Petro Georgiou
will make his first major public appearance since releasing his private
member’s bill on mandatory detention tomorrow evening when he speaks at
a forum organised by A Just Australia at Melbourne University.

is the quintessential backroom boy. Talent-spotted by another
behind-the-scenes man, Tony Staley, he was installed in Malcolm
Fraser’s office as the events of 1975 drew towards their climax, and
was the Victorian Liberal Party director for Jeff Kennett’s two
triumphant 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

While the private member’s bills are his, and he has led the
negotiations and clearly devised the strategy, Georgiou has shunned the
media, communicating by written statements and the odd line from a
spokesman. WA MP Judi Moylan has been the public face of the campaign.

is interesting from two perspectives. Moylan is a former minister,
which adds immediate authority to the dissidents. Moylan also
represents a crucial demographic in this debate. Putting it bluntly,
she could be the perfect doctor’s wife – an educated, well-heeled,
articulate professional woman in her early sixties. She represents the
type of Liberal voters and party members who have deserted the party,
who cost the government the seat of Adelaide at the last election, and
who are likely to pick up the phone or front Liberal MPs to tell them
that they disagree with mandatory detention.

There have been persistent rumours that Georgiou will face a challenge in his seat of Kooyong. They have turned up again in The Australian
today. The list of contenders in the paper includes former Alexander
Downer and John Howard adviser, Josh Frydenberg, John Pesuttor, a
former staffer to Georgiou supporter Russell Broadbent, Victorian MLC
and faction heavy David Davis and state Liberal Party president Helen
Kroger. There are the Andrew Bolt rumours. Some sources will even tell
you that Michael Kroger will run, to give his pal Peter Costello the
bit of backbone needed to challenge for the top job. Kroger, after all,
had the chance to go for Kooyong when Andrew Peacock retired back in

Kooyong is an interesting seat thesedays. It was Sir
Robert Menzies’ electorate and is seen as the bluest of blue-ribbon
Liberal electorates. But it isn’t. It’s safe, but now held by less than
10%. In contrast, Aston, the outer-Melbourne suburban seat the Liberals
feared losing in the pre-Tampa by-election in 2001 has a 13.2% margin.

Kooyong voters are well educated, well heeled, professional – and likely to speak out.

Panopoulos demonstrated yesterday that she has a limited understanding
of British history and Westminster tradition with her “terrorist”

Georgiou doesn’t have this problem – hence his
spokesman’s comment that the detention debate is a serious issue of
principle and conscience in the best traditions of the Liberal Party.
Neither do Kooyong voters. Would they elect him as an independent?
There are plenty of doctor’s wives in Melbourne’s inner east.