PM’s ‘breathtaking’ double standard
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood up in Parliament last week to shame Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, he made himself a target, too.
The Prime Minister seized on a moment in a fiery Question Time to declare Ms Holgate's use of taxpayer funds to buy luxury Cartier watches for staff "disgraceful and not on".
"We are the shareholders of Australia Post on behalf of the Australian people. The chief executive ... has been instructed to stand aside, if she doesn't wish to do that, she can go," Mr Morrison said, referring to the investigation into the purchase of the four watches for senior executives valued at $20,000.
His comments were "humiliating" for Ms Holgate, her lawyer Bryan Belling said in a statement.
The boss of Australia's resurgent mail service walked away from the $1.5 million-a-year job on Monday with nothing, forfeiting her right to a six-month payout on exit.
The heat is now turning on the Prime Minister, who is accused of a double standard for failing to hold to account those responsible for a Sydney airport land deal that cost taxpayers $30 million when the land was worth just $3 million.
The federal auditor-general revealed in October that the Commonwealth overpaid by $27 million on a 12-hectare parcel of land near Badgery's Creek that was purchased in 2018 with the aim of building Sydney's second airport.
The Leppington Triangle land deal has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, which is investigating possible "criminal offences" stemming from the sale.
An independent auditor has been called in to get to the bottom of what went so horribly wrong as the PM faces calls to hold those responsible accountable and set up a federal integrity body - a promise he made two years ago that he has not upheld.
Political commentator Peter van Onselen wrote on Monday night in jest that "I'm certain the PM will equally insist" somebody resigns ... "over the taxpayer purchase of land for $30m valued at $3m".
So the Aust Post CEO has resigned over $20k worth of watches given to executives as bonuses, because that’s what the PM wanted. I look forward to seeing who resigns over the taxpayer purchase of land for $30m valued at $3m, which I’m certain the PM will equally insist happens...— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) November 2, 2020
"And for the record, to my knowledge I have never met nor spoken to Christine Holgate," van Onselen wrote.
"I'm just making these observations as someone totally sick and tired of the bullying.
"Why would anyone want to work in the orbit of government when the PM is willing to throw his weight around with such disregard for the hypocrisy and consequences of doing so. So very deeply inconsistent on how he applies his 'standards'. Boy you'd need to be desperate to bother.
"The fact Christine Holgate has walked away without haggling over a payout, receiving none, when she turned around the fortunes of Australia Post, highlights that the government has lost a valuable CEO. Good luck attracting another..."
The ABC's chief political correspondent Laura Tingle did not hold back either, telling 7.30's Leigh Sales that the PM's comments amount to a "breathtaking" double standard.
"I think it leaves the politics in a really bad place for the government," she said.
"The double standards here are absolutely breathtaking. All of that outrage from the Prime Minister when the best he can say about a land deal where taxpayers paid 10 times the proper value of a piece of land to former Liberal Party donors was that it was just something that he was disappointed about, when so many other scandals have seen no heads roll."
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Morrison Government needed to do more to tackle corruption.
"I think there's much broader issues about Australia Post than just what's happened to the CEO," he told 7.30.
"But you saw her saying that she was humiliated by the Prime Minister. That's a matter for the Prime Minister's judgment that's called into question there.
"I think that there are much broader issues. She is not the issue. What we need to look at is the fact that there's a nest of Liberals sitting there as the board. What we've got to look at is the fact that this government put regulations in place which have delivered less timely and less reliable postal services to the people of Australia.
"And I think that's what ordinary people are much more concerned about than anything
to do with the CEO."
Manager of opposition business Tony Burke has been vocal about the Western Sydney land deal.
"That's worth 10,000 Cartier watches and Scott Morrison won't establish a body to be able to deal with it," Mr Burke said.
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers went one step further when discussing the issue with ABC News.
"If Christine Holgate is hounded out for $20,000 worth of luxury watches by the Prime Minister, what does that now mean for Scott Morrison's own ministers who have been sprung paying $30 million to a Liberal donor for a $3 million parcel of land.
"What we asked from the Prime Minister is that he apply the same standards to his own ministers that he's applied to Ms Holgate on this occasion."
Originally published as PM's 'breathtaking' double standard