Scott Morrison has hit back at Eddie McGuire after the Collingwood chairman said he was “angry and disgusted” by the Prime Minister’s criticism of embattled Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate.
Holgate, who has worked with McGuire on the Collingwood board, was stood aside this week pending a review into the purchase of watches as gifts for senior staff after telling an estimates hearing they were a reward for securing a deal to do banking in post offices.
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She originally said the four watches cost a total of $12,000, but Australia Post has admitted they actually totalled $19,950.
Prime Minister Morrison told the parliament on Thursday the gifts were “disgraceful” and “appalling” and demanded Ms Holgate step aside.
But in a scathing interview with news.com on Friday, McGuire launched a staunch defence of Holgate and took aim at the PM.
“Christine Holgate is one of the most impressive people that I have ever met,” McGuire said.
“Her absolute devotion to looking after people and getting an outcome is second to none. Her sacrifice is incredible.
“And I looked at it, in the last couple of days, and I shake my head. I think how dumb is Australia?
“That we still go into the politics of envy? I mean, seriously. Why do we go and get superstar, business people to run public entities, and then try and make them play like dullards?”
McGuire revealed how Holgate had knocked back an offer from a top bank to take the role with the Collingwood board because she felt she could enact some much-needed change in the community, including issues like homelessness.
McGuire also said Holgate made a significant donation to Collingwood Football Club’s ‘Magpie Nest’, a project with the Salvation Army, to ensure it could keep running during the coronavirus crisis.
Scott Morrison hits back at Eddie McGuire
But on Saturday Mr Morrison defended his call to stand Holgate down.
“Well, we are the shareholder on behalf of the taxpayers,’’ he said.
“And that investigation is not just into the management and the executive but ... into the conduct of the board as well. And I did not pull any punches on that either.
“So no, I don’t agree with the assessment that Eddie has made, Eddie and I agree on some things but we don’t agree on others and no, I don’t agree with his assessment on that.
“I think there wouldn’t be a board member of a government agency or a CEO of a government agency that did not get my message yesterday. I think they got it with a rocket.
“And so, my advice to them is to get it.”
McGuire wasn’t alone in condemning the PM’s attack on Holgate, with veteran business journalist Terry McCrann describing it as “hysteria on steroids”.
“I am appalled and shocked that a Prime Minister could be so utterly stupid and so utterly spineless at the same time,’’ McCrann wrote in the Herald Sun.
“Scott Morrison’s savage attack on Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate over the four $3000 watches and his demand she stand aside while this terrible crime be investigated as a matter of urgency was hysteria on steroids.”
Fellow business journalist Robert Gottliebsen wrote in the Australian that “no success goes unpunished at Australia Post.”
“I hope Holgate is strong enough to stand up to the PM, but her board is stuffed with mates of the Liberals,” he wrote.
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