Victorian Liberal MPs are at odds over whether to back a motion to expel an outspoken MP, in the first major test of Opposition Leader John Pesutto’s tenure.
Mr Pesutto is seeking to expel Moira Deeming after she spoke at an anti-trans rights event outside Victorian parliament at the weekend.
The Melbourne rally was organised by British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and attended by neo-Nazis who repeatedly performed the Nazi salute.
In an official notice of the expulsion motion, Mr Pesutto accused Ms Deeming of “conducting activities in a manner likely to bring discredit”, and attached 15 pages of supportive “evidence”.
He said the upper house MP associated with rally figures with alleged links to extremists, including neo-Nazis.
The motion is scheduled to be put to a vote on Monday and Ms Deeming will be given the chance to explain her actions.
She has categorically denied she or organisers of the rally did anything wrong, and labelled condemnation from party leadership unjust.
“My intention is to fight and to remain a member of the team,” she wrote in a lengthy statement.
“I hope that when I have the opportunity to present the facts as they occurred, that my colleagues will stand on principle and vote down the motion to have me expelled.”
Ms Deeming walked into a party room meeting on Tuesday with several colleagues, including former opposition leader Matthew Guy.
Liberal MP for Warrandyte Ryan Smith said people were “uncomfortable” with the idea of expelling Ms Deeming from the parliamentary caucus.
He said he didn’t share his leader’s view and suggested there may have been an alternative way of dealing with Ms Deeming.
“I guess the next few days will be the opportunity for the leadership team to change my view on that,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne on Tuesday.
“But at this point I can’t see any reason why we should be expelling someone who has been firstly elected by the party and then subsequently elected by the people of western Melbourne.”
Mr Pesutto said he was confident members understood his reasons for bringing forward the motion and wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would step down as leader if it is defeated.
“I do respect the process and Ryan is entitled to a view like every member of the party room,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting, as Ms Deeming left without commenting.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the anti-trans rally was a “nasty” and “hateful” event long before masked men used the Nazi gesture.
“Why would you make it harder for trans Victorians? The notion that people are choosing this for fun … it’s so offensive, it’s so cruel, it’s not mainstream thinking,” he said.
Mr Andrews said no Labor MPs were at the event, despite Ms Deeming claiming Labor members were in attendance.