JOSH GORDONMay 16, 2010
DEPUTY Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been recruited by her former boss – Victorian Premier John Brumby – to help bankroll the coming state election campaign with a business fund-raiser.
Victorian Labor’s fund-raising arm, Progressive Business, has begun sending out invitations for its ”Canberra Meets Spring Street” dinner in the race fill the Labor war chest before the November 27 state poll.
For a fee of $990 for members and $1265 for non-members, business leaders are being offered the opportunity to dine at a table hosted by a state or federal cabinet minister. Mr Brumby and Ms Gillard will deliver keynote addresses.
Progressive Business ran into controversy in November last year after The Age reported that coal industry executive Allan Blood paid $10,000 for a ”gold sponsorship” of a table at a fund-raising dinner that allowed him to ”bend the ear” of Mr Brumby for much of the evening.
It faces continuing allegations of allowing wealthy donors to buy both access and influence with senior ministers.
Dinner guests will also be given the chance bid in a silent auction for a much-sought-after set of lithographs by some of Australia’s best-known artists, which were discovered recently in a cupboard at ALP headquarters by state secretary Nick Reece.
The lithographs, that had until recently been left buried with 30 years worth of ALP campaign detritus, include works by Clifton Pugh, John Olsen and John Brack. The single set of eight out of 22 sets in total is expected to fetch about $15,000, with a second set to be auctioned later in the year.
Mr Reece said some of the money raised would also be used to help Labor’s campaign in the federal election.
”Everybody knows the Liberal Party is loaded and Labor needs every lucky break it can get,” Mr Reece said. ”We still have a long way to go to match the huge resources the Liberal Party in Victoria has behind it.”
The dinner, to be held at Zinc at Federation Square, will be hosted by the entire state government frontbench, as well as an impressive contingent of federal ministers, including Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, Health Minister Nicola Roxon, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Simon Crean, Families Minister Jenny Macklin and Industry Minister Kim Carr.
In a letter to potential attendees, Progressive Business executive director Richard Vines writes that the event provides the ”ideal platform for business and government leaders to interact and build dialogue”.
The restaurant’s website boasts it can cater for 450 people for a sit-down dinner, ”with a generous dance floor and separate pre-dinner drinks area”. That suggests the event is likely to raise in excess of $300,000 for the Brumby Labor government, excluding proceeds from the auction.
Progressive Business is reportedly aiming to raise up to $1 million from events for state-Labor coffers this year.
Fund-raising events have been reconfigured to avoid perceptions that the biggest donors are given special access to senior politicians.
Mr Vines told The Sunday Age invitations had only just been sent out, so he was unsure about the numbers who would be attending. He said it was a ”one-price-fits-all event”.
”We try to get as many people in the room as we can, and it certainly promises to be an enjoyable night,” Mr Vines said.