The chairman of Australia Post has denied Christine Holgate’s claims he unlawfully stood her down and abandoned her to a media firestorm over the Cartier watches fiasco.
Chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo has taken the former Australia Post chief executive to task, rejecting allegations she made in a blistering submission to a Senate inquiry.
In a nearly 1000-word statement released on Wednesday to “correct” some of her points, Mr Di Bartolomeo denied that he unlawfully stood her down.
“The agreement for Ms Holgate to stand aside was reached between myself and Ms Holgate in telephone discussions late that afternoon (on October 22), in breaks during a board meeting that commenced at approximately 4pm,” he wrote.
“The board did not stand down, or suspend, Ms Holgate from her role – that being an unnecessary consideration given her agreement to stand aside.”
Ms Holgate resigned late last year after it was revealed four Australia Post executives were gifted luxury watches for sealing a lucrative deal.
She has attacked Mr Di Bartolomeo over his handling of the saga, saying he treated her “like a criminal”.
“He lied repeatedly to the Australian people and to their parliament about his actions,” she wrote.
“Time after time he has made statements that I had agreed to stand down when I had done no such thing.
“He then abandoned me to a media firestorm that he and others had created and cut me off from resources, despite knowing that these events had caused me to seek mental health care and medication.”
Mr Di Bartolomeo, however, said the board ensured Ms Holgate was provided “confidential and regular support” after her resignation.
“Ms Holgate’s welfare has remained a priority for Australia Post and we have ensured the organisation continues to offer support during what clearly is a difficult time,” he wrote.
An independent investigation later cleared Ms Holgate of any dishonesty, fraud, corruption or intentional misuse of taxpayer funds.
But the accomplished chief executive claims she was bullied out of the company.
“To this date, I have not received any explanation why I was forced to stand down other than the minister and prime minister insisted on it and that in itself, does not have legal standing,” Ms Holgate wrote.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday refused to address the perception he threw Ms Holgate under a bus during a stunning Question Time tirade where he called for her to go.
Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the allegations in the 150-page submission were staggering.
“She is clearly very aggrieved by the actions not only by the chair of the Australia Post board but also the prime minister and the minister for communications,” she told ABC radio.
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said she would prosecute significant issues raised in the submission during a public Senate hearing next Tuesday.
Having herself last year resigned after the sports rorts affair, Senator McKenzie suggested some wanted Ms Holgate to return to her post after helping to bring financial stability to regional post offices.
“Her work there was critical to the survival of post offices out in the bush. They feel very strongly about her being reinstated,” she told ABC TV on Wednesday.