- The former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate has testified in front of a review into her dismissal, detailing how she was “bullied” and “humiliated” out of her job.
- She accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of having double standards for pressuring her out of her role while federal MPs are “accused of the most terrible atrocities”.
- Holgate also suggested that it came at the time she was fighting a ‘secret’ review that recommended job cuts and office closures.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
The former Australia Post CEO has detailed how she was pushed out of the organisation after opposing a broad job cutting program.
Testifying to the Parliamentary inquiry into her dismissal, Christine Holgate claimed her departure in November last year came at the same time she was butting heads over Australia Post’s future.
“The simple truth is I was bullied out of my job. I was humiliated and driven to despair. I was thrown under the bus by the chairman of Australia Post, to carry favour with his political masters,” Holgate said, noting Prime Minister Scott Morrison had publicly called for it.
“I don’t know why the Prime Minister did what he did. But I was unlawfully stood down, I believe, because he instructed it to do so.”
Holgate was ostensibly dismissed over the purchase of $20,000 worth of Cartier watches. Those were used to reward four employees for their work in signing up three of the big four banks to offer services in post offices. An independent review later cleared Holgate of any illegality, with her own submission to the inquiry emphasising that all purchases were within her rights and in fact dwarfed by previous CEOs, including Ahmed Fahour.
An Australia Post licensee partner Angela Cramp outlined some of this company largesse prior to Holgate’s tenure.
“[Licensees] have often requested information about how many people that were not related to business of Australia Post were taken on a 5-star luxury jaunt to the Olympics in 2012 with Mr Fahour. Five-star, first-class and it was at, we believe, licensees expense, taxpayers’ expense,” Cramp said, noting “there was not an eyebrow raised”.
While Fahour eventually departed due to public pressure over his $6 million salary – a pay packet which was subsequently slashed – Holgate’s testimony suggested a clear double standard between her expected behaviour and that of male MPs.
“[Morrison] has … members of parliament who have been accused of the most terrible atrocities to women, proven with one of them, and they’re allowed to stand and still remain in their jobs and represent our country. I was forced to stand down,” she said.
The details of even that however are unclear. Holgate claims that while she offered her resignation, she never confirmed it and denies claims by chair Lucio Di Bartomeleo that she signed an agreement to leave.
She has claimed Di Bartomeleo “fabricated” evidence and misled Parliament, claims that Di Bartomeleo in turn denies.
Senator Pauline Hanson claimed during the hearing that if Holgate’s account was correct, she would legally remain the CEO of Australia Post.
Answering a question from Senator Bridget Mackenzie, Holgate was clear on what it would take to get her to return to her post, as public support for her swells.
“I cannot work for a chair that lies in the Senate and does not have integrity. The chair would have to go.”
‘Secret’ job cuts
Beyond her own treatment however, Holgate for the first time proposed other issues playing out in the background of her departure.
Appearing at the public hearing, she tabled three documents including one relating to a previously ‘secret’ review conducted by the Boston Consultancy Group (BCG).
“[It was] a review which, if the Government had supported [it], would have ravaged jobs and services Australia Post offers. I objected rigorously to the BCG recommendations and I still do. It is completely the wrong strategy for Australia Post – to its customers, to the teams, and to the communities,” she said.
“I believe Australia Post can have a strong future if it’s allowed to grow and interference is minimised.”
While noting that she has been denied access to files in preparing it, Holgate’s account puts her at odds with the the review which “focused on cutting costs and driving efficiencies.”
“Initially these reform paths started from driving efficiencies in the corporate center, to significantly reducing letter services nationally, increasing prices, closing Post Offices, divesting of the parcels business and restricting financial and other services,” Holgate said.
“The implications of these would be significant, including cutting thousands of jobs, reducing services and risking customer loyalty.”
Senator Kim Carr quantified these in the hearing as up to 8,000 job cuts and 190 post office closures. Despite the magnitude of the cut, Holgate says she has been unable to speak about it publicly.
“We are silenced. We are told very clearly that we are not allowed to speak on it,” Holgate said. “I believe this is up an important review, we should stop having secret reviews.”
“Australia Post is an asset for all Australians. Senator, I actually think the implications are worse than what you think.”
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