Inside The Labor Party Fund Raiser

Stephen Mayne
January 15, 2008

11 December 1999 Stephen Mayne Published December 11, 1999 Labor set a new fundraising record on Monday December 6 as 800 of Victoria's coroporate heavyweights turned up for a meet and greet session at the Grand Hyatt in Collins St.

Ordinary working class small businesses in regional Victoria seemed thin on the record as the big end of town, the very people the Labor opposition so often lambasted, got out their cheque books and handed over the mandatory $1000 a head.

Jeffed.com was lucky enought to snaffle the official guest list both in individual and corporate form and we are more than happy to publish this on the website and attempt to explain why a few of the guests were so inclined to spend as much on one dinner as most of us spend in six weeks on food.

We estimate that battler Steve Bracks had about $12 billion worth of Rich List members hanging on his every word during his slightly rushed but undoubtedly pro-business speech.

Despite his apparent memory loss when talking to Neil Mitchell, we can remind Steve that his exclusive little table included James and Jodie Packer, who made the trip down from Sydney for the evening. With all this effort that James is putting in on Steve, it sounds like Dad has told him this is the big test as to whether the billionaire heir can manipulate politicians as well as daddy has done for all those years.

The Packers are known to enjoy surrounding themselves with friendly people at these dinners and would appear to have had some input on who else sat with the Brackses. It was a very Crown-focused table. Laurie Cox, the Macquarie Bank man who has made about $2 million out of Transurban, kept his distance from Bracksie but his workmate Alistair Lucas stepped up for a gig on the head table. Of course, Alistair was the man who put together the Packer bid for Crown so we all know what this table would have been chatting about for the night. And naturally you would have Bruno Grollo on the head table so he could tell Premier Bracks what a fantastic building Crown is. Afterall, Bruno built the world's biggest casino for us grateful Melburnians. Westpac CEO David Morgan was one of the other player on the head table. Conveniently, he is married to Ros 'White Boards' Kelly, the former Federal Sports minister in the Keating government.

But if James did not get enough of the Packer message whilst tucking into his salmon, there were about 15 other Packer representatives there to push the line to other ministers. Packer fixer Graham Richardson made the trip down but presumably had to be back in time for his breakfast gig on 2GB in Sydney. MC Michael Veitch revealed on Jon Faine's show that dozens of people were asking Richo for Olympic tickets. PBL CEO Nick Falloon also popped down from Sydney, emphasising just how important it was to be seen supporting the ALP. He was joined by Nigel Morrison, the man set to take over from Lloyd Williams as CEO of Crown under executive chairman James Packer.

Another Packer attendee was Crown mouthpiece Garry O'Neil who has hung onto his casino gig, unlike Ron Walker and Lloyd Williams. As Kim Beazley's former top adviser, O'Neil is perhaps more useful for the Packers than first thought now that Jeff has gone and Steve is in.

Only about 10 per cent of the guests were women but Jodie Packer definitely turned the most heads dressed in casual black pants, high heeled black sandels, and what Paula said looked like a black v-neck knit top.

The head table was number 16, and right next door was another one oozing power and connections. There was retired ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty with his dear mates Solomon Lew, Lindsay Fox and Simon Crean.

A number of other guests struck Jeffed.com as being slightly odd. For instance, why did George Adams, the man who owns the controversial Niddrie Quarry, hand over his $1000. Local member Rob Hulls is unlikely to allow George's plans to turn it into a toxic dump get through.

And opposition planning spokesman Robert Clark pointed out on radio this morning that the people attempting to get planning approval to develop Erskine House at Lorne also handed over their $1000. Approval was set to come through just a few days after the Labor Party received a all this cash from them. How coincidental is that.

It was interesting watching the order in which people left the function. Liberal supporters such as Laurie Cox and Graham Samuel made the mandatory appearance but were some of the first people out the door. James Packer also did not linger long, nor did Tabcorp's Ross Wilson.

Justin Madden was the first minister to leave. This certainly is a different life for Justin who no doubt would have been deluged by developers such as Central Equity, MAB Corporation and Becton Corporation who would be keen to chew the ear of the assistant planning minister.

The last minister out the door was John Brumby who seems to be quite well regarded by business and rural communities, which is an unuual mix for a Labor heavyweight.

It was also interesting to note who was not there. Blueblood Melbourne banks ANZ and NAB did not buy tables, yet Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie were all quite high profile. Westpac even gave Labor $1000 to have Treasury Secretary Ian Little there as a guest and also paid for the top State Revenue Office chappy to attend. Nothing wrong with paying Labor $1000 to spend a night with top public servants, is there boys?

We've all heard the furore over Intergraph having two representatives at the dinner. CEO Greg Batchelor told Jon Faine it was a successful evening because they spoke to all the people they wanted to. Presumably that included their biggest critic, Health Minister John Thwaites, and Attorney General Rob Hulls who is overseeing the establishment of a Royal Commission. With Steve Bracks taking some personal pain and Labor's Burwood chances dented, the boys brought forward the Intergraph Royal Commission announcement before they'd even formulated the terms of reference. That's no way to announce a RC Hullsy and you know it. That's the sort of thing an oxygen bandit would do.

The announcement worked wonders and the fundraiser issue died as attention returned to gutter campaigning and Lana McLean's truckloads of baggage.

Labor has spent heavily on the Burwood campaign and why wouldn't you when you've got $800,000 in the kick and a chance to cement your government for four years.

However, this fundraiser list will remain a fascinating reference point for the next four years. Over time, we will attempt to provide some details as to who everyone at the dinner was and who they sat with. It will show a fascinating matrix which gives great insight into how business and politics mixes in the new Victoria.