Australia Post issued a statement saying Ms Holgate had not collaborated with Pauline Hanson in July, prior to threatening to call the police unless the City of Melbourne allowed the distribution of the One Nation leader’s 114 parcels throughout a North Melbourne social housing complex.
The written ultimatum, through her senior legal counsel, came days after Senator Hanson labelled residents of the Melbourne towers “drug addicts” and “alcoholics”, and at the same time as Australia Post was attempting to win over One Nation’s vote to ensure a temporary relaxation in daily postal services was not overturned by the Senate.
An Australia Post spokesman denied Ms Holgate threatened the council, with “whom she has a valued relationship and holds in high regard”.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp defended the council’s decision not to distribute the parcels, saying the issue was handled in a “professional and “sensitive” way.
“Given the highly distressing nature of the situation, the sense of pressure and intensity that our residents particularly were under – our team made sure that we had asked all of the questions, made the right inquiries to relevant authorities, and received feedback from them before taking any action,” she said.
Victorian Labor senator Kimberley Kitching issued invitations to Mr Di Bartolomeo and Mr Macdonald to front next month’s sitting and criticised the organisation for continued delays in answering a series of questions on notice.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the revelations in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald were “astounding”.
He called on Ms Holgate, Australia’s highest paid bureaucrat, to explain why she went to such lengths for Senator Hanson while “the rest of Australia has to wait and not see their mail delivered on time for Father’s Day”.
Crossbench senator Rex Patrick and The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young also criticised Ms Holgate’s actions.
Ahmed Dini, a social worker who lives in the Canning Street tower that was locked down by the Victorian government to help stop the spread of coronavirus, said the stunt felt “malicious” after Senator Hanson had maligned residents.
“It was meant to divide us,” Mr Dini said. “We were coming together as a community to fight a disease, an invisible disease that was causing havoc and she was taking shots at us, low blows.
“It would have cost more trauma, it would have cost more angst and anger for residents.”
He had heard about Senator Hanson’s parcels at the time, while under hard lockdown, and thanked the City of Melbourne for blocking their delivery.
“I was gobsmacked. I probably shouldn’t have been, because I expect that from her,” Mr Dini said.
“She was playing her narrative that we were incapable, that we were migrants that didn’t speak a word of English … No Pauline, we’re Australians just as much as you are, we’re proud to be Australian.”
Senator Hanson said on social media on Thursday the situation was a “storm in a stubby cooler”.
Local not-for-profit AMSSA Youth Connect led a donation drive to feed and support the tenants, who were barred from leaving home for any reason.
Abdiqafar Ahmed, who is a spokesman for the community group, said it was a “slap in the face” and an attempt to cause a reaction from the tenants.
“It’s quite deliberate. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” Mr Ahmed said.
“Especially going through what they went through, to have her try that stuff on them and really, in a sense, try to trigger them or try to anger them. She’s deliberately trying to push a couple of buttons.”
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra
Rachel is a city reporter for The Age.