Labor leader Anthony Albanese says Christine Holgate’s position as Australia Post CEO is “untenable”, as controversy continues to swirl over an investigation into the company’s lavish spending and gifts.
Ms Holgate was the target of outrage from Prime MInister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher in Parliament a week ago after revelations at Senate estimates that the company had spent $12,000 on Cartier watches to reward senior executives.
That figure was later amended to almost $20,000.
Within an hour of her admission, Mr Morrison said Ms Holgate had been temporarily stood down from her role, pending an independent investigation.
“I think her position is untenable,” Mr Albanese told The New Daily, as part of an exclusive interview to be published next week.
‘No grounds’ for standing down from Australia Post
Ms Holgate returned fire for the first time since she was berated in Parliament by Mr Morrison and stood down from her role, claiming she had not received any official communication from the board or reason why she should step aside.
In a bombshell statement released by her lawyers on Thursday, Ms Holgate said her legal advice suggested there was “no basis” to stand her down.
“Ms Holgate has not had any proper notification that she has been stood down from her role, nor has she been informed as to why she should be stood down,” read a statement from Bryan Belling, partner at employment law firm Kingston Reid, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Legally, in my opinion there are no grounds for Ms Holgate to be stood down, and ‘optics’ [is] not a legally valid defence.”
Australia Post, however, has disputed that, telling The New Daily that her standing down was mutually agreed and that she had been speaking with the company.
“Australia Post has been communicating frequently with Ms Holgate regarding the current situation and ensuring appropriate support has been provided,” a spokesperson told TND.
“The chair [Lucio Di Bartolomeo] stands by his previously made statement on Thursday, 22 October that Ms Holgate will stand aside and this was agreed to by both parties in a telephone conversation.”
Mr Morrison used Parliament’s question time last week to rail against Ms Holgate, as the news of the Cartier watch scandal broke.
“I was appalled, and it is disgraceful and not on,” he told Parliament of the spending.
“She has been instructed to stand aside. If she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.”
Mr Belling claimed Ms Holgate had also received no communication from either the government or the Australia Post board regarding the investigation launched into the organisation.
He told the SMH he had released the statement because he had failed to receive a response after writing separately to the board and Mr Di Bartolomeo.
Mr Belling said employment law required the board to formally notify Ms Holgate that she has been stood down, and the grounds for doing so.