3 November 2020

While Christine Holgate has resigned from Australia Post before her full corporate credit card expenditures have been investigated, John Quiggin points out that the latest Australia Post scandal is the result of neoliberal reform: ”The biggest public relation misstep in Christine Holgate’s leadership of Australia Post was … her statement to the Senate that she had not used taxpayers’ money to buy the watches, since Australia Post was a commercial organisation. This statement would be odd even if it were made in relation to the shareholders of a private corporation — after all, the company’s money ultimately belongs to them. When applied to a statutory corporation like Australia Post, it created a firestorm. … The advocates of privatisation have repeatedly failed in attempts to sell off Australia Post. The next best thing is to turn it into a quasi-private corporation, with lavish provision for its senior managers… The transaction that brought Holgate undone … involved securing annual payments from major banks in return for Australia Post’s provision of banking services in areas the banks themselves had abandoned… it was merely a continuation of an arrangement that dated back more than 100 years. For most of this long period, … unthinkable would be a suggestion that renewing the arrangement on a regular basis, or arranging the financial transfers necessary to balance the books, was an achievement deserving of a luxury watch, on top of a million-dollar salary. The Australian public has long since seen through the claims made for privatisation, even if the financial and corporate sectors (the real ‘inner city elites’) continue to push the ideas of competition and choice. Australians want basic services to be delivered cheaply and reliably, by organisations set up to serve the public, rather than to maximise profits.”