Let Women Speak protest organiser Kellie-Jay Keen has hit back at Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto over claims she had associations with Nazis, Nazi sympathisers, far-right extremists and white supremacists.
Pessuto plans to move a motion to expel Liberal upper house MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party room at the next meeting, citing Deeming’s attendance at the women's rights rally that was gatecrashed by far-right extremist groups, describing the situation as “untenable.”
Speaking with 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell this morning, Pesutto said that Deeming's association with Keen, also known as Posie Parker, was at odds with the traditionally conservative party's values.
Pessuto claimed Keen had a history of association with extremist groups and had conducted video interviews with Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the American alt-right movement, and had shared a platform with David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
He added that Deeming's history of activism has taken her into the lead with people with views that are not consistent with his own, the Liberal Party, or Victoria's.
Keen, however, dismissed Pessuto's claims as false and threatened legal action.
"I think libel and defamation laws are pretty robust in Australia. So it's a shameful thing to do. And Moira, standing up for the safeguarding of children. You think you're supposed to be conservatives, for God's sake," she said.
"I've never met or spoken to either of those men, ever. I've got no connection with those men. It's my Wikipedia. Someone has done a Wikipedia page to try and silence me, to shut me up, which I just refuse to do, and I can't even edit it. It's like some weird lock on it, so I can't do anything about that.
"But to to make claims based on a Wikipedia page when you're supposed to be a serious politician is preposterous. What a shameful man."
When asked why he did not tell Deeming not to attend the rally, Pesutto said that he did not have a problem with people airing their views. However, he did not expect any member of the Liberal team to be associated with people that had a "long rap sheet". Pesutto claimed that the problem was not about free speech, but about people whose values were not consistent with his own.
In response to the controversy, the Liberal Party has called for an inquiry into the matter. The inquiry will investigate Deeming's associations with extremist groups and determine whether she has breached the party's code of conduct.
Despite distancing herself from the neo-Nazi movement, Deeming faces the possibility of being kicked out of the party.
If the move to expel her is rejected, it would be a significant blow to Pesutto’s authority. The motion is expected to narrowly pass, but Deeming may survive any broader move to expel her from the Liberal Party.
“The violence, prejudice and hate that these protesters conveyed by their odious actions will never be acceptable in our state. I condemn them and commit to opposing such hate wherever it may exist," Pesutto said.
He added that the Liberal Party must represent all Victorians better and that the move to expel Deeming is not about free speech, but about a member of the parliamentary party associating with people whose views are abhorrent to his values, the values of the Liberal Party, and the wider community.
Keen said that Pesutto should withdraw his false statements and apologise to Deeming "just for the respect of politics in general and the electorate in Australia".
"I don't believe in guilt by association. I think if you live by that rule, you will die by it. I think it's a ridiculous thing to do, and it's not what grown ups should be doing anyway. But yeah, of course he should take it back. Moira's is a really brave politician. In 2023, she's one of the few that will stand up for the safeguarding of children," she said.
The Let Women Speak rally was overshadowed by a small group of neo-Nazis on the steps of Parliament, clashing with a larger group of socialist counter-protesters.
In May, former opposition leader Matthew Guy successfully expelled Bernie Finn from the party room, whom Deeming replaced.