A Postmodern Utopia?


So the cost of a standard Australian postage stamp has just increased to $1 from… well, from whatever they cost before. I think I read that they were 70c, but I haven’t bought one in years so I really don’t know. Either way, it’s apparently only the fifth price hike in 23 years.

As if to offset the impact of this somewhat shocking 42.9% price rise, Australia Post also introduced a new multi-tiered postal arrangement, similar to what the UK’s had for about 3 millennia. How very postmodern of you, Australia Post.

StampsOur Government-owned postal service posted (pun intended) a $222 million loss for 2014-15. The degraded performance and steadily increasing losses of Australia Post’s personal mail delivery business had been much publicised for some time.

But even the admission that the one-time essential service was, by now, posting more losses than letters couldn’t quell the protesters in the lead-up to these latest changes – they were vocal and many.

Or, at least, that’s what the media would like us to believe.

Fact is, those most likely to still use snail mail services in any statistically significant volumes are almost entirely unaffected by the changes.

If you don’t have a concession card, you’ll pay $1 or more to pop something in an envelope and have it delivered to its intended recipient (or to “post a letter”, as this quaint anachronism used to be described in the olden days).

The country’s 5.7 million concession card holders – mostly older folk – will retain existing access to 60c stamps, to realise the same outcome with these “letters” and other assorted ephemera that they still feel a need to physically post.

And speaking of anachronisms, anyone who still sends Christmas cards will also continue to benefit from Australia Post’s longstanding tradition of reduced rate festive season stamps, too. Does that leave you feeling as warm and fuzzy inside as it does me?

So, the only time concession card holders will ever be impacted by the increases that have just come into effect is if their snail mail absolutely, positively has to be there overnight (déjà vu?), which is when they – along with the rest of us – will have to fork out an extra 50c to secure a shorter delivery window.

It all sounds remarkably similar to the UK’s first and second class stamp system, except that our new arrangement – as with so much else in our increasingly bureaucratic nation – is less efficient and more convoluted.

The way I understand it, the new arrangement will work something like this: affixing a $1 stamp to your item will see it delivered to its destination within 6 business days – a frankly astonishing figure that presumably applies only to mail being delivered by an actual snail to a remote cattle station somewhere in the middle of the outback.

Adding another 50c stamp will secure the new so-called ‘priority’ service, but it will only reduce the delivery window to 1-4 business days – so perhaps delivered on horseback?

Clearly, then, in attempting to stem the flow from the organisation’s bottom line, Australia Post has elected not to cannibalise sales from its existing “Express Post” overnight delivery service, which effectively means we have now three tiers of postal options. More than before, maybe, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Still, for a change a Government agency has actually looked after those who can least afford to pay more for a service. A postmodern postal utopia, indeed.

Maybe there’s hope for upcoming generations of pensioners yet?

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