There’s catering, and there’s catering, and then there’s currying favour.

The Liberal Party fundraiser at Kirribilli House has raised eyebrows, and a sense of wonder that so many could be so well fed for so little. $9.46 per person for food, and $6.56 for drinks. We spoke to three high-end Sydney caterers to find out just what that budget might get you — and it seems that if you’re a politician and your function is being attended by business leaders who have paid up to $8,000 a head for a weekend of access to ministers (never mind seafood), a minuscule outlay could go a very long way. Right up to all you can eat.

If the miserly spend actually reflected the value of the food, you’d be lucky to get ”finger sandwiches and non-alcoholic drinks”, said one. But many corporate caterers will do functions at cost, or even for free, if the event is high profile enough. Sponsorship deals with suppliers, an abundance of good quality and cheap Australian wines, and good chefs who know what they’re doing means it’s “absolutely achievable” to provide at least 10 canapes per person, plus drinks for around $16 a head.

A Liberal Party fundraiser is just the ticket for a little high-end catering contra. The fee won’t cover costs, but it will buy a bucketload of influence and contacts. That’s pretty good value for money and a different story altogether.