Victorian rightwing MP Bernie Finn has been expelled from the state’s parliamentary Liberal team for posting on Facebook that abortion should be banned, even for survivors of rape.
In a decision that resulted in Finn describing the party he joined four decades ago as “dead”, Liberal MPs voted to expel him during a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.
Finn will be forced to sit on the crossbench in the upper house and is unlikely to be preselected ahead of November’s state election.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said the Victorian Liberal party “welcomes a wide and diverse range of views” but expected MPs “to be team players and uphold standards in their public discourse”.
“In many ways, it is disappointing that it has come to this but we expect discipline from all members of the parliamentary party,” he told reporters after the vote.
Guy denied the party was “navel gazing” following the federal election, in which the Liberals lost the blue-ribbon inner Melbourne seats of Goldstein and Kooyong to teal independents, and Higgins to Labor.
“It is about moving on and being a sensible alternative government,” he said.
Finn was not present at the party room meeting. After the vote, he met about 50 supporters gathered on the front steps of parliament, holding signs reading “thank you Bernie”, “free speech” and “liberalism is dead”, as well as others with anti-abortion slogans.
Finn said he joined the Liberal party when he was 19 years old because it was “the party of freedom”, “human rights” and standing for “those who couldn’t defend for themselves”.
“What we have seen today is a statement from the leader of our party that the party I joined 41 years ago is dead,” Finn said. “The party of Menzies and Howard is no more. Not in Victoria. It used to be jewel of the Liberal crown but it doesn’t exist any more.”
“If you hold a view different to the leader in this party you run the risk of expulsion. I have done nothing wrong. What do they do to somebody that does something wrong? Can we expect a lynching on the steps here?”
Earlier this month, Finn wrote on Facebook he was “praying” for abortion to be banned in Australia.
His comments came after the leak of a draft decision showing a majority of US supreme court justices may overturn Roe v Wade, which ruled abortion was a constitutional right.
In his post, Finn said “killing babies is criminal”. When a woman commented that she did not support abortion but believed there should be options for women who are victims of rape, Finn replied: “Babies should not be killed for the crime of his or her parent.”
He has since doubled down on the comments in several media interviews, noting his views on abortion are well known and longstanding.
Guy on Tuesday said Finn was warned on several occasions about the content of his Facebook page, including a post in which he compared the premier, Daniel Andrews, to Adolf Hitler.
“We’ve seen enough examples over the last few weeks but also months before it, referring to Hitler for instance, I just think the debate needs to be respectful,” he said.
Finn has also described a former female staffer as a rat, likened Victoria police to the “modern incarnation of the Despot’s militia” and shared pro-Trump conspiracy theories including the claim that the former president was “improperly” removed from office.
Finn, who has been an upper house MP since 2006 after a seven-year stint in the lower house, said he was considering retiring following the 26 November state election but now has a “new lease on life”. He said may join another political party or run as an independent.
“I can guarantee that I’m going on, just as I will not be bullied by Daniel Andrews, I will not be bullied by Matthew Guy either,” he said.
“Let us form a new movement, if we must, if that’s what needed … no more will we allow our voice to be crushed by people who do not want to hear what we have to say.”
It comes as Victorian Liberals are split on the party’s strategy for the next six months, with some concerned banking on a backlash against the premier after several Covid-19 lockdowns, as their federal counterparts did, will not be enough.
Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said Finn’s position in the Liberal party was a “matter for them”.
“We’ll let them deal with their bitter factional war,” he said.