Australia Post has walked back from its decision to stop shipping perishable goods and says it will now work with Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson to support the small business producers.
Billson will co-chair a new industry working forum — formed by Australia Post on Thursday — to address cross-state regulatory issues involved with moving perishable goods around the country via the Australia Post delivery network.
Australia Post said the forum will also include representatives from the small business sector and industry bodies, as well as producers.
Earlier this week, small businesses across the country slammed a decision by Australia Post to cease shipping certain classes of perishable goods from July, with some saying the move would be devastating.
Australia Post said the ban, which was to apply to perishables like truffles, butter, cheese and meats, was due to the “complex food safety and regulatory requirements” of different states.
Billson added his voice to the debate on Wednesday, urging Australia Post to reconsider a move that would be a “crushing blow” to these producers.
In a statement released on Thursday, Australia Post confirmed it will now continue to ship perishable goods beyond July.
“We recognise the original date for ceasing perishable transport through our network would cause significant disruption to small businesses, many of who have experienced significant growth in e-commerce sales during COVID-19,” said Australia Post’s acting group chief executive Rodney Boys.
The new working forum will allow Australia Post to get a better understanding of the needs of small businesses, said Boys, with the goal of developing a “long-term, sustainable solution to support this growing e-commerce industry”.
Billson will meet with Australia Post next Tuesday, ahead of a meeting of the full working forum in May. The plan is to then schedule regular meetings with regulatory bodies, government agencies and e-commerce experts.
Billson said on Thursday he will also work closely with the state small business commissioners to include them in the process.
The former small business minister said on Thursday it is now time to “roll up our sleeves” and work to find a “better outcome for e-commerce-powered small businesses who rely on these essential postage services”.
Australia Post’s decision to continue shipping perishable goods would allow many small food producers, especially those in regional areas to breathe a “huge sigh of relief”, said Billson.
Billson said Australia Post had positioned itself as the “delivery partner to small businesses and family enterprises”, particularly businesses that had moved to selling online during the pandemic, and it was wrong to “unilaterally declare an end to vital delivery services to the detriment of these small businesses and the customers who depend on them”.
“Now is the time to be working together to identify what the problems are and to find solutions to make a pathway forward,” he said.