As a participating member, I thank Senator Hanson-Young for the courtesy and professionalism she extended to me in her role as Chair of the Committee, throughout the recent Australia Post inquiry hearings.
Following are my comments and recommendations, the first two of which support those of the main report.
That the Australia Post Chair, Mr Lucio Di Bartolomeo, be removed from the Board.
Mr Di Bartolomeo's evidence to both Senate Estimates and the Committee's subsequent inquiry has shown him to, at best, have an appalling memory and, at worst, have been deliberately evasive and misleading.
His explanation of events of 22 October 2020, including his reliance on call records to substantiate conversations with Ms Christine Holgate relating to her agreement to stand aside—assertions that she and others specifically deny occurred—are tenuous at best. Ms Holgate has produced evidence of emails and text messages that cast very strong doubt around the veracity of the Chair's evidence.
His failure to produce any formal agreement signed by Ms Holgate stating she would stand aside—substantiated only by the Board’s own documents—casts further doubt on the veracity and reliability of his overall evidence.
His failure to act in the best interests of Australia Post, its employees and stakeholders by supporting and defending Ms Holgate–herself one of Australia's most successful and applauded Chief Executive Officers and who had recently achieved a rating from the Board of 95 per cent in her role (against a target of 70 per cent)—was such a spectacular failure of leadership that the organisation will take years to recover financially and culturally. Mr Di Bartolomeo bowed to his political masters, the Prime Minister and Shareholder Ministers Fletcher and Birmingham, in the way he railroaded Ms Holgate with complete indifference for any duty of care she was owed. That Ms Holgate suffered serious health consequences because of her treatment at the hands of the Board, Ministers, and media, evidences the ineffective approach and complete failure of the duty of care she was owed by the Board and the organisation.
Any one of the above, together with other points which have been noted by the Committee or raised during the public hearings—including evidence of constructive dismissal, failure to take the inquiry seriously, failure to properly prepare to give evidence and his attitude to the annual expenditure of around $360 000 for the recent Isaacawards–provide irrefutable evidence that Mr Di Bartolomeo is not up to the job of chairing or being a Board member of Australia Post and should be dismissed forthwith.
That the Prime Minister and the Shareholder Ministers, Ministers Fletcher and Birmingham, should each offer an unqualified apology to Ms Christine Holgate.
The reasons for this recommendation have been self-evident since 22 October 2020. Without the Prime Minister's now memorable outburst against Ms Holgate from the floor of Parliament it is likely Ms Holgate would still be the Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Australia Post and would not have lost her job or, in her words, been subjected to portrayal in the media as a prostitute or forced to seek urgent and ongoing mental health assistance. The behaviour of Minster Fletcher ('directing without actually directing' the Chair to immediately stand her aside) and Minister Birmingham (offering assistance to a trusting Ms Holgate which never eventuated) makes them equally culpable and an apology from all three at the very least is in order.
That Mr Bruce McIver AM, currently the longest serving Board member at Australia Post, be forthwith appointed as interim Chair and that his appointment to the Board, which is currently due to expire this year, be extended accordingly.