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Labor's fundraising arm hits hard times

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The Australian Labor Party’s local fundraising arm appears to have hit hard times.

SA Progressive Business Alliance (SAPBA), chaired by former Senator Nick Bolkus, was established to raise funds from the business community and capitalise on the high profile of state and federal government ministers.

It’s donated close to one million dollars in past years but in the latest reporting year has declared a donation of just over $26,000.

It’s been a speedy fall from grace which matches the Labor’s plummeting poll numbers since 2009.

In electoral donation returns lodged with the Australian Electoral Office by the ALP’s SA branch, SA Progressive Business is listed as donating $902,000 in 2009-10, the financial year covering the last state election.

In 2010-11 it donated $297,000 and in 2011-12 $101,000.

The figure for 2012-13 is $26,500.

Labor’s prolific fundraising efforts in the Rann era came to light in late 2008 when brochures emerged asking businesses to host events to which SA Progressive Business would charge admission.

The brochure spruiked a Business Forum Day with Premier Mike Rann, Treasurer Kevin Foley and the other 11 ministers of the Labor Cabinet, costing $3000 a person.

The forum offered “high-level infrastructure discussions, twilight cocktails and three appointments with SA Labor ministers of your choice”.

Companies could also buy a $2500 or $10,000 membership.

The price of tickets and memberships were below the Australian Electoral Commission’s current disclosure threshold, allowing businesses to make a donation that would then form part of the Progressive Business disclosure without identifying the donor.

A similar venture was started by the Liberal Party’s Alexander Downer after he retired from federal politics.

Downer headed FutureSA, but he found that offering dinners with federal and state opposition MPs didn’t have the same attraction as serving up ministers.

That may now be the dilemma facing Labor. The State ALP’s total declared receipts in the last financial year amounted to $2.15 million, well down on the $4.3 million it attracted in 2009-10r.

The SA branch of the Liberal Party posted receipts for the last financial year of $3.9 million.

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