Moira Deeming Affair Exposes Liberal Party Crisis
The furore surrounding Victorian Liberal MP Moira Deeming has revealed a crisis of conservatism within the Liberal Party.
Deeming was suspended by the Victorian Liberal Party for nine months at the end of March after a group of black-clad Neo-Nazi men hijacked a women’s rights rally that she took part in. Fierce internal disagreement over her suspension has revealed the depth of division within the Victorian Liberal Party, with party leader John Pesutto’s position now in question.
Deeming’s “crime” was attending and speaking at the Let Women Speak event in Melbourne, hosted by the women’s rights group Standing For Women. Labor and trans allies characterised the event as ‘anti-trans’ and tarred the women by association with the Nazis, despite organisers and attendees repeatedly stating that they had nothing to do with the Nazis and had asked the police to move them on. In fact, it was Labor’s removal of police move-on powers that allowed the Nazis to stay at the site for so long.
Police remove a protester during a transgender rights rally in Melbourne. Photo: AAP/dpa
This incident gave the Victorian Liberals an opportunity to support Deeming and demonstrate their professed values of equal rights, freedom of speech, protection of children and the vulnerable, freedom of association and religion, and innocence until proven guilty. Instead, the party self-immolated, throwing Deeming under the bus to appease critics, and in the end, pleased no one.
Within days, Pesutto compiled a 15-page dossier accusing Deeming of Nazi associations and unacceptable anti-trans views, which he circulated with a motion for Deeming’s expulsion from the party. The irony of punishing a woman for the behaviour of unassociated men at a women’s rights rally seems to have been lost on Pesutto.
Deeming strenuously denied the accusations in the dossier, denouncing Nazism and insisting that she had no association whatsoever with the men in black who gate-crashed the women’s rights event. Delivering an impassioned speech to her colleagues in the party room, Deeming revealed that, far from being a Nazi sympathiser, she was raised by a Jewish Holocaust survivor, her uncle Emery Gellert.
The transcript of Deeming’s speech shared exclusively with Sky News, reveals that Deeming’s commitment to women’s rights and safe spaces is born from her own painful experience. “My life has been marred repeatedly by rape – at the hands of men – from the age of four. I have been assaulted in public facilities. I was sexually harassed and assaulted by a teacher who later went to jail for having sex with minors,” Deeming told the party room. “I am driven by a desire to make sure other children and women don’t suffer like I did.”
During her speech, which reportedly moved party members to tears, Deeming stated that colleagues had told her that Pesutto’s move to expel her from the party was about politics, not principle. Deeming had “been told that this motion to expel me from the Party Room isn’t about the specific accusations made against me, but that it’s about saving John and the Leadership team, or that it’s about rebranding and modernising the Liberal Party…”.
Deeming asked her party to consider the implications that being smeared as a Nazi sympathiser would have on her children and family. Following her speech, it was determined that Deeming would not be expelled from the Liberal Party but that she was to be suspended for nine months.
The bungled handling of the Deeming affair is emblematic of the problems facing the Liberal Party at state and federal level, says One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham. As a long-time political commentator and former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Latham is well-placed to comment on the Liberal Party’s predicament.
“One of their defining characteristics is cowardice,” says Latham. The Liberals “don’t stand up to anyone. Pesutto should have stood by his colleague; he should have said she’s not responsible for Nazis showing up at a public meeting. If Antifa turned up at a Dan Andrews meeting, would he be held responsible for that? Of course not,” says Latham, in reference to the Victorian Labor Party leader and Premier. Indeed, ‘Teflon Dan’ has a pattern of deflecting responsibility for the corruption and mistakes of his government onto outsiders, a strategy that has served him and his party well.
Member of the NSW Legislative Council Mark Latham AAP: Bianca De Marchi)
“The Liberal Party has moved radically to the left. They’re no longer the party of traditional conservative leaders like John Howard, Nick Greiner or Richard Court,” says Latham, who spent the last few months talking with voters on the campaign trail for the NSW election. Latham says voters expressed disillusionment with the Liberal Party, which has been “captured by the renewable energy lobby and the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) mob, and by elements of the globalist movement.”
The shift to the left is not working for the Liberal Party, who have now lost every state, territory and federal election to Labor, except for the lone state of Tasmania.
“They’re slow learners,” remarks Latham, reflecting on the failure of the Liberals to adjust their losing strategy of aiming their policies and messaging towards the progressive middle. “They regard themselves as modern liberals, but they’re Pepsi to Labor’s Coke. Labor does progressivism better.” The problem for the Liberal Party is that they’ve alienated their conservative base in trying to appeal to the left.
An anonymous Liberal Party member says the fragmentation is also felt acutely inside the party. “In our local branch meetings, there are members who are urging the party to go even further left on issues like climate,” says the insider. Disenchanted conservative members are urging the party to re-engage with the right before it’s too late.
Disillusioned with the Liberal Party, conservative voters have peeled away, splitting votes between an assortment of minor parties and independents. This is how Labor won in Victoria in 2022 with only 37% of the primary vote and how just 32% of the primary vote secured Labor a win at the 2022 federal election. As the lowest primary vote since Federation, 32% would normally have ensured an electoral wipe-out.
Meanwhile, in NSW, it looks increasingly unlikely that NSW Labor will gain enough seats to win a majority outright, with pundits predicting that a deal will be made with the Greens to form government.
In a recent press release, Deeming stated that the Liberal Party is at an “inflection point” and must choose one of two paths. “Does [the party] accept the utterly false premise that anyone who chooses to speak out reasonably, constructively, and legally is somehow an endorsement for anyone at all who happens to show up at a public event? … Or will the Liberal Party choose this moment to draw a line in the sand and stand on our principles.”
Which path will the Liberal Party choose: woke politics or traditional principles? Moira Deeming is asking the right question, but does the Liberal Party have the answer?