Julia Gillard will interrupt her campaigning in western Sydney on Tuesday to attend a $12,000-a-table Labor Party fundraiser at harbourside Pyrmont before returning to Rooty Hill that night.
The fundraising dinner, organised by the Labor Business Forum, will feature the entire cabinet and be held at the “spectacular waterfront function centre” Doltone House on Jones Bay Wharf. For $12,000 a table, attendees will enjoy views of the harbour and the city skyline, “polished wooden floors, white gold mosaic tiles and large marble bar” and “amazing lighting features hung from the original timber beams.”
More to the point, there will be a cabinet minister at each table to discuss pertinent issues with the nine guests on the table. The Prime Minister will address the dinner, which is likely to raise over $200,000.
Attendees will not have to declare their contribution — not merely is the price per individual, and the price per table, below the reporting threshold for the Australian Electoral Commission, but the opportunity to lobby or quiz a cabinet minister is a benefit being purchased by attendees, potentially meaning it is not reportable as a donation. However, the federal Labor Party makes a point of reporting all contributions over $1000, whether donations or not, in its annual returns to the AEC (although Labor is increasingly using fora “memberships” as a fundraising tool, which may fall entirely outside any reporting requirements).
Pyrmont is a 10-minute car ride from Kirribilli, where the prime minister’s official Sydney residence is located; there’s no direct ferry service from Pyrmont to Kirribilli (you have to change at Circular Quay), but a water taxi would be a quick trip under the bridge. But the Prime Minister will be travelling 50 kilometres back to Rooty Hill that evening to continue her western Sydney campaign.
The Prime Minister received extensive criticism from sections of the media for electing to stay out in western Sydney rather than at Kirribilli — although not nearly as much as she would have received if she’d decided to campaign in western Sydney during the day but head back to the opulence of the official residence at night. But the trek back to Rooty Hill on Tuesday evening illustrates the impracticality of maintaining appearances.
All parties are in full fundraising mode ahead of the election. At the end of January, Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce held a $1000-a-head cruise on Sydney Harbour. Tony Abbott hosted a $1500-a-head fundraiser only last Monday in Townsville for LNP MP Ewen Jones.