Victoria’s health minister has lashed the Liberal party for selecting a conservative anti-abortion councillor to replace the controversial MP Bernie Finn, labelling her a “clone” of her predecessor.
Melton City councillor Moira Deeming was endorsed for selection for the upper house Western Metropolitan Region seat at a Liberal party convention on Saturday night, ahead of the November state election.
She will replace Bernie Finn who was booted from the parliamentary Liberal party in May following a post on Facebook where he called for abortion to be banned, even for survivors of rape. Guardian Australia does not suggest Deeming shares Finn’s views. However, Deeming has described abortion as a “terrible evil” and has called for the appeal of abortion law in Australia.
The Victorian health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, said she was “outraged” at Deeming’s selection.
“What we’ve seen here is a political party that made a big song and dance about kicking out Bernie Finn. And now they’ve preselected a Bernie Finn clone,” she said.
“Here in Victoria, we believe that abortion is a healthcare service.”
The opposition said Thomas’s comments were intended to deflect from problems in the state’s health sector and integrity issues uncovered in a scathing report into the Victorian Labor party, released last week.
“What she should be outraged about is the parlous state of Victoria’s health system and the fact of widespread rorting and corruption overseen by the government which she is a part of,” opposition health spokeswoman, Georgie Crozier, said.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said Deeming had expressed her views in a respectful way and was entitled to have a different point of view to the government.
“In the Liberal party we actually pride ourselves in people having different points of view,’ he said.
Deeming, a qualified teacher, has also been critical of the the Safe Schools program, describing the content as “sleazy”, and called for separate toilets for transgender people.
Asked if he had concerns about the candidate, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said any “weaponised” political debate was harmful to the LGTBQI community.
“I’m not here to comment on the Liberal party and some of the transphobic, homophobic and frankly … un-Victorian kind of hatred,” he told reporters on Sunday. “It just doesn’t work.
“We’re all equal, we all should be respected. We all should be safe. We all should be valued for who we are and we shouldn’t have to be hiding who we are. We shouldn’t have to be fearful that we’re not going to be accepted.”
Last week, Guy said he expected “discipline” from Liberal MPs and for his colleagues to “uphold standards in their public discourse”.
Finn, who has been a member of parliament since 2006, will lead the Democratic Labour party into the state election.
Guardian Australia has contacted Deeming for comment.