The National Party’s shameful betrayal of licensed post offices and regional communities

Victorian National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie deserves enormous praise and community gratitude for her fearless and powerful defence of stood-down Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate and the long suffering small business licensed post offices (LPOs) fighting to get her reinstated.

In multiple Senate hearings Senator McKenzie has worked alongside another champion of the LPOs, Senator Pauline Hanson, to forcefully interrogate the Australia Post board and government witnesses. In doing so, Senator McKenzie has often crossed swords with her own government colleagues in the Liberal Party, including Senator Jane Hume and Senator Sarah Henderson, who have shamelessly tried to protect the Board and government witnesses from her questions (and in the case of Senator Henderson also viciously attacked the LPOs).

All Australians who support the fight to reinstate Christine Holgate and save Australia Post should contact Senator McKenzie to thank her for her efforts.

Shockingly, however, she is a lone warrior in her National Party; by the actions of the rest of her colleagues, or rather inaction, the National Party has betrayed the LPOs and the regional communities they serve.

The one absolute truth that should be driving every National Party MP on this issue is this:

Christine Holgate singlehandedly saved banking services for hundreds of communities in their electorates!

Without her, the 1,550 regional communities across Australia which don’t have bank branches also would not be able to bank at the community post office, because the Bank@Post service would have been scrapped in October 2018. Those communities would be withering and dying as residents would be forced to travel long distances to larger centres to do their banking, taking their everyday commerce with them.

To save the communities that National Party MPs represent, Christine Holgate alone opposed an Australia Post board decision in 2018 to scrap banking services because they were losing Australia Post $48 million per year, losses mostly coming out of the pockets of LPOs. She assembled a team of executives who worked very hard for months to convince the big banks to pay a $20 million community representation fee. With the last-minute assistance of

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to get the banks to the table, she achieved the deal literally on the deadline set by the board for saving the service—her emotion at the announcement of the banking deal reflects how close Australia had come to losing postal banking services. To recognise the very hard work of her team, she awarded them Cartier watches. The beneficiaries of this deal are the regional communities served by LPOs, but what are National Party MPs, with the honourable exception of Bridget McKenzie, doing for Christine Holgate and the LPOs in return?

Worse than nothing. They are betraying their communities and the LPOs, by rolling over to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s vicious agenda to drive her out. A disgusting example of this betrayal is this 26 April email by the Member for Lyne David Gillespie to a constituent. Despite all the revelations that have emerged from the inquiry, Gillespie doesn’t care. He stuck fast to

Scott Morrison’s lies:

Gillespie: Thank you for your email regarding Christine Holgate. The concern has never been with Christine Holgate. The issue was the inappropriate use of taxpayer’s money for luxury items.

Response: Lie! Christine Holgate opposed the privatisation agenda; the PM’s attack had nothing to do with Cartier watches.

Gillespie: Ms Holgate was stood aside for a period while an investigation was under way, and then made a decision to resign from her role, with immediate effect—she was not fired.

Response: False! She was bullied into offering her resignation, which is a constructive dismissal that is unlawful under Australian law.

Gillespie: The investigation report found that the purchase of watches was not a proper use of public money, as required under the PGPA [Public Governance, Performance and Accountability] Act, and was not supported by internal Australia Post policies.

Response: The investigation cleared Christine Holgate of any actual wrongdoing; the report could only contrive a token finding against her by saying nothing in Australia Post’s rules authorised her to specifically buy watches—a ludicrous demand for specificity that no corporate or government rules would meet.