CANBERRA, AAP – A report into Christine Holgate’s acrimonious departure from Australia Post has called for the prime minister to apologise and the chairman to resign.
A parliamentary inquiry has found the former Australia Post chief woke up on October 22, 2020 as one of the most successful women in business, and ended the day disgraced and humiliated.
The turning point was the revelation under Labor questioning of her purchase of luxury Cartier watches valued at $20,000 to reward four postal executives in 2018.
The managers had secured a $225 million investment into the government-owned business.
A non-government majority of the committee said Scott Morrison should apologise to Ms Holgate over his “improper threat” in parliament that she should “stand aside or go” over her purchase of the watches.
“This intervention by the prime minister suggests a lack of respect for due process and procedural fairness,” the majority report said, adding the shareholder ministers and board should also apologise.
As well, the committee said Australia Post chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo needed to accept responsibility for his role in handling the scandal and resign.
The non-government members also questioned the veracity of the chairman’s evidence and the “lack of effective robust policies and financial oversight processes in place throughout his tenure”.
Government members of the committee pointed out in a dissenting report the purchase of the watches occurred before Mr Di Bartolomeo held the role.
“Evidence to the committee highlighted the current chair sought to work in a constructive manner with Ms Holgate during what was a fast-moving sequence of events being played out in the spotlight of the media,” they said.
The majority of the committee also recommended the solicitor-general investigate the legality of the instruction from shareholder ministers that the board stand Ms Holgate aside pending an investigation.
And it sought an auditor-general investigation into Communications Minister Paul Fletcher instructing the board to stand Ms Holgate aside.
Ms Holgate, who has since joined Toll Global Express as chief executive, claims she was bullied and unlawfully stood aside.
Australia Post’s lawyers have conditionally agreed to participate in mediation with her.
More broadly, the committee called on the government to review all incentive payments, rewards, and gifts paid by commonwealth entities.
Government members pointed out Labor leader Anthony Albanese had described Ms Holgate’s position as “untenable” and supported her “paying a price” for her action.
“This inquiry has become a highly politicised exercise,” they said.
However, there was cross-party agreement in the committee for Australia Post to remain in public hands and for its community service obligation to be expanded to include its parcel service as a core business.
As well, there was support for the public release of the Boston Consulting Group report into Australia Post’s financial sustainability, which has been kept secret for more than a year.
“The inquiry has provided an opportunity to reset the direction of Australia Post into the future,” Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie said.