Woke columnist Peter FitzSimons bombarded Jacinta Nampijinpa Price with a series of late-night text messages making legal threats against the Indigenous senator, insisting her account of an interview, in which she felt bullied and berated by him, was “nonsense” and should be retracted. Senator Price says FitzSimons, a republican and author of popular history, “bullied” her via text after she accused him on Facebook of being aggressive during a phone interview for his Nine Entertainment newspaper column. She later pleaded with him to leave her alone after he bombarded her with texts demanding she change her tune.
In the published interview, FitzSimons, a former rugby player from Sydney’s wealthy north shore, seems perplexed by Senator Price, a Warlpiri woman, over her reasoning and opposition to the Indigenous voice.
The NT senator said that during their phone interview last Thursday, FitzSimons accused her of “giving racists a voice” because of her position on the voice to parliament and support for Australia Day being marked on January 26.
In text messages to The Australian, an agitated FitzSimons declared her account of the conversation “was not a matter of interpretation”. “Complete and utter DEFAMATORY nonsense, as I told her … will hand recording to (Sydney Morning Herald) lawyers and pursue. You have been so advised,” he said. He said it was a “friendly interview” and that he did not raise his voice at all.
The outburst came after The Australian put questions on Sunday night to FitzSimons about Senator Price’s account of how she felt following the interview. He subsequently sent the senator texts demanding a retraction and accusing her of misrepresenting the interview. “You have told The Australian we shouted at each other? Every word recorded, as I advised you,” FitzSimons messaged to Senator Price.
“I urge you to withdraw these defamatory accusations, as you know it is nonsense.”
When Senator Price told FitzSimons that they did yell at each other and that she wanted a copy of his interview recording, the columnist continued to deny he raised his voice.
“Not a single raised voice on either side, let alone shouting. This is a serious matter and you have defamed me,” he replied.
When Senator Price said she did not call the earlier exchange “shouting” and that her chief of staff heard the call and remembered “yelling”, FitzSimons told her to “retract every word”.
“The Australian was saying I “yelled” at you (and) was “aggressive and rude”. You know that is simply not true, and I invite you to withdraw quickly. I repeat, every word recorded!”
After the constant stream of texts, Senator Price told The Australian on Monday said she felt “intimidated” by FitzSimons.
“Please stop bullying me. I don’t ever want to communicate with you again,” she wrote to FitzSimons in her final message.
The Coalition first-term senator deleted the social media post criticising the columnist on Sunday night, but said on Monday she would no longer be silenced.
“I have lived my life being bullied by men who wish to silence me for speaking out and this latest confrontation has reignited the same feelings within me,” Senator Price told The Australian on Monday. “I don’t understand why FitzSimons simply couldn’t reach out to me to better comprehend how his approach may have been received by me. Instead he went straight on the attack.
“I will always stand up for myself … indigenous women’s voices have been silenced long enough. As an Aboriginal woman who has been a survivor of violence and who has used my voice to highlight the plight of marginalised Aboriginal women and children, I found it disrespectful and upsetting that FitzSimons would accuse me of empowering racists.”
FitzSimons, a vocal advocate of the proposed indigenous voice to parliament, told The Australian on Monday that he “stands by the integrity of the interview”, and said his demand that she delete her social media post about him was not a bid to silence her views. “Far from shutting down her views on the voice, I put them before a wide audience,” he said. “What I sought do was have her correct the record on the nature of our interview, which she partially did by deleting the post, and acknowledging to me I was not shouting (during the phone interview).
“As to suggestions of bullying … simply not true. The senator posted a complete and demonstrable untruth. I called her out on it, and she took down the post.”
Senator Price accused FitzSimons of disrespecting her views, and acting like a “privileged male”. “I felt he wanted to impose upon me his opinion as a privileged male in an attempt to discredit my position as a female Aboriginal conservative senator who challenged the status quo,” she said.
“He also accused me of hurting Aboriginal people because of my position on supporting (the existing date of) Australia Day.”
FitzSimons is an outspoken critic of Australia Day being celebrated on January 26. The author and his wife, television personality Lisa Wilkinson, this year changed the day of their famous Australia Day party at their Sydney home – often attended by political players and media celebrities like Anthony Albanese – to another date, and rebadged it the “Independence Day” party.
In her maiden speech last month, Senator Price criticised the proposed voice to parliament. “We hear with platitudes of motherhood statements from our now Labor Prime Minister who suggests without any evidence whatsoever that a voice to parliament bestowed upon us through the virtuous act of symbolic gesture by this government is what is going to empower us. This government has yet to demonstrate how this proposed voice will deliver practical outcomes and unite rather than drive a wedge further between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.”
FitzSimons in his Sun-Herald interview with Senator Price, published on Sunday, wrote: “Ideally, enshrined in the Constitution, it will be the voice that all of us look to.” He also went on to say that following many atrocities among Indigenous Australians: “A huge part of what has created this shocking situation has been white laws.
Last month in another one of his columns, FitzSimons criticised Price’s stance on the voice.
“The Coalition’s noisiest voice – no pun intended – on this subject is the indigenous senator from the Northern Territory, Jacinta Price, who keeps hammering away that there are more important things to accomplish that could help indigenous people than a merely symbolic voice,” FitzSimons said.
1/ Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in Sydney on Monday: ‘I have lived my life being bullied by men who wish to silence me’. Picture: Chris Pavlich
2/ Peter Fitzsimons. Picture: Peter Ristevski