Executives who attended last night's state Labor Party fundraiser with the Tasmanian premier and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy could expect "rubber chicken" for dinner, but not to influence future policy, according to a source familiar with the fundraising circuit.
"You'll have an overcrowded room with your choice of rubber chicken, poorly cooked fish or bouncy beef. And if you're really unlucky, you'll get the redundant rack of lamb," a source familiar with political fundraisers told ZDNet.com.au.
But if attendees whose company had paid $5000 in the hope they may influence future policy or even set the wheels of a deal in motion, this was not the right forum, said the source. "This spookiness that everyone raises about fundraisers is over the top. It's far easier to influence policy through the front door than any other way," the source said.
One company that knows this is not the way to do business is IBM, which has a policy not to attend political fundraisers.
Still, there were good reasons to support such evenings. The source said it showed that the company was willing to engage in the political process, and that attendance did not necessarily mean a company was attempting to corrupt a politician. "Politicians may come cheap, but not that cheap," they said. Also, if the company does not show support, another company might and will accrue the benefit in its absence.
And while policy might not be moulded over a steaming rubber-chicken, there was the chance, said the source, that the next time the attendee walked through the corridors of parliament house, they may look vaguely familiar to a few more politicians.
But like any conference or industry gala night, attendees will get the impression that the cloth-covered table will be a conduit to 10 great minds, but will realise by the end that the only exchange that occurred was between those sitting directly next to them.
As for the quiet moment with Premier David Bartlett or the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, don't expect too much, said the source. There was a greater chance of meeting an industry colleague.