Victorian Liberals fear far-right incursions as YouTuber attends party event Express News
Senior Liberal figures fear far-right identities are being allowed to cosy up to elements of the party’s Victorian branch, a move they say could destroy their chances at the next state election.
Last Thursday night, Dia Beltran, a far-right personality with links to Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell, attended a Liberal fundraiser for the Sunbury, Sydenham and St Albans areas in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
The fundraiser was hosted by the Victorian state upper house MP Bernie Finn, and was attended by the party’s state president, Robert Clark.
A senior Liberal source alerted Guardian Australia to Beltran’s presence at the event. He said associating with the far right would damage his party’s chances in Victoria, a broadly progressive state.
“Frankly, the Liberal party does not need these people in it,” he said. “If we didn’t get hammered enough at the state election, we certainly will next time if this continues.”
Private Facebook posts obtained by Guardian Australia show Beltran – who also refers to herself as Claudia Benitez – and a fellow supporter of Fraser Anning at the event with Liberal figures. In one picture Beltran stands alongside the former Liberal state candidate Moira Deeming.
Deeming confirmed she had met the woman pictured in one of the Facebook posts during the fundraiser, but said she did not know her by the name of “Dia”.
“The event was open for anybody to book online,” Deeming said. “Yes, I met that woman. She did not introduce herself as ‘Dia’.”
Guardian Australia understands “Dia Beltran” is an online alias.
The Victorian Liberal party did not answer a series of questions about Beltran’s attendance. The acting state director, Simon Frost, issued a one-line statement, saying: “There is no room for extremist views of any kind in the Liberal party.”
Finn did not return requests for comment.
The presence of Beltran did not break any party rules or laws.
But it has some in the party on edge. Last year a highly organised effort by alt-right figures to infiltrate the New South Wales Young Nationals prompted an internal investigation, and the involvement of Asio, Australia’s domestic spy agency.
Beltran regularly hosts the likes of Erikson, Cottrell and the former senator Fraser Anning on her YouTube channel.
Although mostly a fringe figure in Australia’s far right, Beltran has appeared on rightwing site the Unshackled and has given a platform to the likes of Andrew Nolch, the man who defaced the memorial of the murdered Melbourne woman Eurydice Dixon last year.
More recently, Beltran was with Erikson when he disrupted a service at a progressive church in Melbourne’s inner suburbs in May.
Video from the event shows Erikson pointing to a rainbow flag and saying “faggots”, before repeatedly disrupting the service. At one stage Erikson engaged in a heated confrontation with the parishioners, who had become increasingly upset by his refusal to leave.
Erikson was one of the ringleaders of the former anti-Islam group the United Patriots Front. He has previously been convicted for inciting contempt against Muslims after he staged a mock beheading of a mannequin, and last year disrupted a church service held by the progressive reverend Rod Bowers in Gosford on the NSW central coast.
On Friday a spokeswoman from the Victorian police told Guardian Australia the incident at the Melbourne church was under investigation.
“Boroondara police are currently investigating an incident at a church in Hawthorn East on Sunday 12 May,” she said.
“It is believed that a man interrupted a religious service and proceeded to protest using homophobic slurs and inappropriate language.”
Following the incident at the Melbourne church, Beltran posted a rambling “clarification” on her YouTube page in which she stated she “stands with Jesus Christ [and] Israel Folau” and that she “could not have predicted how the actions of others could have escalated to what occurred”.
“Last night I had the idea to attend a progressive church with the intention of listening to their views, questioning their interpretation of the Christian doctrine and then making a video reviewing the events,” she said.
“Needless to say this did not take place. In my naivety I could not have predicted how the actions of others could have escalated to what occurred.
“The approach used was not one I agree with or approve of. You are not the company you keep.”
When Guardian Australia contacted her for comment, she said: “I do not give interviews to mainstream media. Thank you for your inquiry.”