A composite image of two photos of the faces of Moira Deeming and John Pesutto.
Conflict between Opposition Leader John Pesutto and upper house MP Moira Deeming has been a major point of contention in the party.(AAP: James Ross)

Under-pressure Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto has swatted away criticism from a top UN official about his treatment of expelled Liberal Moira Deeming, saying he was more focused on the state’s budget.

Key points:

  • The UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls Reem Alsalem has commented on the Victorian Liberal Party’s treatment of Moira Deeming
  • Opposition Leader John Pesutto says he’s not concerned the United Nations has weighed in on the dispute
  • Ms Deeming has been in contact with Ms Alsalem from the beginning of her fight with the Liberal Party’s leadership

Two weeks ago Ms Deeming was expelled from the Victorian Liberal Party’s parliamentary team, ending a two-month fight over her association with March’s Let Women Speak rally, an anti-trans rights protest at State parliament that was gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.

In her maiden speech to Victoria’s parliament, Ms Deeming criticised gender affirmation practices for transgender people, saying her term would focus on “sex-based rights”.

“Women and girls are suffering in Victoria because this government cannot or will not define what a female is, and as a result every woman and every girl in Victoria has lost the right to enjoy female-only sports, female-only change rooms and countless other female-only activities,” Ms Deeming said.

Reem Alsalem, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, this week voiced concern over the “shrinking space” for women to “express themselves peacefully in demanding respect for their needs based on their sex and/or sexual orientation”.

“I am disturbed by the frequent tactic of smear campaigns against women, girls and their allies on the basis of their beliefs on non-discrimination based on sex and same-sex relations,” Ms Alsalem said.

“Branding them as ‘Nazis’, ‘genocidaires’ [a person guilty of genocide] or ‘extremists’ is a means of attack and intimidation with the purpose of deterring women from speaking and expressing their views.”

Addressing reporters on Thursday, John Pesutto said he wasn’t concerned the United Nations had weighed in on the dispute.

“I’m focused on the budget,” Mr Pesutto said.

“I’m totally focused on the needs and challenges facing Victoria and the people of Victoria, particularly after the most brutal budget in 30 years.”

Expelled MP says she feels vindicated

Ms Deeming said she had been in contact with Ms Alsalem from the beginning of her fight with the Liberal Party’s leadership.

She said she felt vindicated that the UN had called out her treatment, but said it was “cold comfort”.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t overturn what I consider to be unjust treatment,” Ms Deeming told the ABC.

Moira Deeming appears serious as she walks through the parliament carpark, wearing a purple blazer.
Expelled Liberal Moira Deeming says the UN official’s comments do not undo her “unjust treatment”.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

In March, Ms Alsalem commented on a LinkedIn post by the Women’s Forum Australia criticising the Liberal Party’s initial move to expel Ms Deeming.

“On what basis is Moira Deeming being punished if the rally was attacked by neo-Nazis?” Ms Alsalem wrote.

“I do not understand the argument used by the Liberal Party of Australia, unless I am missing something.”

Ms Alsalem also criticised the Scottish government’s plans to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender last year, prompting international coalition the Sexual Rights Initiative to urge organisations to stop engaging with the UN official.

Mr Pesutto has previously said that he would be closely watching everything Ms Deeming did and said, which some supporters of Ms Deeming said was a form of intimidation.

In her statement published on May 22, Ms Alsalem said she had “particular concern” about the “various forms of reprisals against women, including censorship, legal harassment, [and] employment loss.”

“In some cases, women politicians are sanctioned by their political parties, including through the threat of dismissal or actual dismissal.”

Prior to her expulsion, Ms Deeming notified Mr Pesutto of her intention to sue him for defamation, alleging the Opposition Leader accused her of having Nazi sympathies.

Mr Pesutto has repeatedly denied ever accusing Ms Deeming of being affiliated with Nazis.

He said the party was still involved in internal discussions about whether it would foot his legal bills.

Source – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-05-25/john-pesutto-rejects-un-official-criticism-moira-deeming/102393306