Opposition Leader Bill Shorten: "The Parliament of Australia should constantly be seeking to improve the election funding rules in this country." Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
Labor is offering business leaders exclusive access to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten before the federal budget, but it comes at a high price – $3300 for a boardroom lunch.
Fairfax Media revealed on Monday that Liberal campaign fund-raising body, the North Sydney Forum, offered "VIP" meetings with federal Treasurer Joe Hockey to groups including business people and industry lobbyists in return for annual fees of up to $22,000.
An email from the director of the Federal Labor Business Forum, Kate Dykes, urges would-be attendees to "avoid disappointment" as tickets to the event are strictly limited.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The high-priced fund-raiser is due to be held on Thursday at an undisclosed location in the Sydney CBD and is billed as a boardroom lunch with the Opposition Leader.
The $3300 price is for non-members of the forum; for members the event will cost $2500.
There is no suggestion the fund-raising event contravenes any electoral laws.
Before details of the fund-raiser emerged, Mr Shorten told reporters in Adelaide on Monday that Labor had zero tolerance for corruption and offered to work with the government to reform the electoral funding system.
"When it comes to matters of election funding, they should be transparent, nothing to hide and everything to see. Furthermore, we believe that the law of the land must be upheld," he said.
"I make this invitation to [Prime Minister] Tony Abbott, that if you want to improve transparency of political donations, so does Labor, we will work with you, Tony Abbott, to make sure that Australians can have even greater confidence in federal politics and transparency."
He said the Coalition had withdrawn support for electoral reforms proposed by the former Labor government, which included tighter disclosure rules and lower donation thresholds.
"We certainly would be up for working with the Liberal Party to further improve confidence in the transparency in the election funding of this country," he said.
"The Parliament of Australia should constantly be seeking to improve the election funding rules in this country.
"I think like every other Australian, we have been nauseated by the toxic revelations out of ICAC [the Independent Commission against Corruption] about NSW politics."
Labor Party national secretary George Wright defended the fund-raiser, saying the party believed transparency was "vitally important to ensuring the integrity of our system of electoral funding".
"Consistent with this, current policy and practice at the ALP National Secretariat is that individual donations or contributions to the party in excess of $1000 are voluntarily publicly disclosed by the party as part of our annual declaration to the AEC. This is a level of disclosure and transparency well in excess of that required by law, which only requires that donations in excess of $12,400 are publicly declared,'' he said.
"We believe that the high levels of transparency we maintain around these programs are important to ensuring their integrity and the integrity of Australia's system of electoral funding."