John Pesutto, Peter Dutton
John Pesutto (right) was heckled at May's state council meeting in Bendigo. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

‘We can win’: Pesutto pledges victory for Vic Liberals

September 24, 2023

The Victorian Liberal Party has turned a corner and is on track to take government at the next state election, the opposition leader says.

John Pesutto addressed party faithful at a state council meeting in Melbourne on Sunday, just months after dozens of members staged a walkout at the same event in Bendigo.

Commotion was limited to one heckler who yelled “shame” from the crowd, where Mr Pesutto roused members with the hope of victory at the 2026 poll.

There was a strong sentiment in the room and across the membership that the party had turned a corner, he told reporters after his speech.

“We know we’ve got a lot of work to do … but we also know that there’s now proof that when we focus on the things that matter to the Victorian people, we are more than just competitive with the government,” he said.

“We can win.

“(The Warrandyte by-election) is irrefutable proof that the pathway to a successful outcome in the 2026 election is there on those numbers.”

Mr Pesutto has emphasised the outcome of the by-election win in northeast Melbourne as a turning point for the party over the past few weeks, despite Labor not standing a candidate.

In his speech, he reflected on the Liberals’ defeats at both the state and federal levels in recent years but said there was “no mistake” his party would win at the next state election.

“I am convinced – off the back of what we’ve been able to achieve in recent months, including of course Warrandyte – that we have created the pathway to reach that summit,” Mr Pesutto said.

The opposition leader did not announce any new policies but backed calls for the federal COVID-19 inquiry to widen its scope to include state and territories’ decisions.

He urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to convert the probe into a royal commission so it has compulsion powers.

Mr Pesutto suggested members voted wisely on Saturday when they decided against a motion to take powers away from the party leadership to expel MPs.

At May’s state council meeting, dozens of members staged a walkout and heckled Mr Pesutto as he rose to give a speech.

The behaviour was sparked by the expulsion of first-term MP Moira Deeming from the party’s parliamentary team after she threatened Mr Pesutto with defamation action over comments regarding her participation in an anti-trans rally gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.

Ms Deeming attended the latest council meeting but was not scheduled to speak.

Former upper house MP Philip Davis was elected as the party’s next Victorian president.