Legal threats intensify as Deeming serves Pesutto defamation notice

A twist in the Victorian Liberal Party saga as Moira Deeming engages top defamation lawyer to challenge the accusations made by John Pesutto.

Legal threats intensify as Deeming serves Pesutto defamation notice
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Moira Deeming has issued a defamation notice to Opposition Leader John Pesutto, mere hours prior to a second vote on a motion to expel her from the Victorian Liberal Party.

The Australian reports that the notice was delivered by renowned defamation lawyer Patrick George and sets the stage for a potential Federal Court proceeding if Pesutto fails to retract the expulsion motion, issue a public apology to Deeming, and compensate for her legal costs and potential reputational damage.

The looming expulsion motion puts Pesutto in a precarious position. A public legal dispute could tarnish his reputation if he proceeds with the motion, despite the support he enjoys from the majority of the party.

George, principal of Company Giles and author of a leading Australian defamation law textbook, penned the 11-page legal document.

The notice alleges that Pesutto falsely labelled Deeming a "Nazi sympathiser" to justify his initial unsuccessful attempt to expel her from the party in March.

The legal notice claims that Pesutto's accusations, along with the expulsion motion which was leaked to the press, are false and have caused significant damage to Deeming's reputation.

This follows Deeming's presence at a "Let Women Speak" rally, which included British women's rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen, former federal Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, and left-wing Jewish feminist Angie Jones.

Deeming's earlier suspension followed an emotionally charged party room meeting, where she shared personal experiences, which resonated with several members, leading to the suspension instead of expulsion.

The defamation notice alleges that Pesutto violated the agreed-upon conditions of Deeming's suspension by not publicly retracting his accusations.

The political spat became public last week when an email leaked to Sky News accused Pesutto of bullying.

This prompted Deeming to challenge her suspension and threaten legal action. In a twist of events, five MPs, including former leader Matthew Guy, circulated another expulsion motion. The latest motion, however, does not specify the grounds for expulsion but has Pesutto's public endorsement.

Deeming's legal notice demands Pesutto withdraw the new expulsion motion and refrain from repeating or republishing its contents. It further seeks an apology to be posted on Pesutto's website for at least 14 days, compensation for reputational damage, and coverage of legal costs.

The offer is open until 9am on Friday, 12 May 2023, after which legal proceedings may commence.

Patrick George, the author of 'Defamation Law in Australia', has represented former prime ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd, among other notable clients. His business partner, Rebekah Giles, has defended former Liberal staffer Britanny Higgins and former attorney-general Christian Porter.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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