Christine Holgate, the former Australia Post CEO, has utterly reamed Scott Morrison and the Australian Liberal Government at a Senate inquiry today over her treatment during the Cartier watches saga that played out in late 2020. Holgate has blamed Morrison for his involvement in the situation that ultimately led to her humiliation, bullying and unlawful removal as an Australia Post boss.
This moment is quite a disgusting crystallisation of a number of issues. There’s the scapegoating of high profile professional women as a result of the political interests of men, the mistreatment—and in some cases malicious destabilising—of witnesses prior to inquiries, and the bullying and “boys club” mentality that permeates all levels of Australian industry and political spheres.
Her account comes during a time when the Australian government is shielding a number of alleged sexual assault perpetrators and alleged rapists. This includes the person who committed the alleged rape of former staffer Brittany Higgins, alledged rapist Christian Porter and more recently Andrew Lamming, who is accused of harassing women online and taking invasive photos of women against their consent.
Speaking to the Senate, Holgate said she was subjected to humiliation no male public servant would ever face. “Do I believe it’s partially a gender issue? You’re absolutely right I do,” Holgate said. “But do I believe the real problem here is bullying and harassment and abuse of power? You’re absolutely right I do.”
Christine Holgate’s testimony about Scott Morrison
During the Senate inquiry, an impassioned Holgate gave evidence that she was forced out of her job. “I lost a job–a job I loved–because I was humiliated by our Prime Minister for committing no offence and then bullied by my chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo, who unlawfully stood me down under public direction of the Prime Minister,” Holgate explained.
“This made my leadership at Australia Post untenable and seriously threatened my health. I have done no wrong. Their bullying of me was far from over. I was subjected to a biased investigation and intimidated with constant threats of further allegations and criticism.”
Holgate then detailed the immense mental distress and health challenges she faced as a result, explaining that a “rambling” email she sent requesting support last year was because she was “seriously ill.” Holgate explained she was suicidal and was utterly debilitated “to the point where I could not find my voice to fight back.”
Holgate shared that she was never spoken to by Morrison about the Cartier watches “scandal” which evidence reveals should likely never have been a scandal in the first place.
She also told the inquiry that the Australia Post chairman Di Bartolomeo “fabricated” claims she agreed to stand aside and threw her under the bus to “curry favour” with his political masters. She told the senate to verify this by asking for Telstra phone records.
The Australia Post Cartier watch debacle explained
In November 2020, Holgate was pressured to leave her position as CEO of Australia Post when it came to light that she had given four Cartier watches to executives after they secured an extremely lucrative deal.
Per SMH, Holgate’s office used a corporate credit card to buy $20,000 worth of Cartier watches for employees in 2018 after they secured a $220 million deal for Australia Post. At the time, Morrison jumped on these details saying he was “shocked and appalled” by the gifts.
Morrison and his government then decided to announce Holgate’s successor the day before the hearing began, a decision which was widely criticised. Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie described Holgate’s treatment as a tragedy and that she was entirely within her rights when it came to the Cartier watch gifts.
“The bonuses that she paid to her senior executives pale into insignificance when compared to those given out by the NBN or indeed the former CEO, Mr Ahmed Fahour, of Australia Post,” McKenzie told ABC radio, per The Canberra Times.
“Australia Post as an organisation has had a long cultural practice of being quite generous in their bonuses to staff and so I found it quite interesting that Ms Holgate was treated as she was,” said McKenzie.
During the inquiry, Holgate pointed out the extremely close ties that the current Australia Post board members have to the coalition. It’s a fact which many see as an indication that the Morrison government is allegedly moving to privatise Australia Post.
Scott Morrison’s record of playing with taxpayer money
For what it’s worth, during last 2020 Scott Morrison spent $1.1 million dollars of public taxpayer money to fund what the Labour party called “thinly disguised political research” linked to testing Liberal party ad campaigns, per The Guardian.
“It seems you can’t take the ad-man out of the PM—$1.1m spent on polling and focus groups which turns into a $15m ad campaign,” Labour senator Katy Gallaher said at the time. The effectiveness of said spending is something you can likely assess yourself. Do you remember the ads? Did they make any tangible impact?
In a submission to the inquiry from LPO group, Holgate’s removal was described as the loss of an “exceptional CEO” and is “all the more painful, not just for licensees but for all stakeholders, because it was orchestrated, and enabled, by the very people charged to support this exceptional CEO, the Australia Post board members.”