I labored yesterday to understand what transpired in the Liberal party room when Moira Deeming expulsion was dealt with by the elected members of the Victorian Liberal party.
It would have been sad for the Liberal party, John Pesutto, Mrs Deeming and for the democracy in Victoria had there been anything other than this accommodation accorded to Mrs Deeming.
Without the benefit of having an army of reporters on ground, I was reading between the lines and concluded John Pesutto, in suggesting the compromise, the suspension, had put his party ahead of his self-interest.
Most commentators, as I had noted in the piece, had written political obituaries for John Pesutto in many ways.
Clearly, I had rightly disagreed.
As the sequence of what actually happened shows, (from the excerpts of the Sky News story by Patrick Hannaford reproduced in part below), my thesis I believe was well founded.
Peta Credlin (in part) said on her program speaking on Mrs Deeming receiving a 9-month suspension from the party:
“Effectively, Pesutto was rolled.”
“He moved his expulsion motion when the meeting opened at 10am.
“He spoke as did the other three members of his leadership team.
“And then over ten colleagues got up, one by one, to defend Deeming, and her cause of defending women’s rights.”
Peta claims despite the “strong and heartfelt” speeches from other Liberal MPs, John Pesutto maintained his intention to move the expulsion motion.
Finally, it was Mrs Deeming’s turn to make the case for a vote against her expulsion.
According to Peta Credlin, Mrs Deeming then gave “one of the most powerful speeches ever delivered in that state Liberal partyroom”, with several MPs telling Credlin it brought them to tears.
Also read: John Pesutto deserves a cheer not ridicule or political obituary
So powerful that according to Peta Credlin, the Victorian Liberal leader immediately called for a break following Mrs Deeming’s speech.
But what she says next is what I tend to disagree with.
According to Credlin, following Mrs Deeming’s speech, the Victorian Liberal leader accurately read the room.
“He knew then, after that powerful speech, he had lost the numbers in the room. And that’s when he moved to instead suspend her.”
Peta Credlin also suggested John Pesutto may not even be the Liberal leader in nine months’ time when Moira Deeming is set to rejoin the partyroom.
To me, after listening to Mrs Deeming’s speech, the human in John Pesutto took over and he proposed the 9-month suspension solution, not the mechanical Machiavellian ‘numbers man in him’ as Peta Credlin suggested.
John Pesutto has admitted that despite having been very firm in his stand, he changed his mind after listening to Mrs Deeming’s speech to her colleagues in the Liberal party room. He proposed a 9-month suspension instead, which was unanimously agreed to and accepted by his colleagues.
He also, and rightly so, refrained from going into the details of Mrs Deeming’s speech in public.
The whole episode has been a terrible self-goal for John Pesutto, who completely misread the situation, chose to go for the ‘jugular’ without any apparent need for it.
It has backfired on him, and it is not a good look. Should he wish to learn from the unwarranted lesson, he should ask himself-
- Why do so many of his colleagues supported Mrs Deeming apparently not subscribing to the views of extreme Left; and
- Why do those colleagues not fear any voter backlash from their electorates?
The answer – there are still sizeable number of Victorian Australians (in those electorates and many other parts of Victoria) who might feel completely abandoned if all traditional parties and politicians were to move to the Left.
The Herald Sun also reported that after the decision by the parliamentary Liberal party, John Pesutto and Moira Deeming were going to appear together and issue a joint statement. It did not happen that way.
“As part of the deal, multiple sources told the Herald Sun Mrs Deeming and Mr Pesutto were due to issue a joint statement following the decisions.
“Instead Mr Pesutto held a press-conference with his leadership team, and Mrs Deeming issued a statement under her own name,” reported the Herald Sun.
It was a missed opportunity by John Pesutto and his minders.
They must start planning their own strategy rather than designing their ‘pre-emptive moves’ based on ‘presumptive reactions’ from the Premier’s office.