Leader of the Victorian Liberals, John Pesutto, will have to explain himself to the Federal Court. Expelled Victorian Liberal MP Moira Deeming has lodged her statement of claim for defamation after the leader refused to withdraw comments he made about her being associated with Nazis.
Expelled Liberal MP Moira Deeming. Photograph by Arsineh Houspian.
Despite having no evidence of his claims, he expelled Moira from the parliamentary party and continued to make the false allegations.
Let Women Speak organiser Kellie Jay Keen has also indicated she will be filing a defamation suit against the MP. The cases could cost Pesutto millions and he may even lose his position in the party.
The document indicates Mrs Deeming’s lawyers — who include high profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou and author of Australia’s seminal textbook on defamation law, Patrick George — will base their argument upon media releases, press conferences and interviews Mr Pesutto gave in the days following a March “Let Women Speak” rally.
They will also draw upon a dossier Mr Pesutto’s office circulated to MPs and the media in seeking support to expel her from the state Liberal party room, and utterances he has since made to try to justify his actions.
Other MP’s have been put on notice that they may also be a part of the proceedings.
It has been a long, arduous year for Moira who has suffered financially, emotionally and mentally from Pesutto’s actions.
“It brings me no joy to have had to lodge this defamation case in court today, but despite the best efforts of many inside and outside the Liberal Party, unfortunately I have no other avenue to see justice done for myself, my family and all the women involved in “Let Women Speak” that day.”
Mr Pesutto made statements to the media, organised a dossier and still has a defamatory statement on his website.
“I discussed her involvement in organising, promoting and participating in a rally with speakers and other organisers who themselves have been publicly associated with far right-wing extremist groups including neo-Nazi activists,” Mr Pesutto said.
“This is not an issue about free speech but a member of the parliamentary party associating with people whose views are abhorrent to my values, the values of the Liberal Party and the wider community.”
Mrs Deeming’s lawyers argue that the press release was “defamatory”, and contained imputations including that Mrs Deeming supports, sympathises with or associates with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and even that she is a white supremacist or neo-Nazi.
Moira has consistently denied any association with Nazi’s and Pesutto has issued no proof. As a result Moira has been unable to perform many of her duties related to her work as an elected parliamentarian. She and her family have also endured great stress, abuse and threats.
“By reason of the publication and republication of the matters complained of, Deeming has been gravely injured in her reputation personally and professionally, and in her career, and has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment and fear for her safety and financial security.”
The statement of claim indicates Mrs Deeming will seek aggravated damages as a result of multiple actions Mr Pesutto took or failed to take, which they allege exacerbated the defamation.
All Pesutto needed to do at the start was issue an apology and reinstate Moira back into the parliamentary party. Instead he has stubbornly stood by false accusations and drawn unnecessary attention to the failings of the Victorian Liberal Party.
Perhaps Pesutto should educate himself about the real Nazis in Australia, like the ones chanting “f..k Israel, f..k the Jews” or protesting vulnerable families who have endured their loved ones being kidnapped.
It is a very serious matter to smear women or anyone with a Nazi label. He and those who have stood by him must be held to account.
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