With the polls showing a swing of 6-10% to Labor in Victoria, one curious aspect of this election is the lack of any discussion about the prospect of Peter Costello losing his seat of Higgins.

I’m certainly hoping that happens and have decided to distribute 40,000 how-to-vote cards next Saturday recommending voters put Labor 6th and Costello 7th with only Family First behind them.

This decision was confirmed after an on-air preference negotiation through community radio station RRR with Labor factional strongman Stephen Conroy at 1am on Sunday morning.

Conroy publicly undertook that Crikey would be allowed into future Federal budget lock-ups and with Peter Costello refusing to make such a commitment, the preference allocation was sealed.

Sunday Herald Sun columnist Brendan Donohoe, a Higgins constituent, noted yesterday that the Treasurer has done three personalised mailouts during the election campaign. Other constituents have claimed there have been seven over the past few months.

AEC returns suggest that Costello has raised about $2 million for his personal election campaigns over the past five years – more than almost any other Federal MP – and he’s certainly spending a good whack of that trying to save his seat.

With the Ruddslide now seeming inevitable, ministerial losses and Senate control are the two big issues to watch on Saturday night.

Kevin Rudd keeps equating winning 16 seats to “climbing Mt Everest”, but Kim Beazley blew that one out of the water on Sunday morning at 12.40am on RRR when he claimed that equivalent percentage seat changes have occurred in four of the last 10 federal elections.

Peter Costello is certainly more vulnerable than the other high profile Victorian Ministers as these margins from 2004 demonstrate:

Peter Costello, Higgins: 8.8%
Andrew Robb, Goldstein: 10.03%
Kevin Andrews, Menzies: 10.67%

Indeed, in metropolitan Melbourne, Greg Hunt in Flinders (11.11%) and Costello’s parliamentary secretary, Chris Pearce in Aston (13.15%), are both on more comfortable margins than the man who could become Prime Minister as early as next week if Maxine McKew gets up in Bennelong but Labor falls short.

It has certainly been hard getting a message out through the mainstream press this election – the Herald Sun and The Australian are still yet to mention the Higgins tilt and even Crikey has discouraged coverage.

A lot of people will look pretty silly if Costello does lose his seat on Saturday and I reckon there’s a 30% chance this will happen.

Despite all our advice, Stephen Mayne is running as an independent in Higgins.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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