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Time to go, Petro

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Thursday, 23 June 2005

After 10 years as the member for Kooyong, Petro Georgiou appears to have finally achieved his 15 minutes of fame. But simply because Prime Minister Howard has modified Australia's detention policy cannot disguise the fact that Mr Georgiou has passed his use-by-date.

While the Liberal Party might be a broad church, the fact is the member for Kooyong's views on issues like mandatory detention and asylum-seekers are so out of the ball park that he would be better suited joining the Democrats or the Greens.

Under Prime Minister Howard, the Coalition Government has consistently argued for border protection and for taking a hard line on illegal asylum-seekers. Political pundits argue that the 2001 federal election was won on the issue and last year the Australian electorate overwhelmingly endorsed the Government's stand. Not only have the boats stopped coming, but as any visitor to Italy, Germany and France can tell you, while parts of Europe are being swamped by illegal migrants causing increased crime, social dislocation and violence, Australia is safe.


Of course, the member for Kooyong has a long history of championing Left-wing views on a range of social issues. Take multiculturalism.

As adviser to Malcolm Fraser and as head of the Institute of Multicultural Affairs, Mr Georgiou strongly supported multiculturalism. This was the time when millions were being wasted on the multicultural industry promoting diversity and difference at the expense of what we hold in common; when Australians were told they were racist and our Anglo-Celtic heritage was belittled and ignored.

Under Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the Liberal leader Andrew Peacock, the seat of Kooyong was the jewel in the crown of the Victoria Liberal division. After 10 years with Mr Georgiou as its member, membership is static and fund-raising is poor.

During elections instead of being the powerhouse it once was supplying manpower and resources to marginal seats, Kooyong has enough trouble manning its own polling booths.

At last year's federal election, Liberal results in the state were beyond all expectation. Outer suburban seats like Aston, with Chris Pearce, had a swing of more than 7 per cent, Tony Smith in Casey achieved a 4 per cent swing and in the bush, Sophie Panopoulos gained more than 5 per cent.

Compare the results achieved by the upcoming young bloods of the Liberal Party with Kooyong, one of the only Liberal seats in Victoria to go backwards, with a swing against Mr Georgiou of 1.39 per cent.


On a two-party preferred basis the sad fact is that Liberal strongholds like Kooyong, at 59 per cent, are quickly being outpaced by seats such as Aston, on 63 per cent, Casey, on 61 per cent and Indi on 66 per cent of the vote.

More than 10 years ago, when first chosen for Kooyong, Mr Georgiou was praised as the future of the Liberal Party. Even Don Watson, former Prime Minister Paul Keating's speechwriter, applauded the decision as a canny political move.

How wrong.

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First published in the Herald Sun on June 21, 2005.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at

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