Voters and Liberal Party members were kept waiting more than 45 minutes to meet controversial candidate Katherine Deves last night as advisers schemed for her to avoid the media waiting at the Forestville RSL.
The event, with Liberal MP for Mackellar Jason Falinski, was billed as a ‘‘politics in the pub’’ style evening where journalists would ordinarily be welcome, but reporters and photographers were informed Deves would not enter the room under any circumstances if the media was present.
A compromise of sorts was reached: Deves could be photographed outside the RSL, where she would pause momentarily to make a statement and perhaps take one or two questions. That was quickly downgraded to a short statement only.
Veteran journalist Brad Norington, an associate editor at The Australian, made his displeasure known to Falinski’s adviser. ‘‘Is this an open democracy?’’ he asked. ‘‘Is she a candidate or not? This is a joke.’’
With the media assembled at the RSL’s doors, Deves finally arrived at 6.15pm in the back seat of an SUV. She was driven straight to the entrance; the door was opened for her and she approached the waiting cameras donning a black double-breasted coat adorned with a dark blue corsage.
‘‘I have fought for women and children, and now I’m fighting for Warringah,’’ she said. ‘‘Thank you all for coming along tonight. I am looking forward to campaigning hard over the next four weeks on the issues that affect the people in Warringah.’’
With that, Deves was immediately escorted inside by her campaign adviser James Flynn, a conservative Liberal operative who was once a staffer to state Liberal minister Anthony Roberts.
Deves was later joined by barrister Bridie Nolan, whose role in the campaign remains unclear but who has accompanied Deves to several events. Nolan is married to Warringah MP Zali Steggall’s ex-husband, David Cameron.
The close guarding of Deves comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared he would ‘‘not allow her to be silenced’’ because of her views and commentary on transgender issues, particularly regarding the participation of trans athletes in women’s sport.
‘‘I’m not going to allow her to be silenced, I’m not going to allow her to be pushed aside as the pile-on comes in to try and silence her,’’ Morrison said earlier in the week. ‘‘I’ll stand up with her. My team is standing up with her, and we will make sure that she won’t be silenced. I know there are plenty of people who would like to do that.’’
The Herald’s requests to interview Deves have so far been unsuccessful. One Liberal source said Deves had not been banned from speaking to the media but, at the same time, ‘‘she isn’t being encouraged to call into 2GB every day’’.
Earlier in the week, Deves was smuggled into the garage of a home where she was attending a fundraising event, to avoid Herald journalists waiting outside.
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