Australia's early decimal-style stamps made a feature of the monarch.

Australia's early decimal-style stamps made a feature of the monarch.

The juggernaut of email has so severely curtailed the snail-mail universe that Australia Post is reportedly exploring massive changes in how letters are delivered and the cost to send them.

After Monday's release of half-yearly financial results showed Australia Post could report its first loss in 30 years, it has become clear the government-owned business desperately needs revenue.

On one level – a comparison of international rates – Australians are lucky. Among its OECD peers, Australia's 70¢ stamp to deliver a letter is downright cheap.

But the financial woes of Australia Post are deep, in part because outside of capital cities, Australia is sparsely populated.

With 3.2 people per square kilometre, we're among the 10 emptiest countries on the globe.

How is that relevant? Simply because it costs far more to deliver a letter to Ethel Mackenzie in Woop Woop Heights than to pop a letter across to Erin Montague in the adjacent CBD skyscraper.

Meanwhile, the number of letters being sent is on the decline.

In 1966, when Australia converted its shillings and pence into a decimal currency, a stamp to send a letter cost 4¢. The Queen featured in a series of stamps that year, looking something like an early Andy Warhol screen-print series.

Since then, the cost to mail a letter has broadly kept pace with inflation. Postage costs spiked relative to the rest of the economy amid the recession of the early 1970s.

The cost then maintained its margin until 1992 when the price of postage held firm at 45¢ for more than a decade across Labor and Liberal governments.

The price was hiked in 2010 to 60¢ and again last year to 70¢.

The current strains on Australia Post, however, could spell a fundamental change.

And if a two-tiered structure for how quickly a letter is delivered is adopted, any linkage between inflation and the cost of stamps would diverge.

Whether such a move could win political acceptance, though, may be another matter altogether.