3 March 2023

Elvis, postal services as you knew them have left the building

| Ross Solly
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Would Australia Post get a stamp of approval from The King? Image: Mark Stutzman.

Poor old Elvis Presley.

Twice he tried to get a letter delivered to a special friend, and twice, bright and early next morning, the letter came right back.

Mr Presley’s problem, we learned, wasn’t with the postal service. In fact, on the available evidence, the postal service was incredibly efficient. First time out, Mr Presley gave the letter to the postie, who put it in his sack. Next day, the same postie brought the letter back.

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Next time, Mr Presley dropped the letter straight into the mailbox and even marked it “special D[elivery]”, but to no avail. The next morning the letter was back in Mr Presley’s hands. Elvis’s problem was his special friend had dumped him and wanted nothing more to do with his slicked-back swagger.

Those were the days, when people used to write letters, stick a stamp on them and posties used to deliver them. It all seems so quaint now but, as I tell my kids, it used to be a real thing.

Like home phones, CD players and map books, the postal service is on its way out. Australia Post says its letter delivery service is unsustainable and nothing will stop its decline. CEO Paul Graham says people should not be surprised.

“This has been going on for more than a decade,” he said.

Australia Post now delivers a staggering three billion fewer letters than it did in 2007-08, apparently our letter-writing salad days. By 2032, it’s predicted the average household will receive less than one letter per week.

Which brings the Federal Government and, by extension, the community to a fork in the road. How badly do we want to save Australia Post and the myriad of other services it provides?

AusPost deliveryman

Australia Post’s letter delivery service is on life support, but parcels are picking up the slack. Photo: Australia Post.

On the table is an increase in the price of postage stamps, cutting back on the frequency of letter delivery and making the priority letter service a bit slower. Communications minister Michelle Rowland also hinted at closing some of Australia’s more than 4300 post offices and removing some of our iconic red mailboxes.

The silver lining for Australia Post is its parcel delivery service, which has been going gangbusters since COVID. But this is also under threat from private operators offering much faster services.

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One of the big differences I noticed when I returned to Australia after living in the UK was how slow parcel delivery services are here. In London, you could go online, buy something (usually something I didn’t need, BTW), and I would have it in my hot little hands by the afternoon.

Granted, we are a bit more spread out in Australia. But it’s still incredibly slow by comparison. Australia Post wants feedback on improving delivery services to include weekend and same-day services and investing in apps to buy and track deliveries.

Quite why we need to provide feedback on this, I’m not so sure. Is anyone going to seriously say, ‘no thanks’?

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We are told Australia Post will not be privatised. Our wide brown land makes it highly unlikely any private service would ever invest in providing mail services to many of our rural and regional communities so that guarantees the government will always have to support a service that currently includes more than 2500 post offices in the bush.

The Marvelettes had the opposite problem to Elvis Presley. “I’ve been standing here waiting, Mister Postman, so patiently, for just a card, or just a letter …”

One day very soon, we may very well have no idea what they were banging on about.

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HiddenDragon7:30 pm 05 Mar 23

Twice daily deliveries stopped in 1968 and Saturday deliveries in 1974, so cutting back to a few days a week, half a century on, won’t be the end of the world – but whatever happens, the ‘Our CBR’ propaganda sheets will find their way to Canberra homes (they will be Fedexed if necessary……)

Stamp collecting taught you about the world, love letters were once a thrill to receive and a joy to read over and over, colourful postcards from exotic places caused just a little envy, birthday cards encouraged creative writing and Christmas cards kept relatives in touch.
Much has been lost in texts.

Tom Worthington1:52 pm 05 Mar 23

If we all moved to inner Sydney, we could have a fast postal service, like London. But for me, a once a week delivery of paper bills will do.

Stephen Saunders7:58 am 05 Mar 23

Last week, our home received a folded paper container (envelope) with a tiny picture of a Holden Commodore (stamp) stuck on it. Inside was a smallish piece of paper marked $18.00 (cheque). Far out.

Capital Retro5:00 pm 05 Mar 23

You have been scammed.

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