Buying your say?

The SMH led yesterday with some prematurely released information about NSW political contributions.

This caught my eye:

A Nationals lunch also secured donations from the Stonewall Hotel and Arq nightclub, both in Darlinghurst. The venues, which contributed $1500 each, were initially on the government’s list of most violent venues but have been removed after recording a fall in the number of assaults.

I expect that representatives of a gay bar like the Stonewall and a nightclub like the Arq are not regulars at National Party events. Indeed, unlike the hotel association and casino operator they probably wouldn’t even get a formal meeting with Nationals MP and Coalition spokesperson for licenced premises George Souris. But presumably they could approach him at the lunch.

These functions are always presented as illegitimate sources of influence which ‘exclude’ people who cannot afford to spend $1,500 on a lunch. But another way of looking at it is that they give access to people who are not political insiders. I know from my experience as a political adviser that functions are places where ministers get to hear things they are not hearing through their official channels. For those whose power comes from influencing the information flow and appointments diary that isn’t always a good thing. But for the overall political process, I think it is.

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