Nova Peris: standing by her statement. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFresh questions have emerged over a past relationship and a domestic custody dispute embroiling Labor’s Northern Territory senator and former gold medal Olympian Nova Peris and the Trinidadian silver medallist, Ato Boldon.
The website New Matilda has published an article which suggests that Senator Peris at the very least offered an incomplete description of private emails between her and an estranged family member, by way of background explanation for why she was being targeted over the Boldon link.
The new allegation suggests at best, that she was deliberately incomplete in her speech to the Senate, and at worst, may have misled Parliament.
On Friday, a spokesman for Senator Peris said only that she stood by her earlier statement.
“Senator Peris stands by her statement. This includes the fact that financial requests were part of the aggrieved party’s claims and that the NT News were made aware of this by the office of Senator Peris the day before the original article was published,” the spokesman said.
However the New Matilda story suggested that Senator Peris’s counter-claim following the initial newspaper report, that she had been subject to threats of reputational damage amounting to blackmail, may not have been supported by the facts – including by the actual content of emails she had relied on in Parliament.
New Matilda’s Friday story did not publish those emails but purported to rely on them to refute several of her key assertions, including that she had been expressly threatened, and that the author of the email – an estranged relative connected to her late husband – had written the words, “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 purported development came as a political opponent, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he felt the newspaper had gone too far in publishing salacious personal emails between Senator Peris and Mr Boldon.
The NT News and other News Corporation Australia newspapers first published explicit emails between Senator Peris and Boldon on Wednesday.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “I just felt that there was perhaps more of the personal in that correspondence that was published than was needed to…”
The stories suggested that Senator Peris had used a position at Athletics Australia in 2010 to secure government funding for Boldon’s visit to Australia so they could pursue an affair – an allegation Senator Peris denies.
Other media outlets, including Fairfax Media, later published excerpts of the explicit emails.
In an emotional address to the Senate on Thursday, Senator Peris said the allegation she had misused taxpayer funds to bring Boldon to Australia because they were romantically involved was “baseless”, saying she only made contact with her former training partner and had no power to administer the funding.
The Press Council confirmed on Friday that it has received a complaint about the NT News’ coverage of Senator Peris.
In a story on Friday, the NT News said it stood by its original story, arguing it dealt with a matter of public importance – the potential misuse of taxpayer funds.
The paper said it was aware Senator Peris was involved in a family dispute, but that it chose not to publish this fact because it did not believe it was in the public interest.
with Judith Ireland