I feel a bit uneasy about
agreeing with Noel Crichton-Browne, but he made a valid point in
Thursday’s Crikey: the result in Kooyong was not really as one-sided as
commentators have been making out. As I said back in March, Frydenberg
never had the slightest chance of winning. His performance was actually
towards the high end of expectations.

It was natural for the
media to concentrate on the “Alexander Downer egg-on-face” aspect of
the story, but in terms of the struggle for control of the Victorian
Liberal Party, that was always a side issue. There is no evidence that
Downer and his allies on the national right were making any serious
effort to establish a power base in Victoria, and certainly no
likelihood that they would succeed if they did.

The Victorian
party remains divided between the ruling Kroger-Costello group and the
anti-Kroger forces represented locally by state upper house MP David
Davis. Georgiou had the support of both: that’s why he won. Why, then,
did so many vote against him?

Crichton-Browne is also right, I
suspect, to say that Georgiou’s policy views had little or nothing to
do with it. He has won respect from many sections of the community
(including me) for his stance on refugees, but that’s not the sort of
thing that plays in Liberal Party branches, either positively or
negatively. Georgiou is widely disliked for more personal reasons: he
is seen as arrogant, and doesn’t spend the time schmoozing his branch
members. Frydenberg’s support seems to have been mostly a protest vote
from disaffected locals.

This is why the Kroger/Costello forces
have muttered, for about as long as anyone can remember, about making
their own challenge to Georgiou. The candidate most often talked about
is current state director Julian Sheezel, but other names mentioned
include Michael Kroger himself, who turned down the opportunity the
last time Kooyong was vacant. It’s not impossible that they could
succeed, but it would be a tough fight against Davis’s formidable local
organisation.

More seriously, though, if Georgiou was beaten for
preselection there is a fear that he would run as an independent – and,
with preferences from the Greens and the ALP, he could quite possibly
win.

Peter Fray

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