The problem with cheap outrage is that it can wind up being very expensive in the long run.

When Scott Morrison started thumping the table over Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate handing out - shock, horror - Cartier watches in lieu of executive bonuses last year, he probably thought he was on an easy winner.

What could be more "disgraceful" and "appalling", as the PM put it last October, than handing out schmick chronometers to fat cats in the middle of a pandemic?

Former CEO of Australia Post Christine Holgate during a Public Hearing at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Former CEO of Australia Post Christine Holgate during a Public Hearing at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

Only the truth, as we learned in Tuesday's Senate hearing, was somewhat more complicated.

The watches were gifts to four execs who'd negotiated a $220 million deal to bring banking services to local post offices, a win for Australia Post and for local communities.

She had authority to give bonuses of up to $150,000.

And the treatment Ms Holgate endured during her removal from the chief executive's chair drove her, quite literally, to the brink.

Thus what started out looking like an easy headline grab by the prime minister's office now looks more like a vicious and calculated political hit job - one that, fairly or not, will reignite criticism that Mr Morrison "just doesn't get it" when it comes to the treatment of women.

A classic Cartier tank watch.
A classic Cartier tank watch.

And while that might not make a lot of difference electorally if it only annoys those voters who would never vote the Coalition on a bet anyway, the PM should also not think it hasn't been noticed by diehard Liberal voters.

As one put it to me during the testimony, conservatives wish Mr Morrison spent as much time fighting his ideological enemies as he did smashing up Christine Holgate's reputation.

Or to put it another way, it's not just the feminist left who worries that the PM "just doesn't get it."

 

 

Originally published as PM paying high price for cheap outrage



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