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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