Australia Post Chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo issued a statement on Wednesday 7 April 2021 in relation to statements attributed in media reports to former Australia Post Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Christine Holgate.
The following comments may be attributed to Australia Post Chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo:
During her time at Australia Post, Christine Holgate made a significant contribution to the organisation. Ms Holgate was a very good chief executive. While embracing important innovations and reforms under her leadership to transform our operations, Australia Post has reported significant growth and continued to strengthen the business.
In recent times we have faced some of the biggest challenges in our 200-year history - including unprecedented demand for parcel deliveries and the accelerating decline of the letters business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – but Australia Post continued to deliver a profit that can be reinvested in our business for the benefit of the Australian community.
Despite the tough operating environment, Australia Post remains a robust business and I acknowledge Ms Holgate’s strong leadership in contributing to this outcome. While the Board understood the reasoning, we were saddened and disappointed when Ms Holgate resigned on 2 November 2020. 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.
Notwithstanding our ongoing offers of support, it is important to correct some of the points attributed to Ms Holgate in recent media reporting.
Support provided to Ms Holgate
In recognition of the very unusual and difficult circumstances, the Board ensured that Ms Holgate was provided extensive and ongoing support from our most senior human resources executive, Sue Davies, Executive General Manager, People & Culture. That confidential and regular support of Ms Holgate’s wellbeing continued following Ms Holgate’s resignation on 2 November 2020. In addition, Ms Davies ensured that Ms Holgate had access to extensive support from professionals through Australia Post’s Employee Assistance Program.
Ms Holgate agreed to stand aside
Ms Holgate claims that she was unlawfully stood down. That is not correct.
On 22 October 2020, Ms Holgate agreed with me to stand aside from her role pending the outcome of the Shareholder Departments’ investigation and any further actions taken by Australia Post. The Board’s intent was to ensure that both Ms Holgate and the organisation could focus their attentions on full cooperation with the investigation by the Shareholder Departments that had been announced earlier that day. My objective was, subject to the findings of the investigation, to have Ms Holgate back performing her role as soon as possible.
The agreement for Ms Holgate to stand aside was reached between myself and Ms Holgate in telephone discussions late that afternoon, in breaks during a Board meeting that commenced at approximately 4.00pm. The Board did not stand down, or suspend, Ms Holgate from her role – that being an unnecessary consideration given her agreement to stand aside.
Conversations with Ms Holgate on 22 October 2020
Ms Holgate claims that she did not speak with me that afternoon at all after Question Time (the relevant parts of which occurred between approximately 2.30pm and 2.40pm). However, phone records support my recollection – including that we had conversations at 4:27pm and 5.50pm on that day.
Ms Holgate resigned
Ms Holgate wrote to Australia Post at 10.46am on 2 November 2020 advising her resignation with immediate effect and that she would not be seeking financial compensation and attaching a public statement that she said that she would release at 2.00pm. We understand that Ms Holgate then released the statement at 2.00pm and subsequently advised the Australia Post Executive Team at 2.29pm that she had done so. Australia Post did not issue a public statement until 3.00pm, after Ms Holgate had issued her public statement.
The Board acknowledged Ms Holgate’s resignation and agreed to waive the six-month notice period that would otherwise apply. While our correspondence sought Ms Holgate’s written confirmation that she would not receive payment in lieu of notice or other financial compensation, neither that confirmation nor a deed of release was necessary. Ms Holgate’s employment came to an end on her resignation.
Ms Holgate claims that I made a counter-offer which would have prevented her from working for 12 months without pay. That is not correct. The existing provisions of Ms Holgate’s contract of employment contained non-compete provisions, as is common for such senior executive roles. These provisions apply only to working for a competitor for a period of six months from the end of Ms Holgate’s employment – and therefore expire on 2 May 2021.
Regarding payment, Ms Holgate had already advised the Board and stated publicly that she was not seeking any financial compensation.
Credit card records
Ms Holgate claims that she received continuous requests to examine credit card expense records and suggests that this was done to cause her harm. She also claims there were leaks of misleading reports regarding the management of expenses.
This is not correct. Australia Post was obligated to disclose information regarding credit card transactions and other expenses, in response to Senate Committee questions and Freedom of Information requests.
Given the extensive media reporting, I felt it was important to clarify these points at the earliest opportunity.
Australia Post has lodged a detailed submission for the purposes of the Senate Inquiry and is considering whether to make a further submission. We look forward to responding to enquiries from the Senate Committee at the hearing scheduled on 13 April 2021.
At all times, Australia Post has worked constructively with Ms Holgate during what has undoubtedly been a difficult process for everyone involved. Australia Post is a better and stronger organisation thanks to her contribution, and we sincerely wish her all the best in her future endeavours.