Labor Senator Nova Peris – Australia’s first female Aboriginal federal politician – has told Parliament that the publishing of the ‘Ato Boldon Sex Scandal’ emails by News Corporation earlier this week was part of an attempt to blackmail her over a long-running family dispute.
In an emotional speech to parliament yesterday afternoon, Senator Peris revealed brief details of three emails she received which she says supported her accusation the release of the Boldon emails was “an attempt to extract money and embarrass” her, and her family.
New Matilda has obtained copies of all three emails. Read in full, they do not appear to support Senator Peris’ claims.
While New Matilda does not assert further information that substantiates the claim of blackmail may not subsequently emerge, an offer to Senator Peris’ office late yesterday to provide evidence to support her claims of blackmail was not taken up.
The furore surrounds Wednesday’s publication by News Corporation mastheads of a series of stories alleging that in 2010, Senator Peris sought public funds to bring international sprinting star Ato Boldon to Australia, in order to conduct an extra-marital affair with him.
At the time, she was married to now deceased Australian Olympian Daniel Batman.
Senator Peris strongly denies any wrongdoing, and Athletics Australia has confirmed that it was happy with the work of Mr Boldon during the subsequent sporting tour.
The stories were based on a series of leaked emails between Senator Peris and Mr Boldon, which were provided to News Corporation in early October. The emails published by News Corporation contain salacious material of a sexual nature.
Mr Boldon has claimed the emails are fake, and Senator Peris appeared to give some credence to that claim in parliament, suggesting that she could not confirm their authenticity either, as she has not sighted the emails.
New Matilda has sighted the emails, and they appear to be authentic. New Matilda has no intention of publishing those emails, given their salacious content.
In her statement to parliament yesterday, Senator Peris also said: “I categorically reject any wrongdoing. I have done nothing wrong. It pains me to have to talk about my private life but the publications of these emails is part of a long-running and very difficult child access and financial estate dispute,” Senator Peris told Parliament.
“During this process I have been subjected to many threats….
“The facts are these: On the 19th of October , the aggrieved party in the financial estate and child access dispute involving me and my children emailed and revealed he had in his possession a folder of information pertaining to Mr Boldon’s visit to Australia.
“I did not realize at the time he was referring to these emails.
“On the 21st of March this year, a representative of that aggrieved party emailed me and said that unless his wishes were granted, she would take such action, and I quote, ‘…will only result in causing major trauma for everyone, especially the children and damage the reputation of some stakeholders.’
“Three weeks ago on the 9th of October, I received a further email from the representative of this aggrieved party. The first line read: ‘I am sending this communication to you today to ensure there is no mistake as to who is responsible for releasing the information in relation to you.’
“The release and publication of these emails is an attempt to extract money and embarrass me and my family.”
New Matilda has obtained copies of the three emails referred to by Senator Peris.
The email dated October 19, 2012, which Senator Peris’ statement suggests was the start of the blackmailing, does not appear to support Senator Peris’ version of events.
After complaining to the ‘aggrieved party’ about a lack of funds in a deceased estate, Senator Peris receives the following reply: “For your records and to assist you with the identification of additional Estate items [the deceased]left his “tinny” on my pontoon with motor and accessories, a file box of taxation information for Peris Enterprises from 2001 and a folder of information pertaining to Ato Boldon’s visit to Australia that you organized in early 2010. I am happy to pack up the written information in a box and include it with the boat/accessories and make it available to a representative of your choice for collection at a convenient time.”
At no stage does the author of the email reference the details of the Boldon emails, nor does it appear that any threat can be inferred from the author’s correspondence.
The only reference to threats was an accusation by the author that Senator Peris made a ‘veiled threat’ in her correspondence.
The second email – dated March 21, 2014 – is from an intermediary, acting on behalf of the ‘aggrieved family member’.
The letter seeks Senator Peris’ ongoing participation in an informal process to arrange access visits to children in Senator Peris’ care.
Senator Peris told parliament that she was warned if the demands of the aggrieved family member were not met, it would result in “major trauma for everyone, especially the children and damage the reputation of some stakeholders.”
The full transcript of the email does not appear to support this assertion.
The entire paragraph quote by Senator Peris reads: “Nova; the [redacted]families will eventually be granted access to the children you share in common with them. The decision that needs to be made is whether it is going to be achieved the right way, so as to minimize the further trauma for stakeholders, or the wrong way, which will only result in causing major trauma for everyone, especially the children and damage the reputation of some stakeholders.”
The use of the term ‘wrong way’ appears to be a reference to proceeding to a full hearing of the matter in the Family Court, as opposed to reaching an amicable agreement among the parties, which can then be registered with the courts.
A full reading of the email warns Senator Peris that by proceeding to court instead of finding an amicable solution is likely to exascerbate trauma on all parties involved, and will damage the public reputations of a number of people.
The same email, also contains high praise for Senator Peris, with the author acknowledging: “I commend your recent statements on indigenous alcohol abuse and domestic violence…. I am moved by your speeches and admire your achievements. I believe that you can actually make a difference in addressing the kaleidoscope of issues facing indigenous Australians…. I am in awe of your tenacity and what you could do over the next six years to bridge the gaps. I hope we can work together to achieve this.”
The final email quoted by Senator Peris also does not appear to support the allegations that she has been blackmailed.
The section of the email, as read to parliament by Senator Peris, reads: “I am sending this communication to you today to ensure there is no mistake as to who is responsible for releasing the information in relation to you.”
The second sentence of the email – which Senator Peris did not read to parliament – is key. It states: “I make no apologies for my actions and believe that by taking the steps that I have, I am acting in accordance with the law in this country, which states quite clearly that if you are in receipt of information that may constitute a crime against the commonwealth and you do not report it, that person may also face criminal charges.”
The person specifically references the allegations surrounding attempts to access commonwealth funding to bring Ato Boldon to Australia. New Matilda does not imply that Senator Peris has committed any offence.
But rather than an email blackmailing Senator Peris, it appears from the full transcript that in fact warns Senator Peris that the information in the author’s possession has been distributed to other parties, and is now beyond her control.
There is no attempt in any of the correspondence obtained by New Matilda to solicit anything from Senator Peris, beyond her participation in a conciliatory process to resolving the long-running dispute.
In an interview with New Matilda late yesterday, one of the authors of the emails flatly rejected any suggestion of impropriety.
“I totally refute all of the allegations made by Senator Peris in parliament today,” the person said.
“I not aware of any attempt, by anyone, to blackmail or threaten Senator Peris.”
New Matilda has tried unsuccessfully to seek comment from Senator Peris’ office, and no response has been provided to a series of written questions.
A spokesperson for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten denied his office was involved in the statement delivered by Senator Peris in parliament.
"Senator Peris’ statement was her own. It speaks for itself. Senator Peris has Mr Shorten’s full support."
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