The government has stopped short of guaranteeing no job losses as part of the Australia Post modernisation process, rather maintaining it is committed to the viability of the crucial service.
As the corporation prepares to hand down its first yearly financial loss since 2015, chief executive Paul Graham fronted senate estimates on Thursday.
The government is in the process of widely consulting on an Australia Post modernisation process, as fewer and fewer Australians send or receive letters or physically visit Australia Post stores.
He warned that without significant reform, the taxpayer could need to front up costs to keep Australia Post above water.
Assistant Infrastructure and Transport Minister Carol Brown, representing Communications Minister Michelle Rowland in estimates, was pressed on whether they could guarantee no job losses.
Asked three times by Liberal senator Sarah Henderson, Senator Brown said only that the government undertook the modernisation process as it was “absolutely focused on” the businesses remaining viable.
“The government is going through the process and with that, it has a clear eye on rural and regional Australia and supporting those essential services that operate,” she said.
“Our goal is to ensure that it remains sustainable in the long term.
“The government understands and acknowledges as critically important that the modernisation options include ways to ensure that businesses, particularly in regional areas, continue to provide a range of essential services.”
Mr Graham said that without significant change to the structure and operations of Australia Post, its long-term viability was at risk, given the governing Act was legislated “before the internet boom and the creation of smartphones”.
“The performance standards issued a quarter of a century ago are no longer fit for purpose for Australia Post or for the customers and communities we serve each and every day,” he said.
“We now operate in a fiercely competitive environment.
“We want to keep Australia Post strong for all Australians, especially communities in rural and regional Australia.
“As a self-funded government business enterprise, we remain focused on strengthening the business so that we can continue to live on for the community. And this means adapting to meet the challenges facing us. We look forward to continuing to serve and help deliver a better tomorrow.”
Pressed as to whether Australia Post was so desperate to save money it would close branches in rural and regional Australia, Mr Graham said it was “part of our DNA to always be present in regional and rural Australia”.
“Closing banks and closing post offices in regional Australia would not save Australia Post any money,” he said.
“What would suffer is the community, and that is front and foremost in terms of our priority to ensure that those communities are serviced with the needs that they have, but those needs are changing.”