A Victorian Liberal Party politician who was ousted at pre-selection by a candidate linked to a Pentecostal church has lashed out at extremism in politics in her final speech as a parliamentarian.
- Cathrine Burnett-Wake has called on “ordinary people” to “awaken” to extremist political candidates
- She told the parliament she was concerned about infiltration of the Liberal party by people with “extremist” views
- Ms Burnett-Wake lost her spot on the ticket for an upper house seat in Eastern Victoria
Upper House Member for Eastern Victoria Cathrine Burnett-Wake was widely expected to contest the November state election, but despite being personally endorsed by federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, he was instead tossed from the ticket when City Builder’s Church member Renee Heath won pre-selection.
In her tenure as the first Liberal female upper house member for Eastern Victoria, Ms Burnett-Wake served on inquiries into Victoria’s criminal justice system, children affected by parental incarceration, and extremism.
In her valedictory speech to parliament on Wednesday night, Ms Burnett-Wake said extremism was a danger to democracy.
“These cults try to splinter our society while, ironically, speaking of oneness and unity,” she said.
“Their extreme positions always serve the divide and conquer approach.
“Ordinary Victorians need to awaken to the threat from these groups.
“We must be vigilant, and we must ensure that our democracy is upheld.”
An ABC investigation last month found dozens of Liberal Party members, particularly in Gippsland, had recently left the party due to concerns about infiltration by church groups.
Stalwart party members told the ABC religious groups were teaming up to take over numerous Liberal Party branches in Gippsland.
In her valedictory speech, Ms Burnett-Wake told parliament ordinary Victorians needed to awaken to the threat from extremist groups.
“Some are involved in politics, building factions with detailed and effective plans to undermine and corrupt democracy in Victoria and Australia today,” she said.
“Infiltrate, impact, impel is their strategy.
“Their goal is to target faltering democratic institutions, where the well-organized minority can effectively disenfranchise the majority – removing moderate representation options from voters and degrading faith in democratic process.
“It is their determination to subvert democracy and the law that makes them unacceptably extreme,” Ms Burnett Wake told parliament.
“They cannot win mainstream support legitimately and rely on misinformation and cult-like practices to build a following.”
Liberal Party members have expressed concerns that progressive laws passed in recent years such as assisted dying, the legalization of sex work and making abortion more accessible have spurred extremists into policy making positions within the party.
“If we do not have a representative parliament, but groupings who have extreme views and hold the numbers, it means they will be able to set the legislative agenda without democratic checks and balances,” Ms Burnett-Wake said.
“That is concerning.”