnership with Commonwealth Bank, in which it will be supporting the new Bank@Post service. The five year commitment will see CBA invest $22m annually, in what it calls an Community Representation Fee, to enable around 3,500 Post Offices across the country to provide withdrawal, deposit, balance enquiries and passbook services.

Australia Post says without the backing from CBA, it loses money giving banking services and either would have to suspend it or close some community Post Offices. It is also hoping that the other three major banks will follow suit in supporting the service, proposing that they each commit to the $22m Community Representation Fee.

Northwood says, “With those facilities being available within branches, we welcome that. I imagine having that there for customers will pass on effective cost management, hopefully it will take some of the burden while prices are rising. It should be of benefit, as long as those cost savings are passed on to customers and the industry.”

On the Collective’s meeting with Australia Post, Northwood says, “It was the most positive conversation I have had with Australia post. But the industry cannot just have good meetings, we need action. AusPost has alerted us that it will respond formally.

“The new leadership team is cognisant of our member’s needs and it is open to negotiations and changes. They are open to work on solutions for the future with our industry coalition with publishers, vendors and printers.

“The feedback we have received from our members has been largely positive.”

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