Angry Liberals to thrash out leadership team’s defamation demand

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Angry Liberal MPs have called a meeting of the parliamentary party after the leadership team demanded financial backing to survive a defamation threat from a prominent anti-trans-rights activist.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto, David Southwick, Georgie Crozier and Matthew Bach spoke with Victorian Liberal Party president Greg Mirabella and state director Stuart Smith on Tuesday to seek full indemnity from the party in the event Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull – who also goes by Posie Parker – pursues legal action.

From left: David Southwick, Opposition Leader John Pesutto, Georgie Crozier and Matt Bach.Credit: Simon Schluter

Keen-Minshull sent a legal letter to the Victorian Liberal Party’s leadership team with a 28-day deadline to issue a written apology, pay compensation and cover her legal costs or face court action.

She took part in a controversial Melbourne rally in March, attended by ousted Liberal MP Moira Deeming, which was gatecrashed by neo-Nazi protesters. Pesutto unsuccessfully tried to suspend Deeming from the parliamentary party, but she was ultimately expelled after a protracted fallout.

In the process, one party room motion against Deeming claimed Keen-Minshull had “publicly associated with far right-wing extremist groups including neo-Nazis activists”. Keen-Minshull has denied this and claimed it is defamatory. The Age does not suggest she or Deeming are associated with neo-Nazis.

Deeming has threatened to pursue defamation proceedings against Pesutto through the courts over the suspension and expulsion motions.

Party headquarters have been hesitant to assist with Pesutto’s legal expenses in relation to that matter.

Mornington MP Chris Crewther, who had been a Deeming supporter, emailed colleagues to arrange the Wednesday meeting for 1pm.

“Following a request from a number of colleagues, and discussions and confirmation of this time with JP [Pesutto], I’m emailing you to let you know that there will be an informal meeting of Liberal parliamentarians at 1pm today in the party room, where there’ll be an opportunity to informally discuss a number of internal party matters with JP.”

One Liberal frontbencher said some MPs wanted to clarify what protection the party could offer given politicians need to speak “without fear or favour”.

Several other Liberal MPs, speaking to The Age on the condition of anonymity to discuss party matters, said they intended to use the meeting to check whether the party’s insurance policy covered legal costs.

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