Rank-and-file push to overturn Deeming’s suspension left off party meeting agenda

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The state Liberal Party has blocked an attempt to force a vote of rank-and-file members to decide MP Moira Deeming’s status in its parliamentary team at a conference of its governing body later this month.

Liberals are bracing for a fiery state council meeting in Bendigo over Deeming’s suspension – and potential expulsion – from the party room.

Liberals are bracing for a fiery state council meeting over the fallout of Moira Deeming’s future. Credit: Joe Armao

Leaked minutes of the Liberal Party’s Niddrie branch meeting of April 12 show members discussed the punishment handed out to the Western Metropolitan Region MP after she attended a Let Women Speak rally, which was gate-crashed by neo-Nazis, in March. It passed a motion that the state council should vote to overturn Deeming’s party room suspension.

But the agenda for the May 20-21 state council meeting, distributed to party members on Friday and obtained by The Age, does not include a reference to the motion.

State council deals with matters pertaining to policy, rather than internal party room decisions, but the saga highlights how the debate has rankled some rank-and-file members. Deeming supporters and those backing the move to expel her expect heated scenes at the state council meeting.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto in March attempted to expel the first-term MP over her attendance at the protest headlined by British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who he claimed was “known to be publicly associated with far-right extremist groups, including neo-Nazi activists”.

The party room ended up reaching a compromise deal to suspend the first-term MP for nine months, a move that frustrated rank-and-file members of the Niddrie branch.

The leaked minutes of the branch meeting show one member was “not happy with certain themes that do make us win votes, specifically the recent issue that occurred with Moira”, but others pushed back saying they did not believe the party should be tearing itself apart.

“Discussion ensued on the topic of transgenderism and its implications on society, sports etc. Consensus is that parental rights should supersede government when raising our families,” the minutes state.

“[One member] mentioned the divide in the party, some want to go more left, others more right. Talked about the women’s rally and how any association with neo-Nazis was just gaslighting. Pesutto should have deferred any judgment and properly researched the facts of the situation first.”

Another member said it was “wrong that those in charge in the party kick out those that they disagree with”, the minutes show.

Liberal MPs are set to vote on Deeming’s future for a second time on Friday, after James Newbury, Matthew Guy, Roma Britnell, Cindy McLeish and Wayne Farnham moved a motion to expel her from the party room for “bringing discredit” on the parliamentary team.

The five MPs on Saturday co-signed the notice of motion to expel Deeming after she told colleagues on Thursday that she had “advised [her] lawyers to prepare a legal challenge over [her] suspension”.

However, at the weekend she issued a statement saying she only wanted to engage lawyers to help negotiate to settle the conditions of her suspension.

Pesutto’s supporters believe the latest saga has vindicated the leadership team’s failed push almost two months ago to dump Deeming from the party room. Deeming’s backers, however, believe she has been unfairly punished and targeted.

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