Just days before Moira Deeming’s legal proceedings against John Pesutto begin, a UN official has come to her defence.
A leading United Nations official has expressed “serious concerns” about the Victorian Liberal Party’s expulsion of Moira Deeming MP and their smearing of her as a Nazi sympathiser for attending the Let Women Speak rally last March.
UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls Reem Alsalem raised the issue in a 10-page letter that was addressed to Australia’s Mission to the UN and published online last Wednesday.
“Ms. Deeming was presented as a racist and white supremacist who supports Neo-Nazi ideology without giving her a reasonable opportunity to refute these allegations or defend herself, harming her reputation and creat[ing] a lot of distress and risks for her and her family,” Ms Alsalem wrote.
She noted that Ms Deeming’s treatment “appear[s] to be part of a wider trend in many countries” which she described as an “escalation of intimidation and threats against women and girls for expressing their opinions and beliefs” about women’s sex-based rights.
“The experience of Ms Deeming fits the identified pattern.”
“I also note with concern the frequent tactic of smearing women, girls and their allies who hold lawful and protected beliefs on non-discrimination based on sex and same-sex attraction as ‘Nazis’, ‘genocidaires’ and ’extremists’ to intimidate women, instil fear into them and shame them into silence,” Ms Alsalem added.
The UN official expressed her concerns, not just for Ms Deeming but for other female MPs who may wish to voice similar views.
“The public ‘naming and shaming’ she experienced… will result in other women in politics, who may have gender-identity critical views similar to those of Ms Deeming or hold similar beliefs on the importance of biological sex in determining the needs and rights of women, refraining from voicing their beliefs,” she warned.
Letter to #Australia regarding expulsion of @MoiraDeemingMP from Parliamentary Liberal Party (PLP) allegedly preceded and accompanied by defamatory accusations for participating in a “Let Women Speak” rally is public: https://t.co/QJOE673P2o
— Reem Alsalem UNSR Violence Against Women and Girls (@UNSRVAW) January 24, 2024
Moira Deeming v John Pesutto
The letter from the UN official comes just days before a Federal Court hearing will take place that will initiate Ms Deeming’s lawsuit against Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto.
In fact, Ms Deeming, who has spurned the allegations, used the event to promote the safety of women and children, arguing that women should not be forced to share bathrooms and sporting fields with men.
A group of neo-Nazis gatecrashed the event, a fact Mr Pesutto and corporate news outlets leveraged to associate Ms Deeming with Nazism.
Mr Pesutto also released a 15-page dossier based on a Wikipedia page that accused the event organisers of having ties with neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.
Ms Deeming initially sought to have her name cleared and her place in the party reinstated, and only decided to take legal action after negotiation efforts with Mr Pesutto and her former party failed.
“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,” she told The Australian in December.
Ms Deeming is seeking damages and aggravated damages for actions by Mr Pesutto that “gravely injured her in her reputation”.
Case Could Cost Pesutto $1 Million and His Job
The Herald Sun has described the upcoming legal proceedings as an “expensive defamation action which could cost the Opposition Leader more than a million dollars in legal fees and compensation, if not his job”. The report reads:
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.
In a sign the legal action could extend well beyond Mr Pesutto, fellow Liberals David Southwick, Georgie Crozier and Matt Bach — who made up the party’s leadership team at the time of Mrs Deeming’s expulsion — have been sent legal letters warning them to retain all relevant documents and communications, and noting that Mrs Deeming reserves all rights.
Similar letters have been sent to senior Pesutto staff, and Liberal frontbencher James Newbury.
A petition demanding the reinstatement of Ms Deeming to the Victorian parliamentary Liberal Party has gained 6,500 signatures.
The initial Federal Court hearing for Ms Deeming’s case is scheduled for 10.15am this Friday.
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