AusPost CEO Holgate resigns over watches furore

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Under-fire Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, who was sensationally told to step aside or be sacked by the prime minister ten days ago, resigned on Monday over the $20,000 worth of watches she authorised as a reward to four senior execs.

Christine Holgate, CEO of Australia Post.
Resigned: Christine Holgate, CEO of Australia Post.

Holgate said she was “greatly saddened” adding that she would not be seeking compensation over her departure. She said she also now accepted that the Cartier watches did not “pass the pub test”.

He resignation came after the storm which followed revelations at a Senate Estimates Hearing that she had spent $20,000 of AusPost funds on four Cartier watches, to reward senior execs for tying up the deal that allowed major banks to be represented by local post offices.

The prime minister Scott Morrison blew up on hearing the news, Holgate’s cause not helped by bad optics – at the time she was wearing a $48,000 Bulgari watch.

Holgate took the job three years ago after previous incumbent Ahmed Fahour was forced out, once politicians realised he was trousering a stratospheric $5.6m a year for his troubles – ten times as much as the prime minister and five times as much as the head of US Post, the head of the ABC and the head of the Reserve Bank. Holgate was earning half that, and less this year, but she was still Australia's highest paid civil servant.

However, for the printing and mailing industry her appointment did nothing to change the strategy of AusPost, since she has been in charge the mail monopoly has continued to switch resource to its booming parcels division. Many in the print and mail industry though were not unhappy with her, and felt she was at least looking at the business in a holistic way, with letters and mail part of the future.

Whoever comes in to take the job is unlikely to change tack, unless the communications minister Paul Fletcher tells AusPost to stop chasing maximum dollar and remember its public service commitment.

The watches were the latest in string of tricky situations Holgate was facing; she was under pressure from forcing through Pauline Hanson's stubby holders to immigrants locked in a Melbourne tower block at the same time as she wanted her vote to halve the letter service, and her personal AusPost credit card and her office AusPost credit card usage have also come under scrutiny.

Holgate said: “I have offered today the chairman and board of Australia Post, with great sadness, my resignation as chief executive with immediate effect.

“As Christmas approaches, it is critically important that Australia Post is absolutely focused on supporting our customers and communities.

“We have prepared significantly for this peak, but still face significant challenges – keeping our people safe, managing the biggest ecommerce Christmas ever, and planning in the face of unpredictable seasonal weather.

“I firmly believe that the ship needs a strong captain at the helm to help navigate through this time.

“The current issue I am managing is a significant distraction, and I do not believe it is good for either Australia Post or my personal wellbeing.

“Consequently, I have made the difficult decision to resign, hoping it will allow the organisation to fully focus on serving our customers.”

Holgate had high profile backers, including the owner of Blackmore's, the "wellness" empire that she ran before taking the job at AusPost, and Eddie Maguire, TV and AFL identity. She was also strongly supported by the nation's local Post Office owners, who said the Bank@Post deal that the watches were a reward for had played a big part in their survival.

Many are mystified at the prime minister's strong response, especially given much bigger emerging actual scandals at ICAC, Icare and with the land sales around the second Sydney airport.

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