After the very public preselection brawls of the Victorian ALP, it’s
now the Liberal Party’s turn to undergo the same thing, or at least a
feeble echo thereof. The long-touted challenge to member for Kooyong Petro Georgiou by former Howard staffer Joshua Frydenberg is finally under way.

Georgiou has been one of the most influential MPs
in the Howard government, with significant victories on juvenile
sentencing and mandatory detention to his credit. But many locals are
upset by his failure to be a “team player”, and his disdain for the
usual glad-handing and routine duties of a local member. This may
result in something of a protest vote for Frydenberg.

But Frydenberg has no chance of winning. Georgiou will be comfortably
re-endorsed, because he has the backing of both factions in the
Victorian party: the controlling Kroger/Costello group and their
opponents, represented in Kooyong by local powerbroker David Davis.

Frydenberg’s boosters, who have had a strong run in the media, consist
of two groups: Victorian has-beens, and Right-wingers from interstate.
Outside of Victoria, the Liberal Party is generally divided into
recognisable Left and Right wings. The Left is pro-Costello, the Right
anti. So although most of the Costello group in Victoria think of
themselves as on the Right, their interstate alliances are generally on
the Left.

As Glenn Milne
explained two weeks ago, the interstate Right, characterised by people
like Alexander Downer, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott and Santo Santoro, has
no real counterpart in Victoria. Frydenberg, who is close to Downer, is
their attempt to get a foot in the door.

The anti-Costello forces will resist him because Georgiou is their man.
But so will the pro-Costello forces; partly for the interstate
factional dynamic, evident this morning in support for Georgiou
from NSW Left-winger Bruce Baird, but also because they want to keep
the seat warm for one of their own. The name most often mentioned is
current state director Julian Sheezel.

Also on the record this morning was John Howard. Himself from the NSW
Right but ever-conscious of the need for party unity, he said through a
spokesman that he “supported all sitting members” – just the sort of
bland statement that could have saved Kim Beazley a lot of trouble
earlier this month.

Peter Fray

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