In the wake of the scandal over the luxury watches bought by the former Australia Post CEO for several senior executives, the organisation’s current chairman has said he would not have sanctioned the gifts if he had been in the job at the time.
Speaking before a Senate Estimates hearing last night, Chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo said he wouldn’t have approved the gifting of Cartier watches valued at a total of $12,000 to four senior employees for outstanding work.
Furious response from Prime Minister
The gifts were handed over two years ago by the then CEO of Australia Post, Christine Holgate. However, the situation only came to light last month, prompting a furious response in Parliament from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He insisted that Holgate stand aside while an investigation takes place. She subsequently decided to resign from her job last week.
Australia Post is in a unique situation
In his address last night, Di Bartolomeo said: “If I had been chair in 2018 and had been made aware of the proposal to purchase Cartier watches, I would have vetoed that purchase.
“While highly appreciative of the excellent work of the staff concerned … I acknowledge the purchase of the watches may not have met with expectations of members of the public or my own expectations.”
The Chairman emphasised that Australia Post is in a unique situation, given that it is a government business enterprise owned by the taxpayer.
We must manage this business prudently
“I understand well that our ownership structure places a unique responsibility to manage the resources of this business prudently and ultimately in the best interests of all Australians as underlying shareholders as well as customers,” he stated.
But Di Bartolomeo also praised Holgate for her hard work in what he noted was an “extraordinary” year that included the Black Summer bushfires and coronavirus pandemic.
In her own statement when she resigned, Holgate said: “I deeply regret that a decision made two years ago, which was supported by the Chair [at the time], to recognise the outstanding work of four employees has caused so much debate and distraction and I appreciate the optics of the gifts involved do not pass the ‘pub test’ for many.”