By Marcus Honesta.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. It comes from the ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the Angarium, the ancient Persian system of mounted postal carriers c. 500 B.C.
I don’t hate my postie; he is in fact a most affable fellow. Nor do I hold him responsible for the things he stuffs into my letterbox. I certainly do hate the electricity bills, the love letters from the Australian Taxation Department demanding money, and the junk mail that infests its tiny slot. But is this his fault? Does he have a choice? NO – he’s just doing his job.
“Don’t shoot the messenger”, is a sentiment that most likely dates back to the era of the Chinese Warring States, a period somewhere around 221BC. It meant commanders would honour an unwritten code in the conduct of war where emissaries and diplomatic envoys could go about their business of delivering messages without fear of being attacked.
You may wonder why I am writing about this topic in CTL? Well its simple. Australia Post is a vital component of the Australian Communications Community. They pretty well affect every man woman and child in this Nation. They (Australia Post) process around 1,000,000,000 letters a year and deliver to 11.5 million points across Australia? If that is not a good enough reason to discuss issues that affect them, then I don’t know what is.
I have heard some absurd reasons for not supporting the same sex marriage plebiscite but this has to be the best one yet.
The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union has sent a letter to Australia Post warning of its obligation under its own Act to refuse to post any mail that “does not meet current community standards of reasonableness, honesty and decency” or can be considered “offensive”.
In the letter, CEPU Communications Division, divisional secretary Greg Rayner expressed concerns about the “heightened risk” to the “welfare” of posties forced to deliver the postal plebiscite if it is against their beliefs. Is he saying that the posties agree and support every letter or item that they deliver? Please!
“(We) have sought clarification from Australia Post on how the legislation governing the dissemination of offensive material will be interpreted during the postal survey,” he said. “We are seeking clarification of Australia Post’s plans, if any, to mitigate against a heightened risk to employee welfare while undertaking duties associated with this extraordinary process.”
The CEPU drew Australia Post’s attention to point 3.7 of the Unaddressed Mail Service Terms and Conditions Schedule under the Australia Post Act which states: “Any Article which contains text or images which (in Australia Post’s reasonable opinion) does not meet current community standards or expectations, or which may cause offence to a reasonable person, or which contains, or may contain, material which is defamatory or offensive, may be … refused.”
Really! There are plenty of ways to disagree with it (the same sex marriage plebiscites) content; for example vote YES; but to dress this action up in this absurd costume, is nothing short of ridiculous. It will be most difficult to support the same sex marriage plebiscite, if it is not delivered to us for us to vote on.
I believe that their actions are damaging the very cause that they purport to support; surely they (the posties) should go about their duties and let the people vote.
A spokeswoman for Australia Post said “in keeping with Australia Post’s obligation to provide postal services, we will be delivering the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey to registered voters throughout Australia and overseas.”
But the spokeswoman said, “Australia Post will also deliver campaign material in line with our Terms & Conditions”.
We would do well to remember what the English philosopher John Stuart Mill (dubbed “the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century”) when he wrote in his essay on liberty:
If any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. … Therefore, Mill concludes that suppression of opinion based on belief in infallible doctrine is dangerous.
John Stuart Mill 1806.