The ALP now relies on the corporate sector to provide three times as much as the trade unions for its national election campaigns, according to recently retired ALP National Secretary, Gary Gray.
The reliance on corporate funding is linked to the decline in union membership and the rising cost of election campaigns.
Mr Gray said that in 1990 the ALP had 1.73 million affiliated union members. This fell by 400,000 to 1.35 million members ten years later.
This represented a drop of $4 million in donations from Labor’s traditional base since the Howard government came to power in 1996. Union contributions to the running of the party amounted to $22 million over the past decade.
Consistent with the ALP’s increasing reliance on the corporate dollar, and hence their policies to woo the corporate sector, Gray said that the electorate would accept the policies of globalisation if political leaders spent more time explaining it to them the way Bob Hawke and Paul Keating did.
Meantime, if Robert Menzies had wished to keep the Liberals the party of small property owners and not the party of the top end of town, those times seem to be well past.
The recent National Conference of the Liberal Party was substantially underwritten by the corporate sector.
About $400,000 was raised from paying businesses who had access to a special lounge devoted to giving them access to Ministers.
About 80 business observers from Australia’s biggest corporations, as well as industry associations and lobbyists, paid $5,000 each to attend a special program which provided access to senior Cabinet Ministers throughout the Conference.
Major contributors included Telstra, Foxtel, the Pharmacy Guild and the tobacoo giant Philip Morris.
The tobacco industry sponsorship has proved controversial, as tobacco advertising is banned from television and from many government sponsored events.
It seems that the corporate sector is comfortable working with and financing both sides of politics, as the economic policies of both parties are indistinguishable.