Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto has asked the state Liberal Party to cover the expenses of a potential defamation case against him with an indemnity insurance plan.
The move comes after British women’s rights activist, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, issued Mr. Pesutto’s senior team—MPs David Southwick, upper house leader Georgie Crozier, and Matt Bach—with a defamation notice this week.
Also known by the pseudonym Posie Parker, Ms. Keen-Minshull appeared at a Let Women Speak rally in Melbourne in March, which spurred Mr. Pesutto to censure fellow party member Moira Deeming for attending that rally.
Ms. Keen-Minshull’s notice claims the Liberal leadership team defamed her in a party motion alleging she was “publicly associated with far right-wing extremist groups including neo-Nazi activists”—a claim Ms. Keen-Minshull denies.
The activist also says the statements by the Liberals made her a target of “extreme hate, abuse, harassment, and stalking,” and led to her being “physically attacked” during a subsequent rally in New Zealand.
Ms. Keen-Minshull was met by a counter-protest, jeering, and yelling during her rally in Auckland in March, which also saw episodes of violence erupt.
In one incident, an elderly woman can be seen being repeatedly punched in the face by a man while other protestors tried to restrain him.
Ms. Keen-Minshull has given Mr. Pesutto and his team a 28-day deadline to respond while calling for a public apology and compensation.
However, Mr. Pesutto said party administrators had agreed to explore ways to tackle such legal threats.
“We’re asking the party to take some actions to look at how it can extend indemnities and provide cover,” he told reporters, in comments obtained by AAP.
“Anybody working in a workplace today will ordinarily have insurance cover in the course of their employment.”
Opposition Leader Fighting Legal Challenges on Another Front
Mr. Pesutto is also subject to another defamation proceeding from fellow Liberal Party MP Deeming.
The party expelled Ms. Deeming after she joined Ms. Keen-Minshull at the rally in March.
In a statement to the media, Mr. Pesutto said he met with Ms. Deeming after the rally “to discuss her involvement in organizing, promoting, and participating in a rally with speakers and other organizers who themselves have been publicly associated with fair-right wing extremist groups including neo-Nazi activists.”
“This is not an issue about free speech but a parliamentary party member associating with people whose views are abhorrent to my values, the values of the liberal party, and the wider community,” he said.
During the event, women’s rights activists were confronted by pro-LGBT protestors. However, a third group of men dressed in black marched between the groups while performing the Nazi salute.
Subsequent media reporting branded and linked the women’s rights activists with neo-Nazism.
Ms. Deeming responded to Mr. Pesutto’s censure with a third defamation concerns notice recently alleging he had made “seriously defamatory” comments, including alleged accusations of her of being a “Nazi sympathiser and Nazi associate.”
Ms. Deeming took to X (formally known as Twitter), with a statement saying, “It is important to clarify here that I only contemplated legal assistance (e.g. mediation) as a way of helping me negotiate to settle the conditions of my suspension and to see what was agreed in the party room in March honored.”