Christine Holgate lashes out at Australia Post board in scathing Senate inquiry hearing | Australia Post
Former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate has been on a rampage on her former organization’s board as the government and senior ministers she says dumped her after she was allegedly ‘bullied’ and humiliated” by her work.
Holgate told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that she believes the board, led by its chairman, Lucio Di Bartolomeo, illegally resigned her from her role because Scott Morrison ordered it to do so. Di Bartolomeo said Holgate volunteered to stand aside.
Holgate has come under fire following an October 22, 2020 estimates hearing in which it was revealed that she awarded four Australia Post executives $5,000 worth of Cartier watches in 2018 as a token of appreciation for leading the successful [email protected] project. She said she had no choice but to resign 10 days later after a public attack by the Prime Minister in Parliament.
“I don’t know why the Prime Minister did what he did,” Holgate said on Tuesday of the Oct. 22 Question Time she received from Morrison who said if she didn’t want withdraw “she could leave”.
“But I was illegally resigned, I believe, because he ordered it [the board] do this.”
Holgate said Australia Post board member and former Liberal Party leader Tony Nutt told her “Christine, you have to understand that was the prime minister.” “So they had to come up with something [to stand me aside],” she said.
At a special Senate investigation hearing set up to examine the circumstances surrounding Holgate’s controversial departure, the former CEO said the “simple truth” was that she had been “kicked out of my job”.
“I have been saying since October 22 that I did nothing wrong,” she said.
“I had not agreed to withdraw. I have provided full written evidence in support of these statements and Australia Post and its Chairman have provided no evidence of any kind.
“They didn’t. They produced lies. I’m sure that will become even more evident during the committee’s work.
“The simple truth is that I was bullied in my job. I was humiliated and driven to desperation. I was thrown under the bus so the chairman of Australia Post could curry favor of its political masters. But I’m still here. And I’m stronger to survive it.
The Senate inquiry offers the same protections of parliamentary privilege as speaking in Parliament – meaning Holgate has absolute privilege in what she says and is not subject to libel laws.
Holgate appeared at the committee dressed in suffragette white, as did her supporters, including those who are due to testify later.
Di Bartolomeo gave evidence after Holgate’s appearance and again denied that she had been unlawfully resigned, a position he and Australia Post have maintained throughout.
Di Bartolomeo said he spoke to Holgate after Question Time on Oct. 22 and that she, although “originally reluctant”, agreed to step down while an independent investigation was carried out into the donating watches and other expenses on the Australia Post corporate credit card. .
The results of this investigation, conducted by law firm Maddocks, were originally kept secret but made public after parts of it were leaked to the media. It found “no indication of dishonesty, fraud, corruption or intentional misuse of Australia Post funds by anyone involved in matters relating to the purchase and donation of Cartier watches”.
Di Bartolomeo said he held Holgate in very high regard during her tenure as chief executive and wanted her to return to her role after the investigation. He described his resignation as a “significant shock”.
He denied that he or the board had ‘chased’ her through the post, but admitted that Paul Fletcher, one of the shareholder ministers, contacted him and said he wanted the board to administration also accepts an investigation into the donation of the watches. as for Holgate to stand aside while this investigation was carried out.
But Di Bartolomeo denied that the board viewed Fletcher’s comments as “formal direction” and instead viewed them as “a strong desire”.
“As members of the board of directors, you take into account the concerns, the desires, the wishes of the shareholders,” he told the committee, adding that this did not mean that the board immediately accepted the wishes. , but that he hadn’t ignored them either.
Di Bartolomeo said he thought Holgate had been “treated appallingly” by the media and politicians, but said the Australia Post board had done all they could to support her . “I don’t believe Australia Post owes her an apology, no, but I believe she was mistreated,” he said.
Holgate told the committee that she had not signed a release document, as required by her contract, to release her from her job. When asked if she would return to the role of Senator Pauline Hanson, Holgate replied that she could not as long as Di Bartolomeo remained president.
“I think it’s pretty obvious. I should never have been away from work. There was no justification for me to withdraw illegally,” she said.
“And my response was very consistent – I love Australia Post. There’s not a day that I don’t admire and respect people [who work there], but I can’t work for a president who sits in the Senate and doesn’t have integrity.
Di Bartolomeo said he never lied during Senate estimates, but admitted he had to correct the record twice after being told he had seen correspondence he said he didn’t. not have seen. He said he didn’t know what Holgate was talking about beyond that.
Holgate said a statement that had been drafted in which she offered to step down was given to Sky News before it was signed or accepted. She accused the board of leaking it to force an outcome.
“It wasn’t me who put it on Sky News. The only people who had that statement were the board,” she said. “I didn’t ask for any financial compensation.”
Di Bartolomeo said the board had not disclosed the letter, but acknowledged that the shareholder ministers had been made aware of it, through their respective chiefs of staff.
Holgate said she had contacted Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, whom she knew personally from her role as co-chair of the trade council, to help arrange a meeting with Communications Minister Fletcher, but that she had been ignored, after an initial conversation with Birmingham. on November 25 when Birmingham had said he would contact her again.
She said she had been suicidal and was taking the prescribed benzodiazepine temazepam and apologized for what she said was a ‘rambling’ written note, but said she needed help .
“He had just been appointed head of the Senate, so I wrote to him and said, ‘Of course, now that you are Minister of Finance, Minister of Commerce and Leader of the Senate, you are going to help me get a resolution and stop what’s happening to me.’ I just asked to be treated with respect,” Holgate said.
“On Saturday 5th December, which felt like a lifetime when you’re going through hell, by the way, I texted Simon Birmingham on his private mobile and asked him, ‘I haven’t heard anything and when can we have the meeting?’ I have not received any awnsers.
Holgate also said she believes gender played a role in her treatment.
“I think it would be fair to say that I have never seen a news article commenting on a politician’s watch and yet I was described as a prostitute for making those comments, humiliated,” a- she declared.
“I’ve never seen a male civil servant portrayed that way. So do I believe it’s partly a gender issue? You’re absolutely right. But do I believe that the real problem here is bullying, harassment and abuse of power?You are absolutely right.
Holgate and Di Bartolomeo have been told they may be asked to appear before the committee with another day of hearings to be scheduled.