As emotions rise over the decision to oust upper house MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party, John Pesutto, the leader of the opposition in Victoria, has received jeers and heckles from his fellow Liberals.
At the Saturday meeting of the Liberal Party’s state council in Bendigo, derision erupted from the audience as the opposition leader mounted the podium to speak.
As many others left the meeting, liberal members shouted “shame, shame” while wearing Deeming masks. Over Deeming’s treatment, some who left the meeting urged that Pesutto be removed as party leader.
Pesutto kept addressing the group of people in the conference room, pleading with them to maintain order and unity. As Pesutto entered the space, some of his followers gave him a standing ovation.
The meeting takes place less than a week after Deeming promised to file a lawsuit to overturn her nine-month suspension and the parliamentary Liberals voted 19-11 to kick her off their team.
— Annika Smethurst (@annikasmethurst) May 20, 2023
After Deeming attended a march against transgender rights that was disrupted by neo-Nazis in March, she accepted the suspension and was forced to resign as the upper house whip.
Following his speech, Pesutto spoke with the media, downplaying the more than twenty-member walkout by saying he was “moved by the standing ovations” from supporters.
“If there were people that had different views, that’s a matter for them but what I saw was a strong endorsement to my commitment to reforming the party,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by the strong support in the room.”
On Saturday, Deeming’s supporters were distributing printouts of a newspaper article where the MP said in an interview that she wouldn’t go quietly.
Along with the majority of state lawmakers and the head of the Victorian National Party, Peter Walsh, federal Victorian MPs Dan Tehan, Jane Hume, and James Paterson attended the meeting.