Minister for Jobs Kelly O'Dwyer retired from politics earlier this year. Picture: Sam Mooy/AAP Image
Minister for Jobs Kelly O'Dwyer retired from politics earlier this year. Picture: Sam Mooy/AAP Image

Government’s $16.5m gamble pays off

A $16.5 million sweetener was enough to save the key Coalition seat of Higgins from falling into the hands of Labor or the Greens.

Earlier this week, the government promised $16.5 million for mental health services in Melbourne's eastern suburbs - a move widely considered to be an attempt to "sandbag" Higgins.

The generous funding package includes $3.5 million for a Headspace centre in Glen Iris, and $13 million for a residential centre to treat eating disorders within the electorate.

While the seat was held by the government by a comfortable margin of 7.4 per cent, there are fears the high-profile exit of well-known frontbencher Kelly O'Dwyer earlier this year could gift the electorate to its rivals.

Ms O'Dwyer was replaced by Liberal candidate and doctor Katie Allen, and she has visibly supported her successor on the campaign trail.

Dr Allen was up against Labor's Fiona McLeod and the Greens' Jason Ball.

RELATED: Live federal election results

Kelly O'Dwyer has thrown her support behind her replacement, Higgins’ candidate Katie Allen. Picture: David Geraghty/The Australian
Kelly O'Dwyer has thrown her support behind her replacement, Higgins’ candidate Katie Allen. Picture: David Geraghty/The Australian

Higgins has previously been held by prime ministers Harold Holt and John Gorton, as well as former treasurer Peter Costello.

But while Ms Allen is still a relative newcomer, she proved her political mettle after previously running as a state election candidate.

This week, she told the Herald Sun her focus was firmly on the economy.

"We need a strong economy because only that will support funding for all the vital services such as health and education," she said.

But barrister and human rights advocate Fiona McLeod told the publication voters were sick of "the revolving door" of leaders as well as "the conservative fringe holding government hostage".

"Higgins deserves to be represented by someone who can argue the case for our values and to work inside government for real change," Ms McLeod said.

Other candidates include Sustainable Australia candidate Michaela Moran, the

Animal Justice Party's Alicia Walker and United Australia Party candidate Tim Ryan.

Higgins is one of Australia's richest and most highly-educated electorates and it has never been held by Labor.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au


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