John Pesutto has declared his intention to expel Moira Deeming from her position as a member of the parliamentary Liberal Party. Deeming’s crime? She attended an event that was hijacked by neo-Nazis.

On March 18, the Victorian leg of Let Women Speak, organised by Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and promoted as a ‘touring event which gives women space to speak about the things that matter to them’, was held in Melbourne. Deeming spoke at the event alongside Katherine Deves, Kirralie Smith, and others. The event was opposed by protesters, who in turn were infiltrated by neo-Nazis belonging to a group called the National Socialist Network. These neo-Nazis not only saluted but shouted racist slurs, at one point on the steps of the Victorian Parliament.

On March 19, at 2:15 pm, The Guardian reported the Victorian government’s rightly grim view of these neo-Nazis and their behaviour. ‘Nazis aren’t welcome,’ tweeted Daniel Andrews. ‘Not on Parliament’s steps. Not anywhere’. The Guardian also made mention of Deeming’s attendance at Let Women Speak.

Then, at 8:55 pm, The Age broke that, because of Deeming’s supposed ‘links’ to a ‘neo-Nazi rally’, Pesutto was seeking her expulsion. We might only hope that Paul Barrytakes The Age’s Sumeyya Ilanbey to town in Media Watch’s next episode; hers has got to be one of the most misleading headlines yet printed in 2023.

Readers may have noted my efforts in only broadly discussing the nature and content of Let Women Speak. Although later paragraphs are dedicated to addressing particular areas of that debate, in support of Deeming, the incontestable point is this: the event concerned issues affecting women and women’s rights. It had nothing to do with neo-Nazism at an operational level, and that is why John Pesutto, as a matter of principle, is totally erroneous to seek Deeming’s expulsion for her attendance.

Deeming did not invite the neo-Nazis to the event. There is no evidence to suggest Deeming engaged with the neo-Nazis at the event. Following the event, Deeming in fact tweeted that she was disappointed that police could not do more to stop the neo-Nazis from flaunting their hate.

Let’s just come out and ask the question: is Moira Deeming a neo-Nazi? Gee, I don’t know – has anyone bothered to ask her?

It is patently ridiculous that we would believe in the wake of this whole farce that Deeming is a Holocaust denier. Those who attended Let Women Speak – Deeming, Deves, Smith, Rita Panahi, all the other women, and even the protesting transgender rights activists – cannot reasonably be charged as supporting neo-Nazism if they did not have prior knowledge that a National Socialist Network cell might surface. Rather, Pesutto should ask Victorian Police whether or not they held suspicions neo-Nazis would attend the event, and if so whether or not they made any attempt to alert the event’s organisers.

Of Pesutto, I take two principal issues with his statement advocating for Deeming’s expulsion:

‘This is not an issue about free speech but a member of the parliamentary party associating with people whose views are abhorrent to my values, the values of the Liberal Party and the wider community.’

Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t truly seem to be about either of those things. Daniel Andrews has been heckling Pesutto over Deeming since February. ‘I’m not here to try and explain that member of Parliament’s views,’ the premier lamented. ‘It’s really a matter for the leader of the Liberal Party to explain to the people of Hawthorn, and indeed all Victorians, are these his views?’

About a month ago, that leader said this: ‘Moira was preselected by the Liberal Party last year. She’s a member of our team and she’ll go forward as a member of our team.’ But Pesutto has since fallen victim to the straw man, and so has manufactured a scarecrow.

A successful party parliamentary leader, it seems to me, serves as if an umpire, uniting a smorgasbord of elected representatives whose views should first and foremost be tailored to suit the needs of their constituents. For it is the constituent, not the party leader, who decides by way of this country’s elective democracy the merit of the politician’s positions. Moreover, the fact that, supposedly, the Liberal Party is significantly divided over the motion to expel Deeming suggests that Pesutto is not simply adjudicating on some trivial affair. He is dealing with a matter of import, and regrettably in so dealing with that matter is allowing internal partisanship and external competition to cloud his judgment.

Whether or not Pesutto succeeds in his attempt to distinguish himself as a viable yet similarly progressive alternative to Andrews, the next Victorian state election is so many years away that I think we really must view Deeming as unnecessary collateral.

Pesutto’s statement’s second error, in my opinion, is this:

‘The Liberal Party I joined and which I am now honoured to lead, must strive to represent all Victorians.’

Well, John, it can’t. No party, unless it is totalitarian and oppressive, can represent all people, and no party, unless it wants to be totalitarian and oppressive, should seek to represent all people. Rather, the Liberal Party must strive to represent the people who actually voted for it.

Deeming is a member of the Victorian Legislative Council and represents the Western Metropolitan Region. In the 2022 election, the Liberal Party ran a ticket of predominantly conservative candidates for Western Metro, spearheaded by Deeming and then Trung Luu. Both Deeming and Luu were elected, and Western Metro saw not only a 3.65 per cent swing to the Liberals but a whopping 9.81 per cent swing against Labor, the biggest swing against Labor out of all eight electoral regions.

The good burghers of Western Metro didn’t just vote for conservative candidates like Deeming and Luu, they flatly rejected Victoria’s authoritarian, socialist government. Pesutto, whose Hawthorn demographic, I should note, is markedly different to that of Melbourne’s western suburbs, has no business taking instruction from Daniel Andrews.

When Deeming offered us her maiden speech, I think I may say that she injected into the Liberal Party pride, principles and, most importantly, hope. The manifesto she delivered is one that I cannot seem to fault, and one which was met with both laughter and, on more than one occasion, rapturous applause.

We learned that Deeming hails from senior Labor and union stock. We learned that Deeming promotes the agency of the individual, freedom, and liberty. We learned that Deeming stands staunchly against socialist economics and institutionalised, ideology-driven bullying.

We learned that Deeming, as a former teacher, holds grave concerns for Australia’s systems of education, and we learned that Deeming opposes the dissemination of radical doctrines through our schools and universities (hear, hear). We learned that racism, sexism, the culture of victimhood, and the tyranny of inclusivity do not sit well with Deeming. We learned that Deeming has no time for hypocrisy or pseudo-morality. Most importantly, though, we learned that Deeming is not prepared to lie. Does that not make Deeming the heroine of mainstream politics that Victoria – and, indeed, Australia – desperately needs?

Deeming concluded her maiden speech with three policy intents. First, to fight for sex-based rights for women suffering from the refusal to define woman. Second, to ban the entry of children into brothels. And third, to establish an inquiry into gender affirmation practices and surgeries. I assume such an inquiry would investigate the commercial incentives now undoubtedly permeating through a USD 623 million industry.

If Deeming is removed from the parliamentary office she was elected to only four months ago, advocating for policies she transparently took to the ballot box with the accompanying endorsement of the Liberal Party, then a real political tragedy will have come to pass. This is not just a woman who deserves support and opportunity. This is a woman who wields the sacrosanct mandate of the Victorian people to govern. Her dismissal by John Pesutto would be anti-democratic.

Moira Deeming, for so many reasons, and for the fear of precedent, should not be expelled.

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