As the Parliamentary Liberal Party contemplates its leadership future, members should perhaps give more than a passing glance to what happened in the Victorian seats of McMillan and Kooyong.

McMillan is one of those quintessential swinging seats where the Liberal member Russell Broadbent has become accustomed to political swings and round-a bouts. He first entered the House of Representatives as the member for Corinella in 1990 but was defeated at the general election of 1993. When that seat was abolished in a redistribution Broadbent was back again trying for McMillan in 1996, won the seat only to be defeated again in 1998.

A lesser man would have called it quits but Russell Broadbent kept trying. He failed in 2001 but returned as the member for McMillan in 2004.

Over the last three years of the Howard era, Broadbent proved that for him politics was about principles more than pragmatism. With a courage rare for backbenchers he dared to confront his Prime Minister over the treatment of asylum seekers. For good measure he was one of those Liberals prepared to take on the religious activists and vote for changes to legislation covering stem cell research.

On Saturday his constituents rewarded him for his courage. While all around him Liberal members suffered big swings against them, McMillan stayed rock solid for its liberal Liberal. The swing against Broadbent was but 0.62% compared with the Victorian swing of 5.8%.

In Kooyong Petro Georgiou similarly withstood the anti-Liberal tide. The former adviser to Malcolm Fraser and former State Secretary of the Liberal Party lost just 0.7% of his vote. It was a wonderful endorsement of his courage in standing up to Howard’s bullying over refugee and multicultural policy.

Hopefully the new leader of the Liberal Party will use Petro’s considerable talents instead of leaving him on the backbench.

Peter Fray

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