Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate will continue to take part in an investigation into the organisation’s expenditure despite stepping down from her role effective immediately.
In a statement released on Monday afternoon Holgate announced she had offered her resignation “with great sadness” and would not be seeking financial compensation.
AusPost’s group chief financial officer Rodney Boys will temporarily fill the role.
Holgate’s departure comes less than two weeks after it was revealed that AusPost had spent $19,950 on Cartier watches for four of its senior employees in 2018. The executive had initially told estimates that the Cartier watches had cost $12,000, but AusPost chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo later revealed the figure was close to $20,000.
The revelations prompted a probe into the agency, to be conducted by the Department of Finance and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, with the support of law firm Maddocks.
Holgate was asked to stand aside for the duration of the four-week investigation, prompting her lawyer, Bryan Belling, to argue that there were no grounds for Holgate to be stood down. He said Holgate was “the subject of a humiliating answer during Question Time”, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s description of the watch purchases as “disgraceful and not on”.
In announcing her departure, Holgate said she “deeply” regrets that the purchase of the watches “has caused so much debate and distraction”, noting that the “optics of the gifts involved do not pass the ‘pub test’ for many”.
Bartolomeo on Monday said Holgate was still willing to participate in the investigation, and made “significant contributions” during her three-year tenure.
“We thank all of our workforce for their ongoing commitment and all our customers for their support,” Bartolomeo said.
“This has been one of the toughest years in Australia Post’s history and the board acknowledges the extraordinary efforts made across the organisation to meet the challenges of COVID-19.”
Earlier this year Holgate came under fire for requesting that executive bonuses be paid, despite staff reportedly being asked to volunteer their time and their cars to help deliver parcels. The AusPost board ruled not to award bonuses to its executives following backlash from the public sector union and Labor.
Holgate was also criticised in September after reports emerged that she had demanded One Nation-branded stubby holders be delivered to locked-down public housing residents in Melbourne, days after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson described the tenants as “drug addicts” and “alcoholics” who didn’t speak English and didn’t follow social-distancing rules.
More recently, The Australian revealed that AusPost spent more than $34,000 for Holgate to stay at the Grand Hyatt hotel when visiting her organisation’s Melbourne office between October 2017 and July 2018.