Of Corporatisation and Cartier Watches: What the Recent Australian Post Scandal Can Teach Us About the Current State of Australian Government-Owned Businesses

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Australia Post’s then-CEO, Christine Holgate, was heavily criticised last month after admitting that she had spent approximately $20,000 of Australia Post funds on Cartier watches for four Australia Post executives who secured a significant business deal for Australia Post. Not only did the “optics” of the decision look bad, but it caused a stir when Ms Holgate claimed that the gifts were appropriate because Australia Post, despite being wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Australia, is a ‘commercial organisation’. The controversy ultimately caused Ms Holgate to step down as CEO. Australian government-owned businesses have been expected to operate on a commercial footing since the 1990s’ National Competition Policy reforms. However, as the Australia Post scandal reveals, 25 years on, what commercialisation requires of government businesses remains open to dispute. There is a lack of consensus among managers of government businesses, government owners, and the public who patronise and ultimately own these businesses. This seminar reflects Asst Prof Baumfield’s recent research into the controversies surrounding how government-owned businesses should operate and considers what the Australia Post scandal reveals about the same.

Additional information

Global and Comparative Law and Policy Network research seminar
Period4 Dec 2020
Held atFaculty of Law
Degree of RecognitionInternal