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Woolworths Group executive Paul Graham has been named the new chief executive of Australia Post, five months after former boss Christine Holgate resigned amid a political firestorm over the Cartier watches saga.
The taxpayer-owned company announced Mr Graham’s appointment on Monday morning, one day before a Senate inquiry into Ms Holgate’s departure in November.
The bitter contest over her exit intensified last week, as Ms Holgate accused Australia Post chair Lucio Di Bartolomeo of forcing her out of the top job over revelations she had rewarded four employees with Cartier watches totalling $20,000 in 2018. Ms Holgate and Mr Di Bartolomeo will outline their conflicting accounts at a public hearing of the Senate communications committee on Tuesday.
Mr Graham, who was Woolworths’ chief supply chain officer for the past five years, made no mention of the turbulence around Ms Holgate’s exit as he welcomed his appointment. He will take the reins in September, with acting chief executive Rodney Boys to continue in the role until then.
“Australia Post has proven itself to be one of the most resilient and successful postal businesses anywhere in the world. I feel fortunate to be joining at a time when we can truly capitalise on the extraordinary growth in e-commerce experienced in the past year and continue developing our retail and digital offerings while keeping letter deliveries strong,” Mr Graham said.
“I am most looking forward to meeting the team across the country – the posties, post office workers, mail processors and delivery drivers that kept our country operating during COVID-19. I am also looking forward to getting out into regional Australia where Australia Post has an enormous presence, as well as meeting with the thousands of Post Office licensee partners who play a critical role every day serving the country.”
Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate has resigned amid an investigation into corporate spending.
Mr Di Bartolomeo said Mr Graham had been selected following a global search and praised his “logistics, digital and retail experience both here and overseas, including as a senior executive at Deutsche Post DHL”.
“The board was impressed by Paul’s 40 years of deep industry experience working in supply chain in Australia, Europe and Asia. We are also confident Paul’s community and customer philosophy is a perfect fit for Australia Post,” Mr Di Bartolomeo said.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed Mr Graham’s appointment.
“We trust Mr Graham will provide strong direction and leadership as Australia Post continues to deliver record numbers of parcels, even with border closures and ongoing logistical challenges,” Mr Fletcher and Senator Birmingham said.
“His experience in building global logistics operations will also prove invaluable to local exporters, as Australia Post continues to invest in supply chains that connect Australian businesses to customers in new markets around the world.
Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the timing of the announcement on the eve of the Senate inquiry was “blatantly provocative”. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who is chairing the inquiry, accused the postal service of using the announcement to “undermine the Senate inquiry process”.
Australia Post said Mr Graham’s salary had been set at $1,456,560, with the potential to earn another $1.45 million in bonuses in line with the parameters set by the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal. Ms Holgate had a $1.4 million base salary and took home $1.6 million in 2019-20, down from $2.5 million with bonuses the previous year.
Woolworths boss Brad Banducci said Mr Graham had played a pivotal leadership role in building the company’s supply chain.
“Most importantly, Paul has supported the transformation of our supply chain culture to one that puts customers and team first in everything we do. We look forward to working in partnership with Paul in his new role on the many touchpoints our group has with Australia Post,” he said.
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