MP invokes free speech after controversial conference appearance

August 22, 2023 7:19 am in by
Member for Western Victoria and Liberal MP Bev McArthur was a speaker at CPAC (CPAC).

A local Liberal MP says she supports free speech after it was revealed she was sharing a speaking platform with neo-Nazi fundraiser’s.

Bev McArthur was among dozens of speakers at the 2023 CPAC event in Sydney over the weekend, an annual right-wing conference that had GiveSendGo as a gold sponsor.

The north American founded site rose to prominence during the pandemic with the purpose “to share the hope of Jesus through crowdfunding with everyone who comes to our platform”, according to its website. That includes allowing several prominent Australian neo-Nazis to raise money for their chosen causes.

Thomas Sewell and Blair Cottrell have live donation plea’s on the platform, the former having raised over $24,100 to cover his extensive “hearings, mentions, contests and bail applications.”

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He estimates an upcoming trial of he and a co-accused white nationalist will cost around $50,000.

“Anyone over the next 12 months who would like to assist in making up the difference as I doubt we will be able to save enough alone,” he pleads, and signs off with “hail”.

Sewell has publicly described himself as a “political soldier for the white race”, has a history of violent offending, and was present among the group of neo-Nazi’s who turned up at the anti-trans Let Women Speak rally in Melbourne earlier this year.

A speaking presence at the event by then newly elected Western Metropolitan MP Moira Deeming was a key reason in her being dumped from the Victorian Liberal party by its leader John Pesutto. Mr Pesutto’s office did not respond to requests for comment from Geelong Broadcasters about Ms McArthur’s presence at CPAC.

GiveSendGo founders Heather Wilson and Jacob Wells were in Sydney for CPAC, and were on stage a few hours before the Member for Western Victoria Ms McArthur.

When asked if she was comfortable sharing a stage with people who fundraise for neo-Nazi’s, Ms McArthur referred to other speakers on the agenda.

“Very happy to share the stage with a colleague from Western Australia, and eminent people like Tony Abbott, Warren Mundine, Jacinta Price and many others,” she said.

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“I’m actually a great supporter of free speech, I don’t agree with anybody who prosecutes vile language or anything else.

“There’s getting to be a point in this country where nobody is allowed to say anything and if you share a platform with people even though you’ve never heard of them, don’t know them, you’re somehow linked to them.”

Senior politics lecturer at Deakin Geelong Geoff Robinson says CPAC is a relatively new phenomena in the Australian political landscape, but one that’s changing the more traditional face of conservatism here.

“This is something very much imported from the United Sates,” he said.

“It’s very much an expression of this American style of conservative politics, fairly aggressive and in your face.”

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Mr Robinson says he is surprised that some prominent coalition MP’s are aligning themselves with people whose “political views go way beyond the transgressive.”

“It’s an expression somewhat of this ‘no enemies on the right’ mentality, which is a strong feature of conservative politics in Australia.

“But it can be problematic for a party when it’s seen as being too close to the extremist fringe.”