Jewish community groups have backed a push for Moira Deeming to be expelled from the Liberal Party after the Legislative Council MP addressed an anti-trans rally at which neo-Nazis performed salutes on the steps of the Victorian Parliament.
Opposition leader John Pesutto said on Sunday that the Member for Western Metropolitan Region’s position was “untenable” and on Monday informed her in writing that he intends to move a motion next week expelling her from the party.
Deeming, who promoted the demonstration on social media prior to the event and spoke alongside British anti-trans activist and founder of the group Let Women Speak Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull – also known as Posie Parker – said in a statement she had “done nothing wrong” and had no association with the neo-Nazis, who “gate-crashed” the rally.
The Victorian government has announced it will move to ban the Nazi salute in the wake of the rally.
“Most of the LWS supporters did not realise who they were until they were being escorted out by Victoria Police, when they did the despicable Nazi salute,” Deeming said.
“I completely reject the beliefs of National Socialists (Nazis) and I have seen first-hand the impact that the Holocaust had on a family member.
“I also welcome moves to ban the Nazi salute.”
But Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Daniel Aghion said Keen-Minshull “has a documented history of associating with neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers”.
“Despite these associations, Moira Deeming MP saw fit to accompany and support Ms Keen-Minshull during her visit to Melbourne,” he said.
Aghion said the JCCV had also been alerted to a YouTube video published by the organisers of the rally, including Deeming.
“In that video, the organisers ludicrously suggest that the men who repeatedly did the Heil Hitler salute were not in fact Nazis, but ‘dressed-up police’. This is a ridiculous conspiracy theory, which downplays the gravity of the situation,” he said.
“The question must be asked whether someone who spreads conspiracy theories and associates with extremists deserves a seat in our Parliament at all.”
Taking aim at what he called Deeming’s “extremist views and values on the issues of human sexuality and gender identity”, Aleph Melbourne co-convenor Michael Barnett said, “When politicians like Moira Deeming align themselves with people like Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull who affiliate with neo-Nazi extremists they cross a line of no return.
“I cannot see how there is room for people like that in a political party that values human decency. Her expulsion from the party cannot come soon enough,” he said.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said, “By failing to immediately condemn the presence of the neo-Nazis who performed the Heil Hitler salute, by sharing a platform with Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, an individual that has demonstrable links to white supremacism, Ms Deeming has brought dishonour onto the Parliament.”
Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes told ABC Radio on Monday that the behaviour of the National Socialist Alliance members who performed the salute while chanting anti-trans slurs “was just disgusting, it was cowardly” and made her feel “a sense of sadness, outrage and disbelief all at once”.
“Victorians have zero tolerance for it and we’ll take active steps to make it illegal, much the same as we did with the Nazi Hakenkreuz,” she said.
Pesutto said he would “work constructively” with the Andrews government on a ban.
Aghion said the heinous display “has shocked the entire Victorian community, not just Jews”.
“We are pleased to see the Victorian government move to ban the Nazi salute. It is an odious symbol of hate,” he said, adding, “It should not be lost in the debate that, on this occasion, the proximate target of this hateful conduct was transgender people and not Jews.
“The JCCV thinks that there needs to be a broader discussion about vilification of all minorities, and criminalisation of such behaviour.”
Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb said, “Confronting those who both advocate and incite hate against the Jewish community and other minorities has been a laudable hallmark of our current government.
“Last weekend’s repugnant display specifically targeted the trans community. We stand with them and condemn this heinous act of bigotry.”
While welcoming the announcement, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said something more than “a piecemeal approach and a patchwork of state laws” was needed. He also noted media reports of attempts by neo-Nazis to join the Australian Defence Force and state police forces in order to gain access to weapons and training.
“It’s well past time for federal, state and territory governments to coordinate their efforts through intelligence sharing, tough uniform legislation and rigorous police training and enforcement to crack down on this growing menace,” he said.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council director of community and international affairs Jeremy Jones also lauded Symes, calling the Nazi salute display “an appalling sight”.
“Unless and until there are consequences for their actions, we can expect neo-Nazis to become more brazen, which is both a sobering reality and a reason to act expeditiously,” he said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the neo-Nazis on Nova radio on Tuesday.
“There’s no place in Australia for Nazi salutes,” he said.
Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said, “What we saw on the steps of the Victorian Parliament on the weekend was abhorrent.”
Federal Macnamara MP Josh Burns said, “The brazen marching with neo-Nazi salutes in front of the Victorian Parliament is unacceptable.”
In a joint statement, Caulfield MP David Southwick and shadow minister for police Brad Battin called the incident “an affront to every Victorian who values our inclusive, tolerant and multicultural society”.
“Victoria is better than this.”