PRIME Minister John Howard's four-day visit to WA this week was the most successful ever by an Australian PM - not in terms of votes won but in extracting money from the well-heeled party faithful.
Mr Howard raised close to $450,000 on behalf of Liberal candidates during his taxpayerfunded visit.
At one exclusive dinner last Monday night, organised by Canning MHR Don Randall, I 0 guests each paid $10,000 to share a meal and a glass of wine or two with the Prime Minister.
That's big money in anyone's language, especially when you consider that Mr Randall's marginal seat of Canning doesn't boast too man millionaires.
The Randall dinner was held at a private residence, but Mr Randall declined this week to sat wqhose it was other than "it wasn't in the western suburbs'.
"People are entitles to their privacy," said the MP, who is acknowledged as one of the party's best fundraisers.
Don doesn't muck around, he goes straight for the top end of town and the big hitters," said one party insider.
Although Mr Randall declined to confirm it, it is believed that Perth building magnate Len Buckeridge and engineering boss Dean Capelli were both at the dinner.
The Liberal Pany asked all its marginal seat candidates to hit a fundraising target of $25,000 each during the PM's visit. They smashed that, with Mr Randall, who holds Canning by about 2 per cent, leading the way.
Mr Howard launched Liberal campaigns in the State's three marginal Labour-held seats of Swan (Andrew Murfin), Stirling (Paul Afkos) and Hasluck (Stuart Henry) and also toured Canning and Kalgoorlie, held by Barry Haase.
All the candiates have business backgrounds and were able to rustle up good crowds.
Mr Murfin, a Salvation Army office, told the Prime Minister at his launch on Tuesday morning in working-class Rivervale that while Mr Howards was taking his usual early morning walk, he would be dishing out soup to the homeless.
Later that day, Mr Murfin hosted a $2,500-a-plate lunch at the fashionable Linq Oyster Bar on the South Perth foreshore.
A chef by trade, Mr Murfin ran restaurants in Britain before moving to Perth and establishing a catering business. He is believed to have come in at the bottom of the fundraising table, with just 14 people, including the PM, attending the Tueday lunch.
Mr Afkos, the multi-millionaire head of Afkos Industries, held this fundraiser on Tuesday night at the Exclusive Must Wine Bar which is on Beaufort Street, Highgate, in the seat of Perth held by Kabour's Stephen Smith. Must restaurateur Russell Blaikie is the son of the former Liberal State MLA for Vasse, Barry Blaikie.
Guests at Must paid $1000 a plate, although some kicked in as much as $5000 organised by prominent car dealer and party thrower Troy Barbagallo, the guest list included some of Perth's hottest young business types from the northern suburbs. Peter and Emma Milner of Post Data, property developer Wayne Teo, who lists Subiaco's trendy Colonnade shopping mall among his assets, Tom Galopoulas, proprietor of upmarket City Beach restaurant Oceanus, real estate and football manager Jim Tsagalis and accountant Stan Palassis all coughed up for the cause.
Also present at Must were Federal Curtin MHR Julie Bishop, Senator Chris Ellison and WA Liberal Party president Danielle Blain.
Mr Howard departed Must to the cheers of drinkers across the road at the trendy city pub of Queens and stopped along the way to shake hands with diners at the kerbside cafes. He also left a beaming Mr Afkos.
Not all of Mr Howard's visit was taken up with campaigning and fundraising - after all, it was taxpayer funded.
In bestween his public and private fuctions, he found time for meetings with key people in the vital resources sector, including Woodside chief Keith Spence. who called on Mr Howard on Tuesday afternoon to discuss, among other things, the progress of negotiations with East Timor on the Greater Sunrise development. He also had private talks with the global CEO of Alcoa, Alain Belda, who happened to be visiting 'Perth at the same time.
On Wednesday, after opening Stuart Henry's campaign in a tinroofed shed on Albany Highway at Kenwick, Mr Howard moved to Burswood Internation Resort Hotel where he was the star attraction at a lunch for 40 of Mr Henry's supporters who paid $2,500 a head.
The resort opened tts fme dining restaurant Windows especially for the occasion. Normally it is open for evenings only. It is believed that members of the construction industry were priminent among the guest list.
That eveniog Mr Howard attended a dinner in Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass' refurbished boathouse on Crawley Bay.
Guests boarded a luxury launch at Royal Perth Yacht Club provided by John Schaffer, brother of Danielle Blain (who paid for the food) and managing director of Schaffler Corporation.They sailed across the bay to the boathouse, which