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When it comes to Christine Holgate, we’ve got a short memory

By Gay Mackie

Yesterday, Michelle Grattan said that: “a wronged woman with a razor-sharp mind and meticulous records is a dangerous creature.”

Grattan was speaking in reference to Christine Holgate, and what she disclosed at Tuesday’s Senate inquiry. Which is absolutely true. Another thing that is true, is the shortness of our memory.

Let me be clear, I’m not disputing Scott Morrison’s role in this, his historic treatment of women, or am I saying that Christine Holgate didn’t experience what she absolutely did; I’d like to suggest that we’ve rallied around a person we widely condemned not too long ago.

In July of 2020, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson appeared in her then-regular spot on Channel Nine’s Today program. At the time, North Melbourne’s public housing towers were enduring a snap hard lockdown, replete with police guarding the property. On the program, Hanson said: “A lot of these people are from non-English speaking backgrounds, probably English as their second language, who haven’t adhered to the rules of social distancing.”

Hanson added “a lot of them are drug addicts,” and “alcoholics” before noting if people were from “war-torn countries” they “know what it’s like to be in tough conditions”.

After losing her spot on the program, Hanson then sent a One Nation stubby holder to each of the residents of one of the towers. The issue evolved further when the head of Australia Post reportedly intervened to make sure Hanson’s mail was delivered to their intended recipients.

As The Canberra Times reported, “In an email first published by the Nine newspapers, Australia Post warned the council it would notify the police unless the parcels were delivered without delay. Australia Post claimed this did not amount to a threat and denied chief executive Christine Holgate personally intervened.”

The Sydney Morning Herald took it further, with Rob Harris suggesting that “Ms Holgate’s written ultimatum, through her senior legal counsel, came days after Senator Hanson had labelled residents of the Melbourne towers ‘drug addicts’ and ‘alcoholics‘, and at the same time Australia Post was attempting to win over One Nation’s vote to ensure a temporary relaxation in daily postal services was not overturned by the Senate.

“Ms Holgate and several senior Australia Post managers were copied into the written warning, sent from Mr Macdonald to council chief executive Justin Hanney. Australia Post sources familiar with the tense stand-off over the delivery said Ms Holgate also personally pushed for the delivery of the parcels to the residents of the tower block in exchanges with the council,” Harris wrote.

In a later statement, Australia Post said Holgate did not personally intervene.

“Australia Post confirms that Ms Holgate did not speak to Senator Hanson or One Nation on this matter, nor did she threaten Melbourne City Council.”

According to Australia Post, their response was made purely on their legal obligation to prevent interference with the mail.

Nothing political, it seems, they were just doing their job.

*****

On July 8, a Senate inquiry repeatedly asked whether Holgate’s Australia Post was monitoring their senior staff members. The questions came after a series of leaks to Fairfax, that purportedly included sweeping for bugs and checking phone records.

Per The Sydney Morning Herald, “Ms Holgate deferred her answers but in responses to questions on notice Australia Post said it had ‘a risk-based security program – including to preserve the integrity and security of confidential and sensitive information – that takes into account best practice standards’. It said details of the program were commercial-in-confidence and that, if the details were to become public, it would hurt Australia Post.”

Senator Kim Carr defined the response as legal “weasel words” confirming that the company was (allegedly) doing such a thing, one he called “highly irregular”. A spokeswoman for Australia Post declined to further comment.

As the above publication wrote, “The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, which represents postal workers, said Australia Post should give a ‘straight answer’ to questions about staff surveillance. ‘The fact that Australia Post is avoiding answering simple questions about whether or not they have surveilled their staff is very concerning,’ said the union’s national president, Shane Murphy.”

*****

Back in 2011, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (which represented 94% of Australian pharmacies) struck a deal that would see dietary supplements be recommended alongside purchases of prescription medicines. The controversial move was (rightly) viewed as putting profits above the health of customers.

As Julia Medew of Fairfax noted, the guild “agreed to begin recommending a range of Blackmores products to patients when they pick up prescriptions for antibiotics, blood pressure drugs, cholesterol drugs and proton pump inhibitors (which are) used for gastrointestinal problems.”

At the time, the chief executive of Blackmores, Christine Holgate, told Pharmacy News they could provide ”the Coke and fries” with prescription drugs, giving pharmacies ”a new and important revenue stream.”

In response, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, said it was outrageous. He made a point of mentioning that he did not know of solid evidence backing combining dietary supplements with prescriptions.

After vituperative public scorn, the deal was withdrawn a month later. Despite this, Holgate claimed that her comments were taken out of context. “It is not about up-selling. This is about selling appropriate products to consumers,” she said.

*****

Let me be plain, I’m not doubting what Holgate experienced. I believe her, and I admire her for not holding her tongue, but I also believe that propping her up as a crusade for the greater good is spectacularly short-sighted.

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

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18 comments

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  1. Max Gross

    This article conflates two completely separate and unrelated issues! I expect AIMN to be more scrupulous than this.

  2. Neilw

    I think the wider issue is that this corporatist political global system is not working – all the rest are symptoms.

  3. pierre wilkinson

    so once again, an intelligent articulate and worst of all, successful woman dares to do what is considered a nice touch of appreciation in recognition of saving thousands of jobs and providing a necessary service, and she gets bullied into standing down; then we get the political spin of justification and glib explanation
    move along, nothing to see here

  4. calculus witherspoon.

