John Howard’s draconian detention policy for both illegal immigrants and refugees doesn’t sit well with some of his own Liberal Party MPs. They deem it too harsh and unAustralian.
Led by the Petro Georgiou, MP for Kooyong, a number of Liberal Party MPs may cross party lines to vote for a Private Member’s Bill (to be introduced by Georgiou) that calls for the release of refugees’ children and long time detainees into the Australian community while their cases continue to be heard. They don’t want to see detainees ‘lost forever’ behind barbwires.
Georgiou's constituency, Kooyong is a Liberal Party’s blue ribbon seat, virtually the very heart of political conservatism, so he isn't your typical do-gooder leftwinger. The spectre of refugees' children held behind barbwire has been and still is very troubling even to many conservative Australians like Georgiou.
While rare even in Australia, crossing party lines to vote against one’s own party had occurred in Australian Parliament before, and reflected the admirable consciences of some MPs. Even the now-very-rightwing Attorney General (and former Immigration Minister) Philip Ruddock had once crossed party lines to vote on his conscience.
This is one political gesture of conscience that is unlikely to be seen in the Malaysian or Singaporean parliaments.
However, Sophie Panopoulos, also a Liberal Party MP, has condemned Georgiou and his group for acting like political terrorists in threatening the government with the embarrassment of crossing party lines over an issue that is supported by the majority of Liberal Party members.
She is of course wrong in her belief that the majority of her Party MPs supported the hardline detention policy, as silence among the others doesn’t necessarily mean support. They could just be chickenhearted.
Some have condemned Sophie Panopoulos comments as downright ‘silly’. But I don’t think so. No, I don’t support her comments, but a silly woman she certainly isn't - in fact, far from it.
Sophie Panopoulos came to public notice during the last referendum on the issue of an Australian republic, where she proved to be a formidable speaker for the monarchist lobby. A lawyer, she’s smart, highly qualified, attractive, young, articulated and very vitriolic in her attacks on the Republican movements, so much so, that Malcolm Turnbull, a Liberal Party rising star, and the former leader of the Republican movement, in his book Fighting for the Republic described her as particularly ‘vicious’.
I have been observing Panopoulos' actions - one couldn't but help notice her the way she had gone about them. I reckon the ambitious and very savvy Panopoulos knows that the short cut to the top echelon of the Liberal Party is to project herself as an ardent and articulate supporter of PM John Howard, so as to attract his favourable notice. Hence her strategy appears to be always siding Howard, and in an ostentatious manner.
Howard is of course a staunch monarchist and the champion of the tough government’s policy on mandatory detention. Personally I am not sure whether Panopoulos is the monarchist that she portrayed herself to be, but what does that matter so long as Howard notices her, and he most certainly has.
But watch out for her career. This lady will surely climb up the political ladder.