Media would normally be welcomed at an event like this – dubbed “politics in the pub” – but were prohibited from entering on Friday, leaving voters and party members waiting for 45 minutes as Ms Deves team worked out how to navigate the landscape.
She has apologised for the Twitter posts, where she wrote “half of all males with trans identities are sex offenders” and she also called trans people “surgically mutilated and sterilised”.
Her team initially advised media could take photographs outside and Ms Deves would answer a couple of questions, but this was reduced to a short statement.
“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.”
The Prime Minister handpicked Ms Deves to run for Warringah, an electorate currently represented by independent Zali Steggall, who won the seat from former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott in 2019.
Mr Morrison said he won’t allow Ms Deves to be silenced amid calls to dump the candidate, claiming she “regrets” the comments she made.
Despite this, Ms Deves has faced criticism from within the Liberal Party.
Minister for Women Marise Payne has refused to endorse her, while Liberal Party state MP Felicity Wilson described her as a “false ally” for women.
“In my community, I am being asked to vote for someone who is using equality for women as a thin veil to disguise offensive attacks on transgender people – a group of people clamouring for their own safety and opportunity,” Ms Wilson wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Senator Anne Ruston earlier called Ms Deves comments “absolutely unacceptable” but backed away from moves to dump her