    More filler for what is becoming a bottomless pit of modern neo liberal tactics to do with deliberately cut budgets (think of the ABC) and massively rorted privatisations, high levels of unemployed left high and dry (Qantas?), faux freebie “consultancies”, executive bonuses and inflated salaries and tax payer largesse involving private transactions ( Angus Taylor?)

    I personally feel this pairs beautifully with Murphy at the Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/13/christine-holgate-was-targeting-the-australia-post-chairman-scott-morrison-and-the-patriarchy

    against the information from Andrew Probyn that government had cut Australia funding to the point where the fait accompli existed for Holgate to plan for 5000 redundancies for Australia Post, much after the example of Qantas, et al.

    For some reason Morrison decided to double dip on Holgate, who was subsequently pilloried for doing the dirty work, then hung out to dry for it as a PR recycling venture for Morrison.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………..

    Re the recent Essential Poll, I marvel that so many people are so stupid as to agree that Morrison is doing a good job, when Holgate is only the visible tip of a filthy submerged shitcicle.

  5. Jennifer Wilson

    The author claims she believes & admires Holgate for standing up to Morrison’s misogynistic bullying. Yet at the same time she finds it necessary to list Holgate’s alleged transgressions. I don’t understand this, what does one have to do with the other?

    Holgate isn’t a “crusader for the greater good” just because she’s stood up to Morrison. She’s doing what any woman is entitled to do but most rarely get the opportunity, and confronting a misogynist bully.

    It’s sad that a woman can’t get unconditional support when she’s publicly abused by a powerful man. Her history of allegedly dodgy decisions does not have anything to do with that abuse.

  6. Phil Pryor

    In conservative political circles, there is always a scrum of sausage suckers circling to get a morsel of carcass,and a piece of flesh to privatise and profiteer. Aust. Post has some potential for the greedy maggots, perhaps cornering and ruining parcel delivery. Imagine consorting closely with shitstained objects like the P M, a poxed Maggot, Joyce the Inserter, Taylor the conning thief, Madam Mc Kenzie, Loudarse Cash, Peter Duckwit-Futton, hordes of these blood ingesting money grubbers. Drowning in greedy political shit…

  7. Brozza

    There would never have been any controversy if Christine was Christopher and had handed out cash instead of watches but for scummo and his lackey chair

  8. calculus witherspoon.

    Why do the $ tens of billions looted from the country on tax dodging alone (Shell, Chevron, Murdoch) not matter to some as much as the ruffled feathers of one privileged person?

    There are several problems at play in the Holgate problem, not to be just reduced to one factor to the inclusion of all else.

    If revenues were dealt with honestly instead of corruption ignored in favour of tabloid faux outrage, how many Women’s shelters could be built, alone?

    You see, it is some thing that can be dealt with on multiple levels; as an example of a crook system as well as an example of myopic chauvinism exclusively…no binaries, please.

  9. calculus witherspoon.

    Keeps exploding.

    Paul Fletcher says Holgate resigned, not that she was kicked out.

    Which seems a bit odd given in stark contrast to what Holgate seems to have said.

    Seems, “he said, she said”

    Who is lying?

    I have my suspicions based on experience alone…the Eichmann of this government and surely never a liar, eh?

  10. Wam

    I thought I was fair and even but I fell for the media hype and lumped her with the boys giving and taking huge bonuses far in excess of hers forgetting that the boys had been doing it for years without action and the women got sacked.
    Shit I/we men have a way to go.

  11. calculus witherspoon.

    Yes, that is the point. The system is rotten, so no one escapes without being drawn into some aspect or other of it. Sad that some to relish their imagined relevance, of course.

    Starting with the PM…

  12. wam

    Spot on calculus, Well may they say god bless the queen because we will all be saying god bless America soon and be safe in the arms of American values with a school system to keep control. I am glad that my kids and grand kids are strong and, unless albo finds a way, I am old.
    ps
    Michael those wallets look great but to get my wallet that fat I would have to use a sock.

  13. Geoff Andrews

    Our first commentator asserts that: “This article conflates two completely separate and unrelated issues”.
    They are not separate. Every employee, particularly those at senior levels, has an obligation to promote the business of their employer. This is the common factor.
    With the Pharmacy Guild, she apparently organized a deal to promote Blackmores products. This deal, which would obviously increase the turnover of her employer’s members and, it could be argued, improve the health of the customer appears to be no more insidious than a chemist, knowing a customer is on medication for a particular health issue, draws the customer’s attention to a suitable supplement. The customer can always say “no thanks”.
    With Australia Post, she rewarded employees for doing a good job, which benefited everyone including Australia Post, the banks and the public.
    In both cases, she has acted in the best interests of her employer

  14. paul walter

    Gotta add this.
    On the way to another suburb in Adelaide and trains shut down again while they spend our money on the rail to privatise at a song with themselves no doubt getting a pressie for doing the dirty work.
    The country is undergoing a fire sale.
    Our services are traded by traitors and future generations miss out on what we took for granted for a civilised society.

  15. paul walter

    And has no one noticed the black and white implications of Minister Fletcher’s bare faced virtual lie about Holgate resigning rather than being sacked?

  16. Harry Lime

    paul walter….bare faced lies are de riguer for this government of abject tossers,after all they have the country’s leading exponent of bare faced lies to set the example every day.And what a splendid example he sets.
    The most incompetent,dishonest and revolting scum ever to soil our Parliament.As an election nears ,we can expect it to get worse.The toad posing as our ‘leader’ is a pathological LIAR.

  17. paul walter

    Harry, it is true.

    Their patron saints are Howard, Alan Jones and the Murdochs

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