Embattled Australia Post boss Christine Holgate is facing more controversy, with reports the company splashed out thousands of dollars to pay for her nine-month stay in a luxury hotel suite.
News Corp is reporting that Australia Post paid more than $34,000 Ms Holgate to stay in a Grand Hyatt suite in Melbourne.
Ms Holgate, who lives in Sydney, stayed at the hotel when she commuted to Australia Post’s Melbourne head office most weeks. The company covered the costs of the suite from October 2017 until July 2018.
Revelations of the spending come as senior Australia Post executives get set to front a Senate inquiry in November to answer questions about the organisation’s lavish corporate spending.
Labor is demanding chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo face parliament to explain why almost $20,000 was spent on luxury watches for senior managers.
Ms Holgate has stood aside while a four-week investigation is carried out into the watch purchase.
The purchase of the Cartier watches – gifts for four senior Australia Post executives – was revealed at a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra last week.
Ms Holgate told the hearing they were an “award” to the senior staff, on behalf of Australia Post’s board, for their work on the lucrative Bank@Post deal.
“They were a small number of senior people who’d put an inordinate amount of work in,” she said.
Ms Holgate said the watches were not paid for by taxpayers, saying “we [Australia Post] do not receive government funding”.
“I have not used taxpayers’ money, we are a commercial organisation,” she said.
But the revelations sparked instant outrage, and a swift response from Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Prime Minister Scott r
“I was appalled and it is disgraceful and not on,” the PM said in Parliament just hours later.
He demanded Ms Holgate stand aside while the investigation went ahead.
It is the latest in a string of recent controversies at Australia Post, including winding back delivery schedules, and recent decisions such as intervening in the postage of Pauline Hanson stubby holders to residents in locked-down Melbourne public housing towers.
On Monday, the federal government released the terms of reference for the inquiry, which will be assisted by a private law firm. It will scrutinise the roles of Ms Holgate and former Australia Post chair John Stanhope in the purchase, as well as the wider management culture at the government-owned enterprise, in relation to gifts, rewards and expenses.
Executives’ personal expenses will be part of the probe, as will bonus payments of more than $97 million that went mostly to senior staff.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young criticised the terms of reference for not mentioning executive bonuses.
“No one working in the public service should be taking home multimillion-dollar salaries and paid bonuses,” she said.
“It’s not just the Cartier watches that are the problem. It’s Australia Post becoming a quasi-private, quasi-public organisation that is now out of step with community expectations.”
On Monday, Labor used Question Time to quiz Mr Fletcher about how many of Australia Post’s eight non-executive board members were linked to the Liberal Party.
“A hint, the number’s four,” opposition frontbencher Tony Burke told parliament after Mr Fletcher dodged the question.
The minister retorted by listing a number of Australia Post board appointments with Labor ties made under previous governments.