VICTORIAN Liberal leader John Pesutto is on a quest to stabilise his party after last week’s expulsion of renegade MP Moira Deeming who helped promote an anti-transgender rights rally on the steps of State Parliament that attracted neo-Nazis.
But grilled at a media conference after Deeming’s milestone ousting last Friday, Pesutto repeatedly declined to specify the exact reason for the expulsion, although similar moves had been underway after the March 18 rally.
Contacted by The AJN this week, Deputy Liberal Leader and Caulfield MP David Southwick, who is in the party’s leadership group, and was involved in internal negotiations over the party’s ultimate decision on Deeming, said the Victorian Liberals “need to be the party for everyone”.
“We have now drawn a line in the sand and are moving forward to fully focus on the real issues that matter to local communities across the state,” he said.
Sitting for more than two hours last Friday, the party room voted 19-11 to expel Deeming from the Parliamentary team. It was confirmed the day before that Deeming, the MLC for Western Metropolitan Region, was proceeding with a defamation lawsuit against Pesutto for allegedly claiming she had neo-Nazi sympathies, which the leader denies accusing her of.
The March 18 rally had attracted neo-Nazis who gave a group salute in front of the Parliament building. The incident triggered the Victorian government to look at legislation that would see Nazi salutes banned. Nazi salutes were again made at an event outside Parliament on Saturday.
In an earlier party meeting several weeks ago, initial plans to jettison Deeming were abandoned and she was handed a nine-month suspension, with Pesutto saying her future conduct would be monitored.
“We as a team are committed to being a disciplined, united, focused team,” Pesutto stated after her expulsion.
Premier Daniel Andrews claimed the Liberals expelled Deeming only after she threatened legal action against Pesutto, not because of her position on transgender rights.
Earlier, the Premier had told The AJN there were “very worrying signs across Victoria that antisemitic incidents are on the rise”.