Christine Holgate says she hasn’t ruled out taking legal action against her former employer Australia Post, as she detailed the bullying allegations that she says pushed her to contemplate suicide.
The Tuesday night interview was the end of a jaw-dropping day for Ms Holgate and the scandal surrounding her exit as the CEO of Australia Post.
“They harassed me and they thought they’d got away with it,” she said on ABC’s 7.30, referring to behaviour from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia Post chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo.
Ms Holgate said Mr Morrison should apologise and personally intervene to help her “resolve” her contract with the national postal service.
She said the “Canberra bubble” seems to be a “special place with its own rules”.
“But they are not good rules and they need to be changed,” Ms Holgate said.
She said she was “possibly” considering legal action against her former employer “and others”.
It came after a long day of Senate inquiries, in which chairman Mr Di Bartolomeo conceded Ms Holgate was “treated abysmally” through the Cartier watches scandal, but he doesn’t believe he owes her an apology.
Ms Holgate, who left Australia Post last year, claims she never resigned but was booted so chair Mr Di Bartolomeo could “curry favour” with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.
In Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Ms Holgate revealed she was left “suicidal” after being “humiliated” by Mr Morrison in Parliament last year.
She accused her former employer of fabricating evidence against her.
Mr Di Bartolomeo denies her version of events and said he hoped she would return as CEO.
“I don’t know why the Prime Minister took the action he did,” Ms Holgate said in an explosive opening to a Senate inquiry on the Cartier timepieces.
She disputed Australia Post’s claim she resigned, and suggested the Senate request phone records of board member Tony Nutt – a former Liberal Party director – to corroborate her story.
“You have to understand, it is the Prime Minister so they needed to find something,” Ms Holgate claimed Mr Nutt told her, alleging he told her she was being stood down at Mr Morrison’s request.
Ms Holgate alleged there were conflicts of interest between the Australia Post board and the government, as she listed numerous board members as being either former government members or having close relationships with Coalition MPs.
Labor’s communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland later claimed the board was “a dysfunctional swamp of Liberal Party hacks and yes men for the Prime Minister”.
Ms Holgate was scheduled to appear before the Senate for 90 minutes on Tuesday, as the communications committee probed the controversial $20,000 purchase of four Cartier watches for Australia Post employees in 2018.
When that was revealed in an October Senate hearing, Mr Morrison thundered in Parliament “she has been instructed to stand aside”. Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Ms Holgate’s position was “untenable”.
The ousted post chief testimony went for nearly twice the schedule time on Tuesday, as she levelled one explosive allegation after another.
In one particularly blistering passage, Ms Holgate contrasted her treatment to how Mr Morrison had responded to serious allegations of misconduct against his cabinet members.
former Aus Post CEO Christine Holgate compares her treatment (near-instant dismissal over the Cartier watches) to how Scott Morrison responded to "terrible atrocities" alleged against cabinet ministers #auspol pic.twitter.com/uwALLarSIO
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) April 13, 2021
Ms Holgate said the purchase was approved by the Australia Post board as a reward for employees who had pulled off a major deal to allow people to do banking at post offices.
She claimed she had been given the power to make $150,000 in purchases by the board, and the expense of the watches was officially rubber-stamped.
An internal investigation later cleared Ms Holgate of any wrongdoing.
Ms Holgate said she never agreed to resign, but was “unlawfully stood down” and had been “thrown under the bus”.
Mr Fletcher’s office declined to comment when approached by The New Daily.
However, Mr Di Bartolomeo maintained Ms Holgate did resign, and that he wanted her to return as CEO after an investigation into the watch gifts.
He claimed Mr Fletcher “asked” him to stand aside Ms Holgate, but he did not consider it a direction.
Mr Di Bartolomeo admitted Ms Holgate had been “treated abysmally”, but not by him.
“I don’t believe Australia Post owes her an apology, but I do believe she has been badly treated,” he said.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said he had never spoken to Mr Morrison in his life, and never received a request from the PM to fire Ms Holgate.
Ms Holgate has previously accused Mr Di Bartolomeo of lying about the circumstances in which she left the company.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said he thought “Parliament as a whole over-reacted” to the watches scandal, including the government and opposition.
Last year, Mr Morrison called the watch purchase “disgraceful”, while Mr Albanese called the spending “extraordinary”.
But on Tuesday, Mr Albanese lined up in support of Ms Holgate, backing her claims.
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