Mediate or I’ll sue: Christine Holgate gives Australia Post deadline to resolve contractual dispute

Christine Holgate has threatened to sue Australia Post over her contractual dispute unless the federal government agrees to mediation by Wednesday.

Ms Holgate issued the ultimatum through her lawyer on Monday, hours before the full board of Australia Post was due to give evidence to a Senate inquiry into her controversial exit from as chief executive over last year’s Cartier watches scandal.

Postal players: Lucio Di Bartolomeo, Christine Holgate, Scott Morrison.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen, Dominic Lorrimer

Lawyer Rebekah Giles said Ms Holgate had given the board and cabinet ministers Paul Fletcher and Simon Birmingham – who share ministerial responsibility for Australia Post – two weeks to accept her offer of mediation “in order to avoid time-consuming and costly litigation for all parties”.

Ms Holgate would have “no option” but to consider legal action if the government and the company refused to meet the offer’s deadline of 5pm on Wednesday, Ms Giles.

“We have been advised the government requires more time to consider the offer to mediate and that Australia Post will not be able to meet the deadline,” Ms Giles said in the statement.

“Given there appears to be an absence of agreement to mediate this matter expeditiously, Ms Holgate will now have no option but to consider her legal options after the Senate communications and environment committee’s report into these matters is released on May 17. This was not her preferred method of dealing with this issue, but the ball is in the court of Australia Post and the government to resolve this matter.”

A spokeswoman for Australia Post said the company had agreed to the offer of mediation. Mr Fletcher and Mr Birmingham have been contacted for comment.

Ms Holgate resigned from Australia Post on November 2, 10 days after disclosing to a Senate estimates hearing that she had spent $20,000 on Cartier watches as bonuses for four senior employees for landing a major banking deal.

She has argued that Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo unlawfully stood her down in breach of her contract amid pressure from the federal government. Mr Di Bartolomeo has insisted Ms Hoglate agreed to stand aside for an investigation into the watches but resigned of her own accord before the investigation was complete.

The Cartier watches saga was preceded by a string of revelations last year that plagued Ms Holgate’s leadership. These included her office spending $300,000 on the CEO credit card in 2019-20 and splurging $3000 a day on a reputation manager at the height of the pandemic amid complaints about delivery delays.

Ms Holgate also urged the board to pay out more than $7 million in bonuses to executives last year despite the COVID-19-induced economic downturn and came under fire for Australia Post’s intervention on behalf of Senator Pauline Hanson when the City of Melbourne refused to deliver One Nation stubby holders to public housing tower residents.

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