Posted Mail Services - is it time to say Goodbye?

The digital revolution is delivering billing by email or SMS. Our utilities providers have started charging for paper bills. Banking has gone online.

Many businesses, services and our mobile phone providers are in a lock step encouraging the use of our mobiles in place of cards. Eg my RACQ card is now on the mobile, and NSW is offering a digital licence. It’s in addition to the plastic card version, for now?

Some of the questions that we might like to consider.

  1. What do we still use posted mail for?
  2. How are we being encouraged to abandon posted mail?
  3. What are the consequences, benefits or concerns of going all digital and loosing posted mail?
  4. Who will be disadvantaged most if posted mail services were to cease?

The trend is very clear to me that nearly all vendors and service providers want to get rid of snailmail and the habit of interpersonal correspondence died when the telephone became ubiquitous. As the volume reduces and unit prices get higher, despite being subsidised already, that trend will grow. In principle I don’t see why a person has to deliver bits of paper instead of sending an email. Email is accepted as written evidence of communication. There are many other transactions that are going electronic. Once solicitors would meet in the flesh to hand over cheques and documents etc for property settlements, now it is electronic and many other situations no longer require paper.

So why not make the switch and save some money next week? For most of us the reason is inertia. But there is a minority who do not have the equipment, the desire or the skill, or more than one reason. Any plan to quit snailmail must serve those people somehow.

We could have some development of the internet kiosk that is like the public phones of the early 20th century that filled in the service gap because owning a phone was quite expensive and not everybody had one. However, like the public phone that solution doesn’t work so well outside cities and towns, and unlike the phone if you don’t have your own device using a public one you may need to print hardcopy as you cannot carry it around. Another possibility is a cheap and simple dedicated box that provides phone and email that is bundled with “landline” plans. There are people whose copper-wire landline was replaced by an NBN connection who have no device (and no desire) to connect to it.

Agribusiness and modern farming will always be connected even in remote areas. However there are people who were on the land, or retired there, who do not have much money and who are often relying on the aged pension as superannuation was rare for the small self-employed farmer. They can be unconnected and may lack the money or interest in being otherwise.

Where are the discussion papers from Oz Post covering these issues? I bet they exist but will not be well publicised for some time as if they into our awareness there will be a strong knee-jerk reaction 'cause Granny has no phone. The proponent of such a scheme will be told, while opening up the issues to try to find good solutions, that they have no solution.


There is argument that postal mail will always have a presence. It reminds me of the computer age where there was talk that paper copies of things will be significantly reduce and potentially eliminated. :thinking:

Unfortunately email is predominately used for spam (85% of all emails sent are spam and this percentage in increasing). The risk is in the future more and more legitimate emails will be caught up or hidden in the volume of spam emails. This may mean that many legitimate emails won’t be acknowledged or read by their recipients. While email filters are also advancing in their ability to decipher spam from legitimate emails, they aren’t fail safe and many of us have experienced legitimate emails in our junk mail folder or never received (accidently deleted by the spam filter or when clearing out the junk email folder.

The other increasing challenging is knowing what emails are legitimate and what have been sent by scammers. The community covers this from time to time where business send legitimate emails which at first glance tick all the boxes as being spam/a scam. Scammers are becoming cleaver by the day and are better at impersonating legitimate businesses. Scammers are unlikely to pay for the purchase 1000s of stamps/franking, envelopes, paper, printers and their consumables etc to allow them to send off correspondence to potential victims.

The last is that there are some documents which can’t be issued in electronic form at this stage. This may change in the future if legislation allows self printed/digital copies to be accepted as a genuine document.

Many businesses will continue to send hard paper correspondence if they wish to continue to engage with their customers, recognising that the electronic systems isn’t perfect or fail safe.

It is also worth noting that there are some businesses which specialise in hardcopy mail scanning and redirecting/forwarding electronically by email to the recipient (this is useful for business with Australian operations where their offices are overseas or Australian’s working overseas). These business could be seen as the first step to removing postal mail, but there very existence depends on postal mail.


I think it’s inevitable that snail mail will practically disappear eventually - and will become a niche thing. It will be a slow decline that will take decades and just fade away slowly. But it won’t completely cease for quite a long time yet.

Consumers who are not tech aware today will miss out if it was to cease and as they also vote they will make sure it won’t happen. However younger people today for the most part have never dealt with postal mail being the norm so they likely won’t use it or miss it as they get older. Of course this also means that the technology to do this in terms of Internet everywhere has to be ubiquitous, and it’s almost there (but not quite).

I’ve often thought that there is an opportunity there for AP to be able to securely print and deliver email to those without technology. Imagine if businesses (or individuals) could email documents instead of posting them, and those documents be delivered electronically to a customer specific email address at your local LPO. A local printing facility could then print and deliver next day (or two). Large amounts of back-end sorting and transport facilties would then no longer be required and it would allow even more businesses and individuals to transition without losing the interoperability that last mile delivery requires.


That brought a chuckle. ‘securely’? privacy?

The USPS still has Priority Mail at the exorbitant price of $USD41.70 with a 6-7 day delivery to Australia but it is still offered, but nothing exactly like it going outbound to the USA but standard parcel is close.

How does that work for a traveller getting an emergency credit card replaced? Ah yes, a small flat parcel.

As a counterpoint many, many Americans still routinely use cheques even though EFT is available. Whomever makes that decision to effectively marginalise and disenfranchise those without OR UNABLE to get the technology you see as the future will be taking a great career risk.

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Postal mail is already inherently insecure. There is no guarantee that the contents have not been modified or opened in transit, nor is there any guarantee that the recipient is the one who will receive the item nor that the item is even delivered. There’s also no guarantee that businesses or individuals haven’t made a mistake in the address and mis-addressed the item. From time to time I still get mail in my PO Box that is addressed to someone else.

Those can be done online now too. I haven’t had to carry cash for years now, and if my card was compromised then I’m only waiting on the bank to re-issue an electronic one in order to be able to transact again. Location doesn’t matter for that and nor does physical delivery.
I know that the uptake of that is not up there with email yet though. But the option is there and it has always been quicker than waiting for physical delivery.

But as you point out, if you want mail in a timely manner, use a courier and pay (AP letters isn’t timely in any sense of the word anymore).

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It reverses the equation from might this and that to this and that being guaranteed. No need to play games with all of the opportunities.

Some day everyone will have a mobile phone that is in mobile coverage. My small patch in Eltham has 1 bar of 3G service. The maps tell me I have 5G (so should at least have 4G). Someday it will be all right. I am sure it will but not sure why or how the Telcos will be cajoled to fix black spots, especially urban ones, not worrying about the vast outback.

I had a related topic that has largely fallen dormant but it would be the proper place to continue your thoughts regarding cash and payments.

People assume that postal mail is secure. It is not - and it never has been. It is accepted without so much as a worry that “stuff goes wrong” in the physical postal system. Letters going missing or being misdelivered or being stolen from physical letterboxes isn’t regarded as a security issue - even though it is.

On the other hand the expection in the community is that electronic mail has to guarantee highs standards of security with no tolerance of such problems. So the moment anything amiss happens people are up in arms. There is a real disconnect and mismatch of expectations between the two.

FWIW - and you might already know this - but once bank cards are loaded they don’t require Internet access to be able to be used. I think they need to be able to check in once every week or two and that’s about it. Doesn’t help you with 1 bar of 3G though…

Should add talking is going out the window. I cant stand how we, are all forced into one option. Apart from being called non human. When i said talking i mean phone calls.

I see a corollary between electricity delivery and postal delivery. As demand drops, the prices go up. As prices go up, demand drops. As demand drops, prices go up. Etc., Etc., Etc. There will always be a need for both to remain.

Snail mail needs to stay because somethings are so valuable they are sent in hard copy. What these valuable objects are may vary from individuat to individual. It may be a hand written note, a birthday card, a certificate, or originals of certified copies of legal papers which must be signed by a JP, court officer, etc.

There are many elder people in our community who did not grow up with the internet. To them emails may be anathema to personal communications. There are also people who are not digitally connected because they live in rural and remote communities, sometimes in the cities too, who can not receive electronic mail. Both of those groups would be disenfranchised if snail mail were stopped.

Finally, remember that the mail service also carries a huge volume of parcel post. That would have to remain in some form. If that were stopped it would disengage many in the disabled community, as well as the aged and the remote mentioned above.

As poor and as expensive as our mail service is, it is still essential. Perhaps if they started looking on it as a service, and not as a profit making venture, and reduced the prices and improved the services usage may rise again? The younger generations may even realise one day that they could go retro and print out typed letters and put them in the snail mail.


I think deliveries to addresses (letters or parcels) will continue and in fact increase, as we have seen in the last few years. The only question is if Aust Post will remain the main carrier.

With all the data breaches causing people to change mobile, email etc. the one constant is the home address. Our Super provider always follows up with a letter in the mail if there have been major changes (withdrawals, changes to bank accounts …) Medicare also sent us letters about our change to bank accounts. For people without internet or any interest in their Super, it might otherwise be ages before they realised what was going on.

Why not go completely retro - handwrite the letter and send it by sea. Just reading some early England - Australia family correspondence that took about 5 months at sea, was addressed to the name and simply Gympie Australia. The Post Office managed to deliver it to him in Charters Towers about a year later, thanks to Unclaimed Letters lists in the papers. He was never at Gympie.


Combining the two categories doesn’t make the situation any clearer. Letters are in steady decline while parcels boom due to online buying from all over the country and internationally.

Ozpost is struggling as its income from the statutory monopoly letters business is vanishing and as many competitors want a slice of the less regulated parcel business. Parcels and ancillary services (eg banking etc) are the only reason most post offices are still open.

Christine Holgate may well bring Toll to greater prominence to the detriment of Ozpost’s parcel division. We need a bit more irony plastered on that wound to display the idiocy more clearly. Greater competition may result in better service, we can only hope.


A question is whether operating a postal service for the benefit of a country regardless of usage is a valuable service to be subsidised as necessary, or a business that has to turn a profit. Taxes are only for pollie pay and their perks and rorts, apparently since most else is increasingly user pays or funded by special levies.

For some being government means little more than owning the cookie jar (treasury) and dispersing funds to their ‘own needy’ (eg donors and most importantly selves, friends and family). On balance other governments see their role as supporting national quality of life and security as best they are able within the treasury’s means.

Even if letters are declining the infrastructure to deliver them remains as long as there is parcel service. Letters bring in less revenue per item which a P/L issue separate from whether there is value ‘doing it’. I’ll stop with that.


I think you may be engaging in a little exaggeration there. You can easily see from your annual tax receipt that Commonwealth government expenditure goes on:

  1. Welfare
    (daylight second)
  2. Health
  3. Education
  4. Defence

and that’s despite any co-contributions in the cases of Health and Education.

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You are right. It isn’t. You can mitigate that in a small way by using registered delivery.

Even so, email security is woeful. I would guesstimate that close to 100% of legitimate email is sent insecurely (i.e. not using digital security like PGP, S/MIME, etc.). The world has been very very slow to adopt secure email. It is not as if email has not had enough decades to become secure.

At the same time, as @phb says, the vast majority of email is scam-and-spam, which would rightly give customers pause for thought if considering getting important information via email.

Fortunately there is an alternative viz. secure download. My bank (and I would assume all banks) doesn’t want to post out statements any more but I certainly don’t want to receive statements via insecure email (or even necessarily via secure email). Instead one can log in to the bank’s web site and download the statement.

Some entities would of course like you to forget about their web site and instead would like you to download their app. That may provide a better experience in some cases but does come with its own significant privacy issues and some security issues, as well as raising the technology barrier.


Another factor in that case is the role that the post office plays within the community over and above the postal service.

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I had a career in IT and am certainly tech aware. This answer is for letter mail, not parcel delivery.

  1. My use of postal mail has declined over the last few years, but there are still critical purposes. The big one is for receiving credit cards, though there are also other items which must be physically posted. For that reason, I still regard the letter service as essential, though I would not object to having only two or three deliveries a week. Nothing time critical comes to me by mail any more.

  2. It is clearly cheaper for companies to engage with customers via the internet, rather than sending letters. However, I also find it more convenient as a customer in the vast majority of cases.

  3. Not everyone has or can afford an internet connection. Until internet is treated by society as a critical service and provided to all regardless of circumstance, like water, then there will be a need to have a postal option.

  4. The poor and elderly would be most disadvantaged. Our society has become increasingly cruel to the poor in particular over the last few decades. Discontinuing letter mail would increase inequality.


sending or receiving?

I still (prefer to) receive most things (utility bills, some bank statements, other financial statements, …) as snail because things that arrive via email are mostly ignored or overlooked due to the sheer volume of legitimate email and some illegitimate email (scam-and-spam). Honestly, if it actually requires my attention, it is better to be snailed. Basically, corporations have colonised my inbox to the point of unusability.

I still occasionally send as snail. Mostly I send cheques as donations to charities. They aren’t going to refuse it, right? :wink: It’s good to test the obsolete process from time to time.

Some financial transactions can still only be done in writing - and, honestly, with the amount of scam around, I am happy to continue doing that.

Some (but a declining number of) Christmas cards still get sent and received via snail. If someone is going to press a button and send an eCard to their distribution list then … don’t bother. :wink:

a) entities that charge for the option of a piece of paper

b) entities whose offering simply requires online communication i.e. online-only operations.

I think the benefits are obvious (cheaper and more immediate).

But until IT security takes a quantum leap in improvement, the consequences of going all digital could be “bad” and the concerns are definitely there.

Do we want to give the hackers even more opportunities for data breach, the criminals even more opportunities for cyberfraud?

Don’t get me wrong. We should do this. IT security can get there. But it is going to take putting security front and centre, not as a reactive after-thought when the proverbial hits the fan. It is going to take improvement across all aspects of society - government, business and individuals.

I say this an IT professional. Obviously my emphasis in this answer on IT security, rather than other negatives, is a reflection of that. It keeps me awake at night. :slight_smile:

With my other hat on, there are always the privacy concerns with “going digital”. Surveillance is so much easier when everything is digital.

Has been partly answered already and I’m probably not best to answer that, since I work in IT, and fully embrace it, at least in concept.

You can easily look at the 2021 Census results (recently released) and see what percentage of Australian households simply don’t have the internet.

So to answer the question:



I get 3 deliveries a week nominally. I would be very pleased if the rate of inexplicable disappearances was contained. I would be ecstatic if notifications that are sent 3 weeks in advance would arrive before the event they presage.


In some cases I think this is a consequence of using a mailing house. So the original entity produces some piece of communication, then it wends its way through the mailing house, then it wends its way via AusPost, and arrives 1 day after it becomes irrelevant.

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