Former Australia Post boss Christine Holgate says she was “roadkill” for the Prime Minister in the 2020 political furore that erupted after expensive watches were given to a number of executives as a reward.
In a scathing speech on Thursday night at a CEO Magazine awards ceremony, Ms Holgate reiterated she was a victim of bullying and humiliation by the federal government.
Scott Morrison went on the attack immediately in 2020, telling parliament “she can go”, after it emerged Ms Holgate had presented four Cartier watches worth a total of $20,000 to executives two years earlier.
“I became the roadkill of our Prime Minister, who sought a major distraction of the piling criticism in parliament that week,” Ms Holgate said.
At the time, the Morrison government was facing criticism for paying nearly $30 million for land owned by Liberal Party donors in western Sydney, which had been valued at a much lower $3 million.
It was also defending a lawsuit against its now-scrapped robodebt scheme in court, which was later settled for $1.2 billion.
“Whatever the reason, I became the latest victim of cynical politics, the victim of complete failure of governance and standards,” Ms Holgate said.
“And more than anything the victim of bullying and humiliation.
“Even worse than that was the months of being silenced, the months of being threatened.”
She said this happened on a national stage for a sustained period, made worse by a cartoon in The Australian Financial Review depicting her as a prostitute leaving Mr Morrison’s room.
Ms Holgate said that affected her because her sons had seen it.
“I’ve openly spoken about how I felt, how I didn’t have the will to live,” Ms Holgate said.
“When you are depicted in such a degrading manner, the worst thing of all is not what’s happening to you, it’s the humiliation you bestow on the people you love.”
A parliamentary senate inquiry into the watches issue released in 2021 “completely vindicated” her. Ms Holgate said that while it recommended Mr Morrison apologise, he never did.
The now Toll Global Express chief executive told attendees at Thursday night’s event she had to act as a leader in response to the bullying.
“I knew if I didn’t speak, I would have tolerated bullying and I could never be a CEO again,” Ms Holgate said.
“I often reflect if what happened to me could happen to me, what happens to so many others who aren’t on a platform?”
Ms Holgate said in her new role at Toll she would maintain her values of “safety, respect and equality”, which she said all employees deserved.
“Leadership is a privilege and we should always honour the people that work for us,” she said.
Lifeline 131 114
beyondblue 1300 224 636