Liberal Party MP Renee Heath's decision to attend a pro-freedom event, supporting her father, Brian Heath, a speaker and senior pastor, has stirred controversy among mainstream Victorian political circles.
Her attendance at the event drew criticism from both Dan Andrews' Labor government and several of her own party members.
The gathering was branded a "far-right wing" event, a term often used by mainstream media outlets to brand those with views divergent from Victoria's mainstream political stances.
The live-streamed event marked political commentator Morgan Jonas' 200th podcast episode and featured speeches from United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet, ex-United Australia Party member Craig Kelly, and Freedom Party's Warrandyte by-election candidate Greg Cheesman.
Pastor Heath, self-titled as a “freedom fighter,” expressed his disillusionment with politics, declaring:
“One of the challenges with Australians is they think ‘she’ll be right, mate’. I’m actually here to tell you tonight that it’s not going to be alright... The answer to freedom rests in you and me … We’ve got to step out and take some risks.”
The Liberal MP's attendance caused outcry from the establishment as the event criticised John Pesutto, the Liberal opposition party's leader. The tension echoes recent frustrations among state conservatives over the party's alignment with Andrews' progressive agenda.
In his speech, Senator Babet fiercely criticised Pesutto's leadership, especially his decision to expel Liberal MP Moira Deeming. “John Pesutto, you are the opposition... Your job is not just to be Labor lite... And also John Pesutto, stop throwing women under the bus, for standing up for women’s rights. It is crazy,” he remarked.
Heath defended her attendance to hear differing opinions, stating, “It opens our minds, challenges our ideas and strengthens our resolve.”
Though committed to the Liberal Party's Warrandyte by-election campaign, her presence at the event has angered senior Liberal MPs.
One anonymous source speaking to the Herald Sun newspaper described Heath's decision as a poor judgement call, stating:
“That event last night did not represent mainstream Liberal values at all.“