OPINION

Christine Holgate deserves apology from Prime Minister Scott Morrison

PM should put empathy training to good use in Aus Post saga

It's rare to see Pauline Hanson, Sarah Hanson-Young and the wife of a former Liberal Prime Minister united on an issue.

But seeing a high-profile woman being treated shabbily by the prime minister - after everything that's happened up on the hill over the past two months - is more than enough to send many Australian women screaming off the edge of the rage cliff.

Or glass cliff, as former Prime Minister Julia Gillard called it.

At the time of writing, Scott Morrison was steadfast in his refusal to apologise to Christine Holgate for what she described last week as one of the worst acts of bullying she had ever witnessed.

As is well documented by now, the former Australia Post Chief Executive left her position in October after it was revealed that she had gifted luxury Cartier watches to four senior executives as a reward for securing a major contract in 2018.

In her first public comments since her ousting, Ms Holgate last week told a Senate inquiry that she had been "hung in Parliament, humiliated, not just hung, run over by a bus and reversed again".

She said the Prime Minister had not even called her for a briefing before calling publicly for her to resign.

It's in stark contrast, as many have pointed out, to the way in which many senior male figures - cabinet ministers, chief executives, sporting greats - are treated when they take perceived missteps in their professional life.

One Nation Senator Hanson was on the money when she suggested Mr Morrison was failing to read the room.

"Given the prime minister won't apologise to Christine Holgate, it looks like the taxpayer-funded empathy training he's been paying for was a complete waste of time," Senator Hanson said.

Greens Senator Hanson-Young, meanwhile, pointed out the glaring double standards at play.

"The treatment that Christine Holgate was given in comparison to the backing that the PM has given men who have behaved badly in his own government is just so stark," she told ABC radio.

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And in a separate interview, Lucy Turnbull, wife of Scott Morrison's successor Malcolm Turnbull, suggested Ms Holgate's gender had played a part in the saga.

"She was treated disgracefully and I can't help thinking there was a bit of gender bias in the way she was treated," Ms Turnbull told the ABC.

Meanwhile, it turns out Ms Holgate, shockingly to some perhaps, was actually quite good at the job she was paid to, albeit far less than her grossly overpaid male predecessor.

Australia Post employees have been rushing to her defence since last week's hearing, pointing out that she brought stability to the institution, and ensured it turned a profit during the pandemic.

Her decision to reward senior executives with luxury watches was not a good look by any stretch, but it would hardly be the first time such executives were rewarded with even more money. Perhaps cold hard cash would have been better? It would at least have gone unnoticed.

But as it stands, Holgate has been held up as an example of blatant excess in a time of financial crisis and booted unceremoniously off the job, while misbehaving senior ministers are given all the leave they need and the prime minister puts himself through empathy training.

He should, as Senator Hanson suggests, put that training to good use and apologise for his double standards. But as the tides of political hoo-hah ebb and flow, at least Ms Holgate didn't go quietly.

This story PM should put empathy training to good use in Aus Post saga first appeared on The Canberra Times.