Deputy PM Michael McCormack in a Pharmacy Guild tie, with NSW President David Heffernan (left) and National President George Tambassis (right) and Queensland President Trent Twomey (far right) (Source: Facebook)

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s annual parliamentary dinner, held in the Great Hall of Parliament House, is a veritable night of nights on Australia’s lobbying calendar.

Politicians of all stripes mingle over dinner and drinks with one of the country’s most powerful lobby groups. Formality melts away. Relationships are built. And it’s all done away from the public gaze.

Getting the ear of government is no problem for the guild, often described as the most powerful industry lobby group in Canberra. It enjoys access to politicians from the prime minister down, through a time-honoured mix of donations and schmoozing -- a successful formula which has kept in place policies which critics decry as anti-competitive and against the interests of consumers.