Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate made sure she looked the part for her career-defining – and potentially ending – appearance at Senate estimates on Thursday.
During her hot seat session it was revealed she had rewarded four senior executives with a Cartier watch worth $3000 apiece. Nobody, including the Prime Minister, thought this was a good idea and she has been suspended.
But even more unfortunately for Holgate is her decision to accessorise her outfit with a wildly expensive luxury item: a gold Serpenti Tubogas watch from high-end Italian jeweller Bulgari.
Or as Bulgari prefers to describe it: a watch that “coils the sinuosity of the snake with the contemporary soul of tubogas” as it evokes both the “sensual curves of a woman and the fluid shape of the serpent” with a “flexible and tubular litheness” which “radiates glamour and a truly individual style”.
The piece can retail for as much as $48,300 locally, or for as little as $20,000.
While Australia Post didn’t foot the bill, wearing the watch qualifies as tone deaf. And not for the first time. After all, Holgate splashed out more than $700,000 on office plants over two years for the head office.
But the big spending doesn’t stop at Australia Post’s door.
Last year Holgate, who earns $2.9 million-a-year, was spotted driving around Sydney’s Mosman in an electric blue Range Rover with a “POSTY1” number plate. When asked about the car bling, Holgate said it had been a gift from her husband. Hopefully he didn’t have to pay for the watch.
CATS IN THE ... CAPITAL
Annastacia Palaszczuk’s border restrictions have put a dent in many people’s plans to celebrate the AFL grand final. Just ask ALP deputy leader Richard Marles, the avowed Geelong fan who has been forced to confine his excitement to Canberra. Or more specifically the Eastlake Football Club in Kingston where he will watch his team take on Richmond.
Marles’ federal electorate of Corio takes in Geelong. He doesn’t strike us as a party animal but he has promised to pour a jug of XXXX beer over his head if the Cats win.
The Opposition defence minister couldn’t resist having a dig at his rivals as he addressed the Herald’s National Security Summit on Thursday.
“We’re up against a soulless, national, corporate brand,” he said, throwing shade on the Tigers. “For those who haven’t grown up with the AFL, like the Prime Minister, you can think about this as a contest between a fighting local community – and, I don’t know – Coca-Cola.”
We’re all for throwing shade and it is true Cats coach Chris Scott offered not to be paid when Daniel Andrews locked down the state. But we should point out Geelong’s directors include Lend Lease director Colin Carter as club president, Medibank Private chief executive Craig Drummond and Boston Consulting Group managing director Grant McCabe. It takes a village, we guess.
Labor’s ambitious Opposition treasurer Jim Chalmers set parliamentary tongues wagging by hosting an intimate table for select colleagues at Portia’s Place restaurant in Canberra on Wednesday. There isn’t anything quite like a meeting of factional rivals at a power-dining locale to spell out your ambitions. Or, as one Labor-type observed, “Jim’s building his tribe”.
Observers spotted former ALP leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek enjoying Jim’s company along with frontbenchers Brendan O’Connor, Amanda Rishworth, Matt Thistlethwaite and Madeleine King. Newly minted Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain was there along with venerable Macarthur MP Mike Freelander, Melbourne’s man-in-a-hurry Tim Watts and Labor Left stalwart Warren Snowden. Also in attendance: Milton Dick, Shayne Neumann, Anne Stanley and Julie Collins. It would have been easier to list those who didn’t turn up.
Which brings us to the most noticeable absentee: Anthony Albanese. The event could hardly have filled him with confidence. And the timing couldn’t have been worse.
A sobering Newspoll published on Sunday found the party would lose two heartland seats – Macquarie in Sydney’s west and Dobell on the NSW Central Coast – if an election was held tomorrow. But it’s not just the eastern state MPs who are worried. Also at the table? West Australian MP Anne Aly, who holds the seat of Cowan on a margin of less than 1 per cent.
QUESTIONS FOR CROWN
After serving as James Packer’s corporate vassal in various capacities for decades, it’s understandable that what passes for the Crown Resorts board would want to keep John Alexander inside the tent. JA was dumped as executive chairman in January but continued to earn millions from the embattled pokies and Pai gow company presumably because he knows the location of every skeleton in Crown’s closet.
Alexander, a former editor of the Herald and Italian footwear enthusiast, got his chance to explain why he deserved to be paid millions each year during Crown’s annual meeting on Thursday. He was far from convincing.
“In terms of what I’m doing now … I have a management contract which expires in January, in terms of what I do for the next three months that’s really a matter for the chair and other directors, how they wish to use my abilities in any way they choose,” Alexander said.
Crown chair Helen Coonan quickly added her own nonsensical spin on what seems to be Crown’s fee-for-no-service arrangement with JA.
“I will add to that,” she told the AGM, as she hastily concocted a job description. “You will continue as you have throughout your contract, John, to assist me in the matters that exercise me as chair and assistance to [chief executive] Ken [Barton]. You’ve been with the company for a very long time and as you know we’re going through significant management and restructures, so I’d expect to keep you busy until the contract expires.”
Coonan holds six other board positions so she can be forgiven for not taking the meeting particularly seriously.
If Alexander isn’t motivated at the moment, it’s easy to understand why. An inquiry into the casino operator’s suitability to hold a NSW gaming licence has heard how “disappointed” Alexander was when Packer decided to sell a partial stake in Crown to offshore casino giant Melco rather than pushing ahead with a full sale to the US-based Wynn resorts. Based on the 400,000 Crown shares and 5 million options Alexander owns, the Wynn takeover at $14.75 a share would have delivered him a $79.6 million payday.
Samantha is the The Age's CBD columnist. She recently covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for News Corp, and previously worked for the Australian Financial Review.
Stephen Brook is CBD columnist for The Age. He is a former features editor and media editor at The Australian, where he wrote the Media Diary column and hosted the Behind The Media podcast. He spent six years in London working for The Guardian.