Christine Holgate to front Senate inquiry into Australia Post Cartier watches saga

Former Australia Post boss Christine Holgate is expected to unleash on her former employer when she gives evidence at a Senate inquiry into the Cartier watches saga on Tuesday.

In a rare move to protect a witness, the Senate communications committee has agreed to Ms Holgate’s request that photographers and TV outlets leave the hearing room for her evidence. Instead, one photographer and one TV camera operator will capture the proceedings on behalf of all media outlets in what is known as a “pool arrangement”.

The inquiry was established after Labor supported One Nation’s bid for the Senate to scrutinise the circumstances leading up to Ms Holgate departure on November 2 following the media firestorm that erupted over her decision to reward four employees with Cartier watches totalling $20,000 in 2018.

The bitter contest over her exit intensified last week when Ms Holgate accused Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo of treating her “like a criminal” and throwing her “under a bus” during the period she now regards as “the most harrowing ten days of my career”. She maintains he unlawfully stood her aside pending an investigation into the purchase – a move she says made her position “completely untenable” and forced her resignation on November 2.

Mr Di Bartolomeo, who will also give evidence today, has rejected many of Ms Holgate’s accusations, insisting that Ms Holgate agreed to stand aside and was provided with extensive support throughout the ordeal.

At the heart of the dispute is the flow of events on October 22, after Ms Holgate disclosed the watch purchases at Senate estimates hearing. The revelation was immediately seized upon by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who declared he was “so shocked and appalled” by the gifts that there would be an investigation by the Finance and Communications departments.

In a fiery speech in question time, Mr Morrison said Ms Holgate had been instructed to stand aside during the four-week inquiry, adding: “If she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.”

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