Georgiou has paid a significant price for his principled approach to politics. When the coalition came to office, Georgiou was a rising star and was expected to play a senior role in government. However, he and Howard come from fundamentally different perspectives in their support for the Liberal cause. Georgiou is a liberal in the classic sense - one who believes in the autonomy of the individual and the need for progressive social policy. Howard, though, is a conservative who grew up in an era of Menzies' "forgotten people" and sees his political purpose as to continue the struggle for middle class people, usually with middle class conservative values. It is this difference - and Howard's reluctance to put aside personal differences for the sake of the party - which has kept Georgiou out of the ministry for so long.
I've seen Georgiou up close. In 2001 I was the Democrat candidate in Georgiou's seat of Kooyong. Throughout, I was at pains to emphasise to voters that I had no problem with Georgiou as an individual - indeed, I freely admitted that he was a Liberal I admired. Given the considerable respect he commands amongst his constituents, there was little point in attacking Georgiou head on. For me (at that time, at least) Geogiou was the best of a bad lot of stuffy conservatives.
It is unsurprising that Georgiou is the Liberal MP leading the charge against the government's draconian refugee policy. Like his positions on compulsory voting (he's in favour), mandatory sentencing (he's against) or SBS (he founded it, well kinda), it is a position grounded in principle rather than pragmatism. This looks like a battle he might not win. But in standing up for a strand of liberalism which has been mercilessly crushed in John Howard's Liberal Party, Georgiou is presenting himself as an alternative voice not just on refugee issues but on attitudes to social policy. For that we should all be thankful.