One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has savaged the Prime Minister for refusing to apologise to ousted Australia Post boss Christine Holgate.
“It looks like the taxpayer-funded empathy training he’s been paying for was a complete waste of time,” Senator Hanson said on Wednesday.
The One Nation leader is a staunch supporter of Ms Holgate. She was a key driver of the Senate inquiry into the Cartier watches scandal that cost the former Australia Post chief executive her job.
Senator Hanson told Sydney radio she would keep pushing for an apology for Ms Holgate, but won’t “hold my breath”.
Her blast came after Scott Morrison said he regretted the hurt caused to Ms Holgate by his parliamentary outburst, but refused to actually say sorry.
“My language that day was very strong. I see that has caused a very strong reaction from Christine and it hurt her deeply,” he told The West Australian newspaper on Wednesday.
“That was not my intention and so I regret that.
“At the same time, the issue here was how taxpayers’ funds were being used in a government-owned company, and as Prime Minister I have to stand up for those standards and did.”
In a fiery statement in October 2020, Mr Morrison told Parliament he was “appalled” by the purchase of luxury watches for four senior executives, urging Ms Holgate to stand aside – and saying “she can go”.
“I think it’s one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed,” Ms Holgate told the ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday.
Earlier, in bombshell evidence to the Senate inquiry, she said she had been left “suicidal” and on prescription medication after Mr Morrison’s statement and the subsequent pressure to resign.
On Wednesday, Mr Morrison also tried to deflect some of the heat from Ms Holgate’s allegations towards Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Back in October, Mr Albanese said her position as Australia Post CEO was “untenable” after the watches controversy emerged.
“The Labor Party was saying she should resign. I remind everybody that was the context of the discussions in the Parliament and what was said later,” Mr Morrison said.
But Mr Albanese, who was also in Western Australia on Wednesday, said Ms Holgate’s fate was sealed as soon as Mr Morrison opened his mouth.
“He effectively sacked Christine Holgate on the floor of the parliament. After that answer, of course, how could she continue?” Mr Albanese said.
“Scott Morrison always looks to not accept responsibility for his own actions. He owns this.”
Mr Morrison repeated his assertion that Ms Holgate had resigned from her job, even though she maintained at Tuesday’s Senate hearing that she had not.
“There were serious matters here and serious issues we didn’t want to see repeated,” he said on Wednesday, referring to claims the watches were bought with taxpayer money.
“If she chose to work through the process, she could have chosen to do that. Instead she chose to resign from the organisation.”
Mr Morrison claimed Ms Holgate’s treatment had “nothing to do with gender” and there was nothing to suggest Australia Post chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo should resign.
“I don’t accept there are any gender-related issues here at all,” he said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who is chairing the Senate inquiry into Australia Post, said Mr Morrison should phone Ms Holgate and apologise.
Senator Hanson-Young also called on Mr Di Bartolomeo to be sacked for his role in the saga.
“The treatment that Christine Holgate was given in comparison to the backing that the PM has given men who have behaved badly in his own government is just so stark,” she told ABC radio.
Businesswoman Lucy Turnbull has described the way Ms Holgate was treated by Mr Morrison as disgraceful and an example of misogyny.
“She was treated disgracefully and I can’t help thinking there was a bit of gender bias in the way she was treated,” Ms Turnbull told the ABC.
“I’d like anyone else to argue the contrary and point to a man who’s been treated like that.”
There are suggestions Ms Holgate was targeted because she opposed a secret plan to privatise the lucrative parcel delivery service at Australia Post.
Unions have urged Mr Morrison to rule out breaking up key parts of the postal service, which Ms Holgate warned would cost thousands of jobs.