Australia Post boss nabs huge sum on leave
Australia Post boss Christine Holgate's fight for survival has begun with supporters accusing the Prime Minister of a "spineless" and "stupid" hit job on the chief executive.
News.com.au understands the CEO, who earns $27,000 a week, is expected to rake in over $100,000 during the four-week investigation into the organisation's purchase of four designer watches for senior executives.
But friends of Ms Holgate believe she's been thrown under a bus, arguing the purchase was ticked off by the organisation's chairman and board two years ago.
Writing in the Herald Sun, veteran business journalist Terry McCrann has also slammed the attacks on Ms Holgate as "hysteria on steroids."
"I am appalled and shocked that a Prime Minister could be so utterly stupid and so utterly spineless at the same time,'' Mr McCrann said.
"Scott Morrison's savage attack on Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate over the four $3000 watches and his demand she stand aside while this terrible crime be investigated as a matter of urgency was hysteria on steroids.
"We have a PM announcing that he is so dense and disconnected that he does not understand how businesses work - with things called "incentives" and "rewards" - and that AusPost is exactly such a business."
Mr McCrann also said it was damaging to Ms Holgate's reputation that she had been asked to stand aside by the Prime Minister.
"And why on earth - indeed, on any planet in the known universe - is it necessary for Holgate to "stand down" while Morrison's ludicrous inquiry goes on?'' he wrote.
"What does he think she is going to do? Hide the watches? Menace the "investigators?"
In The Australian, business commentator Robert Gottliebsen said Ms Holgate was finding out that "no success goes unpunished at Australia Post."
"I hope Holgate is strong enough to stand up to the PM, but her board is stuffed with mates of the Liberals,'' he wrote.
"There is minimal transport expertise. Meanwhile, for the international parcel rivals of Australia Post, you may now have another chance. And I think the Prime Minister needs a holiday - the pandemic has put him under enormous strain."
A growing number of Liberal MPs are now urging Ms Holgate to consider whether or not her time is up as the nation's second highest-paid public official.
"Surely Christine Holgate can read the room. She should go,'' Liberal Senator James Patterson told news.com.au
Ms Holgate, 59, first raised eyebrows last year with her new wheels - an electric blue Range Rover with personalised "POSTY1" number plates.
To her critics, the car - an expensive gift from her husband, - was a worrying sign that Australia Post's first female executive was also tone-deaf.
Worse, Ms Holgate made her appearance at Senate estimates on Thursday wearing a gold watch from Bulgari that retails for up to $48,000.
Australia Post Chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo has confirmed the board and management team will fully co-operate with the recently announced investigation into the watches anointing Rodney Boys, the chief financial officer, to act in the role.
"We remain committed to delivering for our important stakeholders - our people, our Post Office partners, our customers and the community,'' Mr Di Bartolomeo said.
"Group CEO & Managing Director Christine Holgate will stand aside during the investigation. During this time, Rodney Boys, Chief Financial Officer, will be acting in the role."
But as Ms Holgate's career hangs in the balance over the Cartier watch furore, the man tapped to step into her job is the same executive who couldn't remember which corporate credit card was used to buy the timepieces.
Mr Boys told Senate estimates on Thursday that he did not recall which credit card was used prompting a furious reaction from Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching.
"You are the Chief Financial Officer, and you can't tell me where the expenditure was put against?,'' Senator Kitching asked.
Mr Morrison has not ruled out sacking the board based on the findings of the independent investigation.
"We are the shareholders of Australia Post on behalf of the Australian people. She has been instructed to stand aside. If she doesn't wish to do that, she can go,'' he said.
Way back in 2018, the Australian Financial Review reported that Ms Holgate had raised eyebrows by turning up to a Melbourne Airport mail sorting plant with her mum and a Buddhist nun to bless the building.
At the time, Australia Post was trying to woo Senator Hanson's vote for an agreement to relax daily postal deliveries during COVID.
But Ms Hanson's stubbie holders were seen as particularly inflammatory given just days earlier she had attacked the public housing residents as "drug addicts" and alcoholics.
A clearly shaken Ms Holgate attempted to defend the purchase of the Cartier watch arguing it was a legitimate reward for "an inordinate amount of work"
But her attempts to claim Australia Post was a "commercial organisation" was disputed by Labor senator Kimberley Kitching who said it was taxpayers' money she was talking about.
"There were a small number of senior people who put in an inordinate amount of work and they did receive an award from the chair, myself, and on behalf of the board," Ms Holgate said.
"We are a commercial organisation. It was a recommendation from our chair that these people get rewarded. I have not used taxpayer money."
Originally published as Australia Post boss nabs huge sum on leave