This is the full text of a speech given by Senator Peris OAM to the Senate earlier today.


Personal Explanation

Senate, Parliament House

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 190.

I rise to give a personal explanation in response to recent media reports relating to a number of private matters. The first thing that I want to say is I am completely overwhelmed by the support I have received from so many Australians.

From my family and friends to my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the chamber and to hundreds of Australians I have never met.

I thank you all for your support. Yesterday my only concern was my children and family. Today I will provide my side of the story.

There have been media reports about my role in a trip to Australia by Ato Boldon in April 2010 – at a time when I was separated from my ex-husband Daniel Batman who is now deceased.

The NT News has published emails which it claims I wrote almost five years ago.

Many other news organisations have re-published the content of the NT News story.

There are serious questions about how these emails were obtained and passed to the NT News.

I do not have copies of the emails and cannot comment on their veracity. I am aware that Mr Boldon has stated that the emails are fake.

What I can say is that the views attributed to me over the past two days – based on the publication of selected words contained in private emails which I don’t have – certainly don’t reflect my views.

They don’t reflect my values. The evidence of this is the life I have led, and continue to lead. The excuse for the reports is a claim I was responsible for a misuse of public funds. This claim is baseless.

Firstly, I wasn’t responsible for the payment or acquittal of monies used to fund Mr Boldon’s trip. Athletics Australia has confirmed that in April 2010, Mr Boldon toured Australia as an ambassador and mentor for the ‘Jump Start to London’ program. Athletics Australia has confirmed that my role was establishing initial contact with Mr Boldon. Athletics Australia has also confirmed it paid Mr Boldon’s return flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, his accommodation and reasonable expenses.

Athletics Australia also says – and I quote – “Mr Boldon capably fulfilled his role as mentor and ambassador of the Jump Start to London and provided a boost to the profile of the program and for the sport of athletics in general.”

This afternoon the Australian Sports Commission has said the use of sports ambassadors for programs like this was common, and Athletics Australia has – and I quote – “fully acquitted the funds provided, including independent auditor confirmation that they were spent for the purposes that they were provided.”

Mr President, I categorically reject any wrongdoing.

I have done nothing wrong. It pains me to have to talk about my private life, but the publication of these emails is part of a long running and very difficult child access and financial estate dispute. During this process I have been subjected to many threats. In dealing with these threats I have faced the dilemma of responding to defend my political career or responding to defend my children.

Well, Mr President, it is not actually a dilemma. I have always put my children first and will continue to do so. The NT News has not revealed who provided it with private emails, though News Limited has claimed its source is “credible”.

The facts are these.

On 19 October 2012, 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 realise at the time he was referring to these emails.

On 21 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 9 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.

With legal options now exhausted, this other party has turned to the media. I can inform the Senate the NT News was well aware these emails were part of a long running family dispute ahead of its publication.

Mr President, I have spoken in person to Cathy Freeman. Our friendship remains strong. And we will continue to support each other.

Despite the hopes of some, this incident will not stop me from serving the people of the Northern Territory and advocating on behalf of Aboriginal Australians.

Last night in the Northern Territory Parliament a report was tabled that showed the number of Aboriginal children that have been taken from their parents and put into care has increased by 26% in the last year. This and many other stories like it deserve this nation’s attention. There is so much to be done for the people I represent in this place.

Mr President, I stand here today proud of who I am. Proud to be a mother, grandmother, daughter and wife.

My children are my universe and I will protect and nurture them no matter what people say about me – now or in the future. I don’t propose to provide any further commentary on this matter.

Mr President, There are three things guaranteed in life. We will all die at some stage. Each day the sun will set. It will rise again tomorrow.

Today is just one of those days.