Australia Post’s chair has declared he would have blocked the purchase of luxury watches if he was in charge when the gifts were doled out to senior executives.
Lucio Di Bartolomeo fronted a Senate estimates hearing on Monday night, a week after Christine Holgate quit as chief executive amid an expenses investigation.
Ms Holgate came under pressure after it was revealed Cartier watches worth almost $20,000 were handed to four staff in November 2018 as a reward for clinching a banking deal.
Mr Di Bartolomeo, who took over from John Stanhope a year after the watches were bought, said he wouldn’t have approved the gifts.
“If I’d been chair in 2018 and had been made aware of the proposal to purchase Cartier watches, I would have vetoed that purchase,” he told the committee.
“I acknowledge the purchase of the watches may not have met with expectations of members of the public or my own.”
He said the hunt for a recruitment firm to find Ms Holgate’s replacement was under way but conceded it would likely be next year before an appointment was made.
Labor senators quizzed the Australia Post chair about temporary changes made to deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said there were no plans to make the alternate day delivery model permanent.
He also defended almost $100 million in performance payments made to staff and contractors in 2019/20.
“These payments are short-term incentives to reward for performance and not bonuses as the definition is usually used,” he said.
Australia Post licensees rallied behind Ms Holgate before she resigned, arguing her performance had helped save their businesses.
Senior executive Nicole Sheffield moved to allay their fears, saying the organisation wanted to grow and support licensed post offices.