Monday night, 27 March, and there I am. Curled up on the lounge in the front room with my bowl of spag bol. Watching 7.30, as is my wont. Sixteen minutes in, after an animal cruelty story, comes Sarah Ferguson’s intro to a segment about Moira Deeming and her travails in the Victorian Liberal parliamentary party as a result of her attendance at the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally in Melbourne on 18 March. Click here to watch. I already know that there have been big doings today: the party room met, Liberal leader John Pesutto withdrew his expulsion motion, and Deeming accepted a nine-month suspension. 

Well, I think to myself, how will the ABC present all that, as seen through its ACON/ILGA-tinted glasses

What follows is nine minutes of total dog’s breakfast

First comes Ferguson’s description of Kellie-Jay Keen as an ‘anti-trans activist associated with the far right’. Wrong, unfair, I think; but it’s a bit of a throwaway line; probably doesn’t matter, the segment’s going to be about Deeming not Keen. (I’m wrong there, as it turns out.)  

Then there’s the total omission of the name and theme of the rally. You’d never know, from Ferguson’s introduction, that the rally was a women’s rally, about women’s issues such as women’s sport and women’s spaces. (As it turns out, you wouldn’t learn that from the entire nine-minute segment, if you didn’t already know.)

Then comes the bald statement: ‘Neo-Nazis joined the rally.’ Wow! So wrong! And so inexcusably wrong! When virtually every other media outlet, from SBS to the Fin Review, has been rightly reporting that the neo-Nazis gatecrashed a rally that had nothing to do with them. Hasn’t 7.30 been keeping up with the news? 

Moving right along, Ferguson introduces her guest, John Pesutto, leader of the Victorian Liberal Party. Disappointing: Deeming would’ve been the obvious person to interview. Apparently the ABC thought otherwise. (Or Deeming turned them down? If so wouldn’t Ferguson tell us?) 

Then comes Ferguson’s first question to Pesutto. Except it isn’t a question to begin with, it’s another bald assertion: ‘Moira Deeming has walked back her condemnation of the rally and its organiser’. What’s she talking about? I’ve got no idea. For a start I didn’t think Deeming had made ‘a condemnation of the rally and its organiser’ in the first place. I’ve read the media release Deeming issued after the party room meeting. Where she calls Nazism ‘heinous’. But re the rally, all she talks about is her attendance at it. And even so she’s pretty qualified in what she says: her attendance ‘may have been’ an error of judgment. Hard to read that as a condemnation of the rally itself. 

What’s more, there’s no direct reference in Deeming’s media release to Kellie-Jay Keen, who I suppose is who Ferguson means by the rally’s ‘organiser’. Though Deeming did, so she says in the media release, ‘unreservedly condemn the poor taste Nazi jokes and Nazi analogies listed in the annex of evidence against me’. 

I already know about this ‘annex’ – it’s reached me via osmosis, as such things do. It’s a dossier Pesutto cobbled together on Deeming’s ‘associations’ in the lead-up to the party room meeting, It’s almost entirely about KJK and her doings. It’s almost entirely a beat-up. It contains nothing neo-Nazi or right-wing ever spoken by KJK. It shows:

  • KJK gave interviews to a couple of right-wing journos back in 2019
  • in the same year, she was at a conference also attended by a Holocaust denialist
  • KJK used Nazi Barbie as a profile pic on her Spinster account 
  • KJK posted the Progress Pride flag with a superimposition of Nazi insignia
  • somebody – not KJK – mentioned Hitler and Mein Kampf at a Newcastle UK Let Women Speak rally to make a point about lies 
  • Angie Jones, a feminist and one of the organisers of the Melbourne rally, taunted opponents on Twitter after the rally by asking them why they didn’t oppose ‘paedo filth’ when Nazis and women do
  • Deeming appeared in a video after the rally drinking champagne with KJK, Katherine Deves, and Angie Jones, and ‘did not roundly condemn’ the Nazi gatecrashers 

When I read Deeming’s media release, I thought that by ‘poor taste Nazi jokes and Nazi analogies’ she meant the Nazi Barbie and the Progress Pride flag post. Now, watching 7.30 and eating my spag bol on 27 March, I still think that. So did Deeming condemn KJK at the party meeting, as Ferguson seems to think? Well, not according to her media release. Condemning Nazi jokes/s and analogies as ‘poor taste’ hardly amounts to condemning KJK herself, I would have thought. 

Walked back

So all of that’s a bit mystifying. And then, this idea that Deeming’s somehow ‘walked back’? Oh well, I think, I’ll watch on, Pesutto’s going to speak now, maybe he’ll explain. 

Except he doesn’t. Out of his convoluted garble, I gather he’s claiming that at the party room meeting this morning Deeming made a ‘specific condemnation’ of ‘certain types of conduct by people associated with Moira Deeming in the conduct of that rally’. So the ‘conduct’ Deeming condemned would have been – as Deeming herself said – the poor taste joke and the analogy, I think. And Nazism. So nothing about the rally, nothing about condemning any ‘people’ themselves. But that’s as far as he gets before Ferguson interrupts him in her usual style. 

But that’s good. Because at last – and we’re a minute and a half into the interview by now – it occurs to Ferguson that viewers mightn’t have any idea what she’s talking about, so – after a little foray into dire references to ‘very clear far right associations’ – she tells us that a ‘couple of hours ago’ Deeming published a tweet in which she assured ‘the organiser of the rally’: ‘Don’t worry, I never condemned you.’ 

OK, now I’m up to speed, at least I know what Ferguson means when she talks about ‘walking back’. The obvious thing to do here, I think, is to ask Pesutto whether Deeming did, in fact, condemn KJK and/or the rally at the party room meeting this morning. But that’s not what Ferguson does. Instead she re-asserts that this is ‘Moira Deeming walking back her condemnation’.

Pesutto could still answer the obvious question about what Deeming condemned or didn’t condemn in the party room, even though he wasn’t asked. But he doesn’t. Instead he shifts into hypothetical and possible modes: ‘If … there are comments on social media that are inconsistent’; ‘If there is some discrepancy’; ‘Moira would have to take very seriously …’; ‘there would be repercussions …’ After listening to all this, I’m pretty sure by now: Deeming made no condemnation of KJK or the rally in the party room. Ergo, there’s been no walking back. And Pesutto knows it. 

Onward into the forest of confusion

So, probably, does Ferguson, but on she ploughs. All this time Ferguson’s references to KJK have been getting weirder and weirder. She hasn’t spoken KJK’s actual name even once since the intro; instead she’s been using circumlocutions: ‘the organiser of the rally’; ‘someone with very clear … far right associations’; ‘that person’; ‘a woman with neo-Nazi and far right associations’. What’s up, I’ve been wondering: Has word come down from the heights of ACON/ILGA that the name of Kellie-Jay Keen is taboo, like Voldemort’s in Harry Potter? Does she think the Death Eaters are going to come for her if she utters it? 

And now, at this point, four and a half minutes into the interview, when she would’ve been wiser to just disentangle herself and get out of it, comes something even weirder. Ferguson brings up Pesutto’s dossier again. This is the second time she’s done so, darkly alluding to its contents as showing the ‘very clear far right associations’ of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now, Ferguson announces, just ‘to be clear what we’re talking about here’, she’s going to run ‘a particular image’ from that dossier, ‘so that’ – she repeats – ‘we’re very clear what we’re talking about’. 

Ferguson’s tone is so ominous as she announces this that I almost expect her to give us a trigger warning as well. I hardly hold my breath, though, since I’ve seen the dossier myself. What will she have chosen? I wonder. The Nazi Barbie? KJK’s four-years-ago selfie with Hans Jørgen Lysglimt? But no! This is what slowly slides up onto the screen:

Gotcha! Well, not really.

The Progress Pride post. The one thing in the whole dossier that can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to demonstrate links between KJK and Nazis. On the contrary. It’s an image that shows KJK using Nazi imagery to express her opposition to gender-identity ideology (symbolised by the Progress Pride flag) by identifying it with Nazism. In other words, it shows KJK has a negative opinion of Nazism. 

Time to give in

I put my bowl of spag bol back on the table and start tearing my hair out at this point. Doesn’t Ferguson have even a basic grasp of semiotics, I ask myself. Then I get it. The problem, in Ferguson’s ACON/ILGA-befuddled brain, isn’t KJK’s alleged neo-Nazi ‘associations’. It’s that KJK has committed sacrilege by criticising gender-identity ideology. 

Well, the interview goes on for a while longer, with Ferguson conflating Deeming’s alleged ‘associations’ with KJK’s: ‘Why does someone who has had these associations that you detailed in your dossier [yes, she brings up the blooming dossier yet again], why do they have nine months to come back and show a different face?’ and repeatedly baying for Deeming’s blood: ‘Why would that person’ – confusingly, she means Deeming here, not KJK – ‘retain Liberal Party membership?’ ‘My question is whether that suspension is still the correct response?’ ‘Is she a liability?’ ‘Moira Deeming’s position, and whether it’s suspension or expulsion, remains in the balance tonight?’ 

It’s a mercy when the interview comes to an end. Nine minutes of utter unprofessional ill-willed unfair dog’s breakfast. Quite ruined my appetite for my spag bol.

The smoking gun…

But it’s not over yet. The next day I go looking for Deeming’s tweet. This is it. 

Well, hello! The tweet’s addressed to Angie Jones, not KJK. To a feminist. A left-winger. A granddaughter of a Jewish grandmother.

Confused, I hop onto iView and listen again to what Ferguson said about this tweet on 7.30. She says to Pesutto: ‘Moira Deeming published a tweet just a couple of hours ago, talking to the organiser of the rally – and this is someone with very clear – for our audience – very clear umm far-right associations, many of which you detailed in a dossier which you presented to your own party room – she said, speaking directly to that person, “Don’t worry, I never condemned you”.’

I’m gobsmacked. At the very least, Ferguson got Angie Jones and KJK mixed up. Very unprofessional of her. At worst, Ferguson deliberately conflated Jones, KJK, and Deeming through her vague references to ‘the organiser of the rally’ and ‘associations’ detailed in the ‘dossier’, tarring all of them with the same brush. 

And by now, I wouldn’t put that past her. We used to think, here at Women’sCooee, that the blatant lies the ABC told about Kath Deves and Kirralie Smith were because they’re right-wingers. Now it’s clear Aunty regards any woman who opposes gender-identity ideology as fair game. 

ACON/ILGA’s got a lot to answer for.