It looks as if it’s going to be a long, long time before Peter Costello gets the keys to the Lodge – so are some of his cronies looking to buy him one?

The Age reports “Some of Australia’s biggest business and political names, including Federal Treasurer Peter Costello and trucking tycoon Lindsay Fox, have locked horns over the prized Stonnington Mansion as the contentious sale of the Malvern landmark comes to a head this week.”

The 1890 residence was built in 1890 for one of the founders of Cobb & Co, John Wagner. Currently, it’s owned by Deakin University. And it’s in the middle of Cossie’s own electorate of Higgins. The Mayor of the City of Stonnington – it takes its name from the house – John Chandler, has confirmed that Cossie has offered funds to keep the property in public hands if the state government plays along.

The council has warned it will use its planning powers to make life difficult for any private purchasers, but big names are lining up.

Lindsay Fox is understood to have offered around $35 million to use the property as a private residence or a Melbourne campus for Geelong Grammar. Steve Buxton, from the Buxton property firm, is a bidder along with business partner Paul Hameister. And the well connected, Liberal linked investment banker Joe Gersh is also understood to be bidding.

Stonnington Council and the feds have offered up to $5 million to keep the property in public hands.

The Victorian government, however, has some sneaking suspicions that “public” may just mean government-owned – not open to the public – in this case.

They remember the calls for a prime ministerial residence in Melbourne. And they reckon that spending up to $40 million for a property in the off chance Cossie gets the top job may just be, as Kevin Rudd would put it, a bridge too far.

Peter Fray

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