Pesutto should be angry his Liberal allies didn’t detect Deeming danger

Opposition Leader John Pesutto has every right to be angry that just three months into the job his leadership already faces its biggest test.

His public ire is directed at MP Moira Deeming, whom he wants to expel from the Liberal Party.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto on Monday with his leadership team, from left: David Southwick, Georgie Crozier and Matt Bach.Credit:Simon Schluter

Perhaps he should privately reserve a smidgen of rage for his leadership team, staff and even a bit for himself.

Deeming has never made any secret of her stance on issues. We know her opposition to drag queen story time and her desire for separate bathrooms for transgender people. She has been a loud critic of recent changes to Victorian laws to outlaw gay conversion therapy and allow gender transition in children.

It’s all on the public record. So too, her involvement in Saturday’s rally.

On International Women’s Day, Deeming encouraged women colleagues to join her at the “Let Women Speak” event held by British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull outside parliament.

Liberal MP Moira Deeming speaks at Saturday’s anti-trans rights protest. Credit:Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull

Pesutto, like any political leader, is a busy man. He doesn’t have time to sit in the upper house listening to proceedings. Nor is it up to him to monitor Deeming’s social media, where she made it clear she was attending Saturday’s protest.

But those around him – his leadership team, staff and supporters – should have nipped this political nightmare in the bud.

They’re the ones who walk the halls of parliament, cheer up despondent backbenchers and detect political danger. Why weren’t their collective spidey-senses tingling?

Instead, after a social media storm and a bit of googling, Deeming was summoned to Spring Street by upper house leader Georgie Crozier for, what Deeming assumed, was a telling off.

Ninety minutes later, Deeming emerged with the bad news that her position in the party was on the chopping block and the race to convince unsuspecting colleagues had begun.

Pesutto’s move to put an expulsion motion to the party room was designed to inform the voting public that Liberals, come 2026, are a viable alternative government. And it may work, since even those still unsure where they stand on trans rights will probably agree no good can come from attending events that were gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.

Unfortunately for Pesutto, the voting public aren’t the ones who employ him.

Within the party room there are still those unconvinced by his actions. Those MPs question whether it was Deeming’s attendance or assistance in organising the event that got her punted. Would things be different had she left when the neo-Nazis arrived? Or was it enough that she associates with groups that have attracted sympathy from far right-wing extremist groups.

To many Liberals, freedom of thought, worship, speech and association are the very reasons they joined the party. To them, the move to expel Deeming is an attack on those rights, and maintaining those values is more important than winning elections.

With the expulsion motion unlikely to occur until early next week, those MPs who can see the potential electoral popularity of Pesutto’s decision need to circle their wagons around him.

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