Moira Deeming launches defamation case against John Pesutto

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Ousted Liberal MP Moira Deeming has launched a defamation case against Opposition Leader John Pesutto, paving the way for a protracted and damaging battle in the Federal Court after she was dumped from his party room in May.

Deeming, who was expelled from the parliamentary Liberal Party after a party room vote and now sits on the crossbench of the upper house, filed the statement of claim late on Tuesday.

Crossbench MP Moira Deeming has launched a defamation case against state Opposition Leader John Pesutto.Credit: Joe Armao

MPs and Liberal Party staff could be forced to testify or expose their private correspondence as a result of the proceedings after mediation between the pair failed.

Deeming declined to comment on Tuesday. Pesutto’s office also declined to comment.

The opposition leader initially tried to remove the first-term MP in March for her role in the controversial Let Women Speak rally, which was organised by British anti-trans rights campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.

Pesutto claimed Deeming had associated with organisers and speakers who shared platforms “with people who promote Nazi views or sympathies”, and that Deeming had failed to disassociate herself from them.

Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto.Credit: Justin McManus

But the party room agreed to a compromise under which she was suspended for nine months, costing her the position of upper house whip and the $20,000 pay rise that went with it.

Deeming was expelled from the party room weeks later, in a motion co-signed by five Liberal MPs, after she threatened to launch legal action against the party and Pesutto.

After her expulsion, she issued two defamation concerns notices that alleged Pesutto compared her to a Nazi sympathiser – a claim he rejects.

Mediation fell apart last month. Five sources familiar with negotiations have told The Age the final meeting between Pesutto, Deeming and Liberal Party president Phil Davis was unsuccessful owing to the opposition leader’s refusal to reverse Deeming’s expulsion from the parliamentary team despite making progress on a draft statement.

“It is therefore with great regret as a current Liberal Party member that [I] am now left with no option but to lodge my defamation case against Mr Pesutto in court,” she said in a statement last month.

The majority of the Liberal Party room would need to support a motion to return Deeming to the parliamentary team, such a motion was unlikely to succeed.

Pesutto last month said her suspension and subsequent expulsion were never about her views and denied calling her a “neo-Nazi or sympathiser”.

“I have genuinely tried to reach a mutually acceptable outcome,” he said last month.

“I will vigorously defend the Liberal Party and myself in any proceedings and will not be asking the Party to cover any legal fees.”

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