A deeply personal story from Moira Deeming that moved some in the Liberal party room to tears helped her avoid expulsion and forced Opposition Leader John Pesutto into an embarrassing backflip that has weakened his position.
Deeming’s plea, along with a damning seven-page legal critique of the case against the MP, swung the mood of Monday’s party room meeting, but again exposed the deep fractures within the state Liberal Party.
After two hours of tense discussions, Pesutto’s colleagues convinced him to concede ground and compromise with Deeming, who accepted a nine-month suspension that will cost her the position of upper-house whip and the $20,000 pay rise that went with it.
Pesutto later told a press conference Deeming made “important concessions” that he had requested for more than a week after his leadership team summoned her to a meeting to explain her conduct and distance herself from anti-trans rights activists Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and Angela Jones, the organisers of the March 18 rally gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.
“Today marks a turning point where we are on the road to achieving that in the lead up to the 2026 election. This is part of a changing culture that I want to secure,” Pesutto said.
Deeming’s statement was not released publicly, but The Age obtained a copy which shows Deeming called the allegations against Keen-Minshull, Jones and the Let Women Speak event “false and deliberately and selectively misleading”.
She condemned the past use by Keen-Minshull of a Barbie wearing a Nazi uniform on her social media as a “poor distasteful joke”, and also of Jones using a “Nazi analogy”. But otherwise, Deeming said allegations either woman was linked to far-right extremism were false.
She then urged her fellow MPs to vote against any motion to remove her from the Liberal Party.
“I admit that with the benefit of hindsight of what has occurred, that my participation may have been an error of judgment that resulted in unneeded scrutiny,” she said.
“When I attended the event I made sure I did not speak as a Liberal, in fact I did not even mention I was a Liberal.
“The proponents’ serious allegations have not been established and are directly contradicted by the evidence on which they rely. In light of the evidence, the only credible response is to withdraw, or in the alternative, vote against this motion. Voting in support of a motion which lacks a real or credible evidentiary basis would bring disrepute upon our parliamentary party.”
Within hours of Pesutto’s press conference, the Western Metropolitan MP was back on Twitter assuring Jones and Keen-Minshull she hadn’t damned them.
Deeming told Jones in a tweet: “Don’t worry, I never condemned you, or KD [Katherine Deves] or KJ [Keen-Minshull].”
Liberal MPs told The Age while Pesutto’s leadership was not under threat, his decision had exposed deep fault lines within the party room and caused significant unease.
One MP said the contributions in the meeting showed the party wanted to keep both Pesutto and Deeming, and the vote should never have been billed as “proxy leadership vote” as described by both camps.
However, another MP said Pesutto had “used a lot of capital” on the issue and it should have been resolved earlier. “Both sides got bloody noses,” the MP said. “Some of us have said to Moira, ‘Your bloodied nose is easily patched up’.”
Three Liberal sources told The Age the information Deeming provided early on Monday morning was not new, and that she had previously made the concessions requested by the leadership team.
The first-term MP was the last to speak in the two-hour meeting and addressed Pesutto’s allegations, laid out the defence identified by a defamation law specialist and told a personal story that Liberal MPs say moved the room to tears.
Five minutes before Deeming spoke, Pesutto remained adamant she needed to be expelled and was unwilling to broker a deal, according to three Liberal MPs who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
As late as last Thursday, the leadership team publicly declared a compromise would not be offered following reports in The Age.
Shortly after Deeming’s speech, about one hour and 45 minutes into the meeting, MPs left the room for a break and returned to learn that Pesutto would offer a compromise. One Liberal source confirmed Rowville MP Kim Wells was instrumental in brokering the deal.
“This should have never been like this, it should have never been anything to do with the leadership, but it became about that,” one Liberal MP said. “There just wasn’t a case against Moira. Once again, a woman has to take the fall for a decision made by men in this party.”
MPs were given guarantees the suspension would “automatically conclude” before Christmas, unless Deeming is found to have transgressed further. At his press conference, Pesutto refused to outline what rules he had imposed on the MP and what would constitute a transgression.
In order for her suspension to be turned into an expulsion, another motion would have to be put to the party room.
At least eight Liberal MPs spoke against the motion including Joe McCracken, Wells, Richard Riordan, Ryan Smith, Bev McArthur and Nick McGowan.
One MP said: “Sometimes leadership is showing that you can bend when you need to bend.”
Deeming declined to comment when contacted on Monday, but last week said she “completely rejected” the beliefs of the National Socialist Network and revealed her uncle was a Holocaust survivor.
In a statement released by Pesutto’s office on Monday night, Deeming said she accepted her attendance at the Let Women Speak rally might have been an error of judgment.
“As I have stated, I unreservedly condemn the poor-taste Nazi jokes and Nazi analogies listed in the annex of evidence against me,” she said.
“I believe I am innocent of all imputations and accusations of any connection whatsoever with Nazism in any shape or form and any bigotry whatsoever toward the LGBTQI+ community.”
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