When he's not campaigning to shred Australia's flag, author and leading republican Peter FitzSimons regularly uses his column in Sydney's Sun Herald to launch attacks on our constitutional system. The object of his dislike – apart from our Flag – is the Australian crown.
Mr. FitzSimons was the subject – or shall we say the object – of an editorial in The Spectator Australia on 6 August 2011. The editorial opened: “In September 2001, when the ruins of the World Trade Centre were still smoking, rich ageing Leftie Peter FitzSimons wrote a column in which he apologised to the terrorists responsible for the atrocity.”
The editorial was about Mr. FitzSimon's campaign against the nation’s leading broadcaster, Alan Jones. Spectator Australia attributes this to the fact that Mr Jones is a very successful broadcaster, and Mr FitzSimons was not.
On Sunday 31 July 2011 Mr. FitzSimons, who these days sports a red bandana, used a story in an American gossip magazine which claimed to be an exposé on Prince Andrew. He admits that the allegations have been denied by the Prince. But he still repeats the allegation, claiming the magazine, Vanity Fair, is “no tabloid tittle-tattle rag”.
Peter, let me into a trade secret. Any publication which publishes such junk is, by definition, a tabloid tittle–tattle rag. In the meantime, Prince Andrew’s most prominent critic has attacked him on the floor of Parliament and in the opinion columns of the London Daily Mirror.
But the MP seems to live in a glass house. He claimed £92,000 in expenses over the five years leading up to the 2009 scandal over MPs' expenses, “flipping” the expenses on a second home twice to increase interest expenses.
A former Anglican clergyman, he delighted the tabloid tittle-tattle rags when as an MP he posed in his underpants on a gay dating site. So you would think he would stick to government business, live within his allowance and not throw stones based on salacious rumours.
As to the piece in Vanity Fair, remember one thing. Judicial activism in United States has almost completely destroyed any possibility of protecting a person's reputation through the law, which is not the case in the United Kingdom or Australia.
In America you can make up any appalling lie about anyone prominent and they can’t do anything about it. The Supreme Court justices changed the law in one particular case in 1964 ( New York Times Co. v. Sullivan). They did not want the plaintiff to win in a defamation case.
Why? He was a Public Safety Commissioner involved in suppressing civil rights demonstrations in Alabama. The trouble with this sort of decision is that courts are not really well-placed to legislate – this time by a constitutional interpretation- and they usually can't envisage the consequences of one decision which seems all right in the circumstances.
At least in Australia when the High Court showed signs of going down the same track, wiser heads prevailed and the bench soon beat a retreat. The report In Vanity Fair is clearly defamatory. So is its repetition in Peter FitzSimon's column. It is no defence to say that that the Prince denies the story
.The story is also in breach of the Press Council principles to which the Herald subscribes. These expressly provide that publications “should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.” Further, the Principles declare that anything published should “respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals.”
Exceptions are “ matters of public record or obvious or significant public interest.” As Mr. FitzSimons would know, an alleged but denied sexual liaison is not of obvious or significant public interest. It is merely prurient.
The story also claims that The Queen’s award of a knighthood to the Prince makes him "untouchable", presumably by the media.This is a ridiculous and untrue assertion
.As Mr FitzSimon's himself would know, nobody is untouchable, at least in our free countries. Passertion.As Mr FitzSimon's himself would know, nobody is untouchable, at least in our free countries. .
He concludes this piece in these words: “Grubby, grubby, grubby. Just how long will Australian monarchists be able to get away with the notion that the so-called royal family has this mythical morality and are, by birth, a cut above the rest of us?”
Grubby, grubby, grubby