The NSW Nationals are demanding donations of up to $50,000 in an attempt to shore up their deteriorating fundraising performance ahead of an expected clampdown on donations in NSW.
The Election Funding and Disclosures Amendment Bill currently before the NSW Parliament will cap donations to political parties at $5000 per individual or company/company group. The Bill is supported by the Greens; the Coalition opposes sections of the bill relating to trade union spending.
But Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said recently he plans to restrict donations to individuals only, meaning that significant restrictions on donations are coming to NSW regardless of who’s in power.
In order to try to frontload donations ahead of the restrictions, the Nationals, who will return to government for the first time in 16 years in March in Coalition with the Liberals, have now begun offering $50,000 “Platinum” Packages providing access to a list of events throughout 2011. There is also a $30,000 “Gold package available, a “Silver” Package for $16,000 and a “Bronze” one for $8,000.
Instead of selling access to events as they occur, which would mean they would be subject to whichever donations regime is put in place in 2011, the packages mean donations will be subject to the current NSW rules, which only limit donations by property developers.
In contrast to Commonwealth disclosure laws, however, NSW electoral disclosure laws do require the disclosure of donations made in exchange for access, which is regarded as a consideration purchased by the donor under Commonwealth law and therefore not subject to disclosure requirements.
In the first six months of 2010, donations to the Nationals slumped 20% over the preceding six month period, according to NSW Electoral Funding Authority data. 2011 is likely to be the first NSW election in which the Nationals will be outpolled by the Greens.
The packages are advertised in a new glossy brochure from the Nationals called “National Engagement 2011: Vision/Dialogue/Growth” recently released by NSW Nationals Chairman (sic) Christine Ferguson.
Ferguson says the packages are “a great way for you to get to know some of the key players in future Coalition Governments and to provide your ideas and feedback to senior members of the Nationals’ team.”
The Platinum package will give you access to the full slate of Nationals events during the course of 2011. These include:
a VIP table of nine at the Nats’ state election launch dinner on 4 February;
five tickets to the “Women in Leadership Drinks” attended by Pru Goward and a number of female frontbenchers;
five tickets to a “Leaders’ Luncheon” with O’Farrell and Nats leader Andrew Stoner in June or July
a VIP table of nine at the Federal Coalition Leadership Dinner in October with Tony Abbott and Warren Truss;
three spots on a “relaxed and intimate afternoon cruise around Sydney Harbour” with Andrew Stoner and deputy Adrian Piccoli in November
five tickets to “celebrate the festive season” with the entire NSW Nationals next December;
two “private boardroom meetings” with a senior NSW Nat of your choosing;
two tickets to a January “industry luncheon” with shadow industry minister Duncan Gay and Stoner, a “communications luncheon” with Malcolm Turnbull and Luke Hartsuyker in April, a “senators’ drinks” in June (just before the Senate Nationals become irrelevant with the Greens taking the balance of power), “Business Drinks” in July 2011, a “Gaming, Racing and Sport Luncheon” in August and an “Infrastructure and Regional Development Luncheon” with Truss, Barnaby Joyce and Darren Chester in November.
Purchase of the cheaper packages gets you various permutations of those events. Platinum, Gold and Silver Package members will also be given one-on-one meetings with senior Nats at the party conference next August in the “vibrant and sunny town of Port Macquarie”, as well as daily acknowledgement by the conference chair of your generosity, free ads and access to all conference events.
The Nationals’ packages are as expensive as similar packages available from the Liberal and Labor parties. The Liberals’ Millenium Forum offers packages ranging from $10,000 for business sponsors up to $50,000 for “Major Sponsors” and Labor’s top “Business Dialogue” events membership is just under $60,000. The country cousins are charging the same amount as the major parties, despite offering access only to the junior Coalition partner.