13 April 2021




SUBJECT/S: Senate Inquiry into Australia Post

JIM WILSON, HOST: I’ve invited Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, on the program this afternoon to hear his side of the story as Australia Post falls under his portfolio. But, he was unavailable. However, the Shadow Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, was more than happy to come on, and she’s live on the line. Hello Michelle.


WILSON: Thank you for your time. What’s been your reaction to today’s events and the comments made by Christine Holgate?

ROWLAND: It certainly has been extraordinary evidence that Ms Holgate has given and the Prime Minister, the Communications Minister and the Liberal-backed Chairman of Australia Post have some very serious questions to answer. The Chair is answering those questions right now, in fact. I think it’s very clear that the contempt and disrespect, the Ministers effectively ghosting Ms Holgate and the lack of due process is something that she’s takes issues with and she doesn’t want it to happen again.

WILSON: At the time, the Opposition was calling for Ms Holgate to be replaced and removed from that position as CEO.

ROWLAND: To be accurate, we didn’t call for that. We did criticise the gifts of these watches in all the circumstances, but we made it very clear that the Board was incapable of executive oversight, that there was a serious problem with governance, and even as Ms Holgate said today, her position was made untenable by the Prime Minister making the statements he did and effectively sacking her on the floor of the Parliament.

WILSON: The bottom line is though that Ms Holgate and Australia Post should never have bought the Cartier watches for the executive team. It doesn’t pass the pub test, Michelle.

ROWLAND: Ms Holgate makes that quite clear in her evidence and she, to her credit, says that on reflection it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. She also notes that her statements about taxpayers’ money not being used for the purchase was not something she would have said today. But again, I give her credit for having the benefit of hindsight in that regard. But clearly, we need to get back, and this Government needs to get Australia Post back to what its supposed to be doing, and that’s delivering for the consumers of Australia.

WILSON: Do you think in light of what happened in 2018 with respect to the purchase of the Cartier watches, when services were stretched to the limit and pretty poor from Australia Post, you can understand why people would say it was untenable for Ms Holgate to survive as CEO of Australia Post.

ROWLAND: Well, I think what this Inquiry will draw out is the differing views on whether or not she was afforded due process. She has determined in her view that her position was made untenable by the Prime Minister. The Chair is giving evidence this afternoon to the contrary to that. But again, I think that one of the important aspects that hasn’t been articulated enough over the past couple of hours is that Ms Holgate said one of the reasons she was so unpopular was because she didn’t agree with a plan to slash 5,000 postie jobs, to cut services and to cut up to around 200 post offices. She wanted to grow Australia Post, that’s her evidence, whereas the Government was more consumed with cost-cutting.

WILSON: Christine Holgate has confirmed that taxpayer money was used to purchase these watches in 2018. Are you saying now if you were in Government, then Christine Holgate would have stayed on as the CEO of Australia Post?

ROWLAND: I think that’s a matter for this Inquiry to get to the bottom of, but I do also think that’s a very moot point because yesterday in what was a very provocative and disrespectful move, we’ve had the announcement of a new CEO has been appointed. Mr Graham comes from Woolworths, he is a very experienced executive, but he doesn’t start until September. I think it is no coincidence that this announcement was made yesterday, the day before the hearing where all these issues about Ms Holgate’s tenure would be explored. It’s no coincidence that this Government put that appointment out there. I think it really does show they are in full panic mode about everything that has been exposed, not only about the circumstances of Ms Holgate leaving, but also their now secret plan to cut services – which is outrageous.

WILSON: Your leader, Anthony Albanese, made it very clear at the time that the course of action was that Holgate could not survive as the CEO of Australia Post. Is there now a backflip from the Opposition?

ROWLAND: No, what he said at the time was that her position has been made untenable and had been made untenable by Scott Morrison’s words. Ms Holgate effectively confirmed exactly that with her words today.

WILSON: Anthony Albanese said at the time that it was right for Ms Holgate to be removed from her position, for using taxpayers’ money which has been confirmed again by Ms Holgate today for purchasing the four Cartier watches in 2018.

ROWLAND: Well, let’s be very clear that Labor has been very critical of the actions taken by Australia Post, and you’re right it did occur two years ago. That was made very clear in the questioning to the Prime Minister. I think we need to get back to the real issue here, and that is that no one forced the Prime Minister to take the position he did on the floor of the Parliament. Everything else to date has been retrofitted to account for those words he chose to use. We even have today a situation where questions have been raised about whether Ms Holgate is still the CEO of Australia Post because due process hasn’t been followed, whether the right contracts and documents have been signed, and whether the Australia Post legislation has been followed. It’s simply a mess.

WILSON: Okay, Michelle, we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time this afternoon.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.