Denise Ferris: Yes campaigner’s bizarre justification for spitting on a No advocate during tense confrontation over the Voice
A Yes campaigner and prominent academic filmed herself spitting on a No lawyer, claiming she was only trying to ‘block his camera without engaging in physical contact’.
Denise Ferris, professor emeritus at the Australian National University in Canberra, got into a heated confrontation with conservative activist Andrew Thaler over the upcoming Voice referendum.
The footage, widely shared on social media, shows Prof Ferris spitting on Mr Thaler after being called a “stupid mole” at an event in Cooma, south-east NSW, on Sunday afternoon.
But Professor Ferris said Thaler instigated the encounter after confronting her as she stood outside the Yes23 volunteer’s tent.
“Out of nowhere, Andrew Thaler came up to me and filmed me with his iPhone out,” she wrote.
During the confrontation with Andrew Thaler, Denise Ferris is seen leaning over and spitting
Professor Ferris said she ‘felt intimidated’ as he held the camera up ‘pointed at me like a weapon’ and shouted ‘give me the bitch’s name’ as part of a foul-mouthed tirade.
“I was beyond terrified, he was literally in my face, I had a visceral reaction, a panic attack, fight or flight,” Professor Ferris said.
‘I didn’t spit on him. I wanted to block his camera without making physical contact. Flight? Should I turn my back on him? Definitely not too scared of his actions, it was so traumatic.”
The professor, who holds an unpaid position at the ANU, also accused Mr Thaler of heavily editing the video and setting “a trap” for her because he was a “professional full-time provocateur”.
She denied the row was at all about Indigenous Voice, despite wearing a Yes23 T-shirt and Mr Thaler being a staunch opponent of the proposal.
Thaler encourages the professor to call the police and again reminds her that she had just spat at him
“Please note, some of my closest friends here are No voters, LNP, we have never had an argument about this and never will,” she said in the email.
While other witnesses have said Thaler was provocative, he is unclear what was said during the conversation before the camera started rolling.
In the video, Mr. Thaler tells the professor that she is a “stupid m**e” and demands that she “get out of the way.”
She takes revenge by getting even closer to the camera.
“Don’t… don’t you dare call me that,” she says.
Ferris is an emeritus professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, an unpaid position
She leans forward and spits at the camera, before returning to the crowd of Yes23 campaigners under their tents.
Mr Thaler claims he was approaching the Yes23 tent when Professor Ferris tried to prevent him from getting close.
He told Daily Mail Australia the tent had a petting zoo with lambs, and he believed it was a ploy to lure children and families to talk about the Voice.
The altercation started when he tried to take pictures of the lambs “to show that they (the Yes campaign) would do anything… even exploit animals.”
After the initial confrontation, Thaler follows Professor Ferris back to her group, describing her as a “crazy bitch” and demanding to know her name.
He tells her that she could be “reported for assault” because she spit on him.
‘Don’t stalk me. Go away,” she says. ‘I’m calling the police.’
Mr. Thaler encourages the professor to call the police and again reminds her that she had just spit on him, which she denied.
“I didn’t do that,” she said.
Andrew Thaler, the man at the center of the clip, claims he was approaching the Yes23 tent during a campaign event at Centennial Park in Cooma on Sunday afternoon when the professor tried to block him
He later told Daily Mail Australia that police arrived on the scene at around 2pm and are now investigating the incident.
A NSW Police spokesperson confirmed an investigation was underway.
“Officers from the Monaro Police District were advised that three people were involved in a physical altercation,” the spokesperson said.
“No injuries have been reported and police are investigating the incident.”
A spokesperson for the ANU told Daily Mail Australia they were “investigating and will take appropriate action if necessary.”
‘This video has just been brought to the attention of the university. Emeritus professors are not paid employees,” the spokesperson said.
The professor’s online profile was removed from the university’s website on Thursday.
Mr. Thaler has sparked controversy over the past year.
He was branded a ‘parasite’ by 2GB presenter Ben Fordham after claiming to speak on behalf of the family whose grandmother, Clare Nowland, 95, was fatally tasered at a Cooma nursing home on May 17.
He has also run for political office at various levels of government.
In 2022, he pleaded guilty to intimidating a national fire brigade employee four years earlier, but avoided conviction.
For The Voice to succeed, the Yes campaign must win more than 50 percent of the vote nationwide and in four of the six states on October 14, when the referendum is held.
The most recent Solving the Political Monitor survey showed that 43 percent of voters supported a plan to enshrine the Voice in the Constitution, a decline of 20 percentage points from a year ago.