Tuesday, 27 May 2014

What Christopher Pyne wants us to look at

What a cunning plan.  How did Christopher Pyne defend speaker Bishop today? By referring the public and the media to a 2000 newspaper story that described how a $10,000 donation to the liberal party would pretty much guarantee you dinner at the lodge or at Kirribilli house. It's such a brilliant strategy!  See some bits from Brian Toohey's story below.

According to Pyne, the most important point of the article was that Leo McLeay said he held a fundraising lunch for 8 business executives in the speaker's official dining room on one occasion. Mind you, I didn’t hear Pyne say “on one occasion”. He seemed to be implying this was a common event so it will be interesting to look at hansard when available to see how accurately Pyne weazled his way around that part of the story.

But I think it is far more interesting that the 2000 newspaper story also quotes then liberal speaker Neil Andrew as saying he had “never used his official rooms for fundraising lunches or dinners.” Why would he make such a statement if the use of the speakers’ dining room for fundraising is obviously OK?

But now that Pyne has sent us scurrying back to a 2000 article about influence peddling and fundraising in the Howard government, I reckon he's identified a few other important questions for tomorrow.
  • Does $10,000 still guarantee you a dinner seat at the lodge or at Kirribilli house?
  • Compared to the benchmark set in 2000 by PM Howard, how deep do your pockets need to be in 2014 to purchase your way to dinner or lunch with PM Abbott? 
  • The 2000 news story says that Ron Walker was the go-to man in 2000.  Who arranges the dinner seating for the liberals in 2014? 
  • In 2014, how many of the executives who dine with PM Abbott have donated substantial amounts to the liberal party?  
  • And do BCA executives still get a free lunch now that the age of entitlement is over?  
Having been given such a good lead by Pyne, these are the questions I'd like to see asked next.  

I answer my own question.  Draft hansard just posted quotes Pyne referring to "fundraisers" and "at least one fundraiser".  Surprised? 

"But the fact is, Madam Speaker, the former member for Watson, Mr McLeay, had held fundraisers in the Speaker's dining room."
"In fact, it was the former member for Watson who, in the year 2000, admitted that he had held at least one fundraiser in the Speaker's dining room."

$10,000 - and guess who's coming to dinner
Brian Toohey
9 August 2000
The Australian Financial Review

“How do you crack an invitation to dine at the Lodge? This was the question posed recently to a Canberra lobbyist by the CEO of one of Australia's leading companies. The lobbyist checked with some high-level contacts and came up with the answer it helps a lot if you make a donation to the Liberal Party. Around $10,000 was nominated as the going rate.”

“The advice was to channel a donation for this amount via the Liberal Party's federal treasurer, prominent Melbourne businessman Mr Ron Walker. Supposedly, Mr Walker would then consider adding your name to a list of prospective invitees for a private dinner with the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, at his official residence in Canberra.”

"Not every business executive who is invited to dine at the Lodge is expected to be a Liberal Party donor. Representatives of the Business Council of Australia, for example, dined at the Lodge on June 28 irrespective of whether their corporate employers had donated."

“But Mr Howard has declined to give specific answers to questions about donations made by executives who have dined at the Lodge. According to written answers provided by his office: ‘At all times the use of official residences for entertainment purposes has been appropriate.’”

“But the former Labor speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Leo McLeay, acknowledged that he held a fundraising lunch with about eight business executives on one occasion in Parliament House. He said Mr Keating may have dropped in at the beginning or end of the lunch, which was held in the Speaker's official dining room. His recollection is that Mr Keating was treasurer at the time or had moved to the backbench before becoming PM.”

“The current Speaker, the Liberal Party's Mr Neil Andrew, said he had never used his official rooms for fundraising lunches or dinners.”

“To date, the question of what circumstances are "appropriate" for party donors to dine at the Lodge or Kirribilli House has not been an issue in Australian politics.”