The boss of Australia Post has come under fire for a legal threat made to the City of Melbourne after council workers intercepted more than 100 deliveries of Pauline Hanson stubby holders sent to residents in public housing lockdown in July.
In what’s been described as a “jaw-dropping” report, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed Thursday that Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, and senior executives, sent a letter to Melbourne City Council demanding the One Nation paraphernalia be delivered to residents in a police enforced lockdown in public housing towers.
According to the SMH, the 114 parcels were intercepted by the council while it was managing the strict lockdown of some 3,000 people spread across nine towers in the city's inner north-west, at the beginning of Melbourne’s second wave.
The stubby holders were sent after Ms Hanson went on breakfast television and called the residents of the towers “alcoholics” and “drug addicts”.
“A lot of these people are from non-English speaking backgrounds, probably English is their second language who haven't adhered to the rules of social distancing,” she said on Today.
In a controversial rant which saw her dropped from Channel Nine, Ms Hanson claimed many of the residents were from “war-torn countries” and “know what it is like to be in tough conditions.”
The stubby holders sent to the tower residents had a picture of Ms Hanson on them and said: “I've got the guts to say what you're thinking”. They were also accompanied with a hand-written note that read: "No hard feelings", the SMH reported.
Why City of Melbourne withheld the parcels
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, City of Melbourne said it was delegated “responsibility for overseeing the receipt and distribution of all food and supplies to residents in the North Melbourne public housing estate”.
“A number of identical packages from the One Nation Senator were delivered to 125/76 Canning Street North Melbourne addressed ‘to the householder’,” the statement said.
“The City of Melbourne consulted with Australia Post, and also lodged a complaint with the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether the delivery breached the Commonwealth Criminal Code,” Chief Executive Justin Hanney said in the statement. The complaint was later withdrawn.
The SMH report suggested the council decided not to deliver the beer holders for fear of inflaming tensions.
The subsequent letter from Australia Post's general counsel and corporate secretary Nick Macdonald, with Ms Holgate cc’d, threatened to involve “the Police or other relevant authorities” unless the items were delivered immediately.
Australia Post execs warned the integrity of the mail was paramount.
Australia Post confirmed in a statement on Thursday that Ms Holgate did not speak to Senator Hanson or One Nation on this matter.
“...nor did she threaten Melbourne City Council, with whom she has a valued relationship and holds in high regard,” the statement said.
An Australia Post spokesperson clarified that due to the lockdown mail was delivered to council and health department officers at the site.
“Upon subsequently being made aware that the items did not reach their ultimate destination, we raised it with the City of Melbourne and engaged with the sender in good faith to resolve the matter,” the Australia Post statement said.
Report labelled ‘utterly gobsmacking’
At the time the correspondence was sent by Australia Post executives in July, the service was reportedly seeking One Nation’s vote against the Federal Opposition’s attempt to overturn temporary regulatory relief granted by the government to Australia Post, allowing it to reduce letter deliveries.
The disallowance motion in the Senate is still to be voted on.
The SMH report was quick to trigger strong reaction online on Thursday morning, with ABC journalist Michael Rowland labelling it “Jaw-dropping”.
“Aus Post CEO Christine Holgate has some big questions to answer. We’ve asked her to come on ABC Breakfast TV,” he wrote on Twitter this morning. Ms Holgate is the highest paid public servant in the country and earned $2.7 million last year.
“This story is just utterly gobsmacking on a number of levels,” echoed TV personality Annabel Crab.
Meanwhile Victorian Labor MP Andrew Giles said the revelation was “concerning and disturbing.”
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