Christine Holgate slammed her former boss in a blistering 154-page submission following her ouster as Australia Post CEO. Here's what you need to know.

Australia Post former CEO Christine Holgate has broken her silence. (Alex Ellinghausen, SMH)

Breaking a five-month silence, the former Australia Post CEO has unleashed a 154-page tome telling her side of the scandal that cost her job.

In a sensational submission to the Senate Inquiry examining her dismissal, Christine Holgate unleashed on her former bosses as well as the government which sent her packing.

This is what you need to know.

The offence

Holgate was stood down ostensibly over four Cartier watches purchased by Australia Post for $20,000 two years ago.

The luxury timepieces were gifted to four employees for their help in signing up three of the big four banks to offer banking services in-store. While Australia Post operates as a business, it remains wholly owned by the federal government, leaving its spending decisions wide open to public scrutiny.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison snipped at the time that it was “disgraceful”, and told the public he was “shocked and appalled”. Holgate quickly took the fall as the Morrison government deemed the gifts to fail the pub test.

She now says, as an independent review confirmed, that there was no wrongdoing.

A card that accompanied one of the watches in question, signed by Holgate and then-chair John Stanhope.

“The purchase of the four watches as a reward for the efforts of executives who delivered the pivotal [email protected] deal was legal, within Australia Post’s policies, within my own signing authority limits, approved by the previous Chairman, expensed appropriately, signed off by auditors and the CFO, widely celebrated within the organisation, and presented at a morning tea by the previous Chairman and me with a thank you card signed by both of us,” Holgate said.

“It was then found to be legal by the ‘review’ which was clearly intended to find it otherwise.”

The dismissal

The largest controversy largely centres on Holgate’s dismissal and her treatment dating back to November. One of the biggest revelations in Holgate’s account is that she never chose to resign, despite that being the official account of her former boss, Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo.

It is for Bartolomeo that Holgate saves her most scathing critique.

“The Chair of Australia Post not only unlawfully stood me down, he lied repeatedly to the Australian people and to their Parliament about his actions. Time after time he has made statements that I had agreed to stand down when I had done no such thing,” Holgate said.

She claims that she offered to resign but never actually did, with no actual agreement struck with Australia Post. Instead she alleges that Bartolomeo gave her two options at the time: stand down or else.

“The Chair’s counter-offer to my resignation, had I agreed, would have prevented me working for 12 months, I would have received no pay for my separation and it would have prevented me from speaking about any of Australia Post’s actions past, present and future, including those that may be unlawful,” Holgate said.

“To this date, I have signed no deed of release with Australia Post, despite my many requests to resolve this matter.”

“I have not received any explanation why I was forced to stand down other than the Minister and Prime Minister insisted on it and that in itself, does not have legal standing.”

Holgate claims she was was humiliated and cast out

The former CEO alleges Bartolomeo effectively froze her out of the organisation and leaked her communications with the board to media, during “the ten most difficult and disappointing days of my career”.

“He then abandoned me to a media firestorm that he and others had created and cut me off from resources, despite knowing that these events had caused me to seek mental health care and medication,” Holgate said.

“When I pleaded for help, my pleas were met with continuous requests to examine credit card expense records, on the disguise that they must be made public, presumably to cause me even greater harm. Their actions were and remains, an exercise to seek justification, after the fact, for the failure to treat me fairly.”

“In short, I was treated like a criminal by my own Chairman, but I had committed no crime.”

Australia Post largesse

Holgate goes on to defend her record.

She emphasises that Australia Post had previously handed out $50,000 cash bonuses to some staff before her tenure and that such gifts were regularly used to reward employees.

“I have been told that employees have received watches for great performance for many years at Australia Post; some had received cars and others spoke about trips to the Olympics paid for by the organisation,” she said.

“The watches were viewed as a very modest reward for an extraordinary result that effectively saved the livelihoods of many thousands of Licenced Post Office operators and employees and the communities they serve.”

Holgate points out that no other CEOs were forced out as a result, despite arguing her own achievements eclipsed theirs.

“I was paid a fraction of the previous CEO of Australia Post’s remuneration, and I reduced the ‘office’ spending by more than 60% compared to his costs,” she said.

This is clearly a sticking point for her, comparing her 2019 salary of $2.56 million to her predecessor Fahour’s $10.84 million in 2017. This may be entirely a stretch, considering Fahour’s pay packet that year was part of a golden parachute and given the CEO’s salary was slashed directly as a result of political and public pressure. Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull deemed it “too high” at the time.

She also compares it to the $3.15 million NBN CEO Stephen Rue pocketed last year, seeming to suggest he has not faced the same scrutiny. Certainly few pub patrons, or internet users for that matter, would say his salary is justified either.

She goes on to dispute some media claims, such as spending $800,000 on pot plants, as “incorrect”. Other expenses, such as the use of private cars, however is simply justified as common practice.

Perhaps the biggest omission from Holgate’s account goes to the revelations that her organisation spent almost $120,000 on PR consultants over a 38-day period.

All part and parcel of running Australia Post, perhaps.

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