Baillieu forced to cancel $1500-a-head fund-raiser
February 19, 2011
PREMIER Ted Baillieu has been forced to cancel a $1500-a-head Liberal Party fund-raiser featuring two senior ministers, after his government became embroiled in a cash-for-access controversy.
Despite Planning Minister Matthew Guy – one of the frontbenchers who was to headline the event – publicly defending the fund-raiser yesterday morning, the Premier pulled the plug on the function while the government develops a new code of conduct.
The Liberal function was being sponsored and hosted by Deloitte, the same company that is providing crucial advice to the Baillieu government on whether it should dump the trouble-plagued myki ticketing system.
The fund-raiser was advertised as a briefing on planning and transport, and promoted Mr Guy and Transport Minister Terry Mulder’s attendance.
Yesterday, Mr Baillieu denied that his ministers were ”for sale”, saying the government was working on a soon-to-be-announced policy on ministerial and staff conduct, fund-raising, gifts and hospitality.
”I have asked the party to put a hold on that [the Deloitte/Liberal fund-raiser] and I’m not reflecting on those particular events … so that any fund-raising can take place in an appropriate manner,” he said.
Mr Baillieu defended Mr Guy and Mr Mulder, saying they made the commitment to attend the fund-raiser in good faith at the request of the Liberal Party and probably ”haven’t given it a second thought”.
The Labor opposition has accused Mr Baillieu of double standards over Liberal fund-raising after he and senior ministers slammed Labor’s fund-raising practices when the Coalition was in opposition and promised the highest standards of probity if they won government.
Shadow scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula said the only reason the Premier cancelled the event was because the Liberal Party had been sprung. ”Only this morning [Friday] his own Planning Minister was vigorously defending the event,” he said.
”No cancellation, no code of conduct, can disguise the hypocrisy of Ted Baillieu and his colleagues on this issue.”
Mr Baillieu said he would deliver on his promise that he would ”set standards of integrity” in government.
Mr Guy and Mr Mulder did not respond to The Saturday Age when asked it if was appropriate they attend the February 24 fund-raiser.
Defending Liberal fund-raising arrangements, Mr Guy told ABC radio that he regularly met community groups and industry groups.
Mr Baillieu said the freeze on Liberal fund-raising events would not apply to functions such as the Liberal 500 Club event, held earlier this week, which he attended along with up to 10 government ministers.
The 500 Club charges an annual fee of $1380 for membership and promotes that it gives members regular access to politicians. Mr Baillieu said the 500 Club cocktail party was not a fund-raising event.