Australia Post sell-off: Regional areas will be worst hit

RESIDENTS of regional towns could be the worst affected if Australia Post and its 2500 regional post offices were sold off, the Federal Opposition said on Monday.  

While the Abbott Government has not released any specific plans to privatise the nation's postal service, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission called for asset sales to be considered.  

ACCC chairman Rod Sims told the Australian Financial Review the government's review of competition laws should consider the sell-off of major assets.  

While he clarified he did not suggest any specific government businesses to be privatised, Australia Post is one group being considered to take on some of Centrelink's roles in regional areas.  

Such a move would help centralise government and business services in regional areas, and could help bolster Australia Post's ailing bottom line.  

It comes as the postal service faces a tough year with the government corporation suffering from continued falls in letter volumes while the pressure to deliver to more locations has driven costs up.  

Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said any moves to sell off the postal service would hit rural and regional Australians first.  

"The post office can be the banking centre, can be the centre where families pay their bills, can be a key component of those communities," he said.  

"Now without cross-subsidisation and without Australia Post playing the role that it does, which would be diminished if it were broken up and put into private hands, what we'd see is a real loss in those regional services in particular.  

"So in terms of the argument, it's up to the Government to come out and say what is their agenda for Australia Post, what is their agenda for Medibank Private?"  

While a spokesman for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Government was not considering selling off Australia Post, the corporation could soon be providing Centrelink services.  

In a Senate estimates hearing in November last year, chief executive Ahmed Fahour confirmed the government was considering handing over some Centrelink responsibilities to Australia Post.  

He did not go into detail but it is understood the government is assessing the handover of Centrelink payment processing to Australia Post, among other administrative roles.  

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