Today’s Telegraph carries an “exclusive” revealed in Crikey a fortnight ago, that the Federal Government will consider an outright ban on political donations in its forthcoming Green Paper on electoral and political funding issues. The Telegraph perceptively notes that such a ban would raise issues about third-party political campaigns. Well spotted, guys.
The story comes the day that the ALP has issued invitations to its Budget Night function, to be held in the Great Hall at Parliament House. The only person to jack up about this has been Alan Ramsey, channelling Wild Bill Heffernan, who has complained about the allocation of the Great Hall exclusively to the ALP, while the Coalition gets the smaller Mural Hall for its do.
There's more to Crikey than you think.
Get more and save 50%.
Ramsey’s article suggests the price of the tickets to the ALP function would be $100 a pop. He was out slightly. Crikey has learnt that joining a Government Minister or Parliamentary Secretary for one of 8 spots on their table will set you back a mere $2000. Joining a humble backbencher is a comparative steal at $1000. This includes dinner and a “breakfast briefing” the next morning for those without hangovers.
The Great Hall takes 75 tables. There are 42 Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. 336 seats for $2000 each, and a further 264 at $1000 each. $936,000, for an evening that will cost the ALP about $100,000 to put on, all up. $840,000 profit, straight to the ALP.
Under the Howard Government’s donation disclosure laws, none of this has to be declared. Even the Ministerial table seats are well below the current disclosure threshold of $10,500.
However, the ALP has advised invitees that it will be disclosing the purchase of tickets to the Electoral Commission, in line with the new disclosure requirements shortly to be introduced into Parliament by John Faulkner. Indeed, the ALP goes one further and suggests that invitees may have to disclose their purchases as well. But only those buying more than five tickets to a ministerial table would have to under the current arrangements.
The Great Hall, like Kirribilli House, is owned by us folks, the mere mortal taxpayers, but its shameless use for party political fundraising is a well-established tradition enjoyed by both sides of politics.
It’s never been clear why a fuss is made about Kirribilli House being used for fundraising but not about Parliament House itself. But don’t expect the Opposition to make too much noise about it. They will have their own Budget night function, although quite who will bother to attend will be interesting to see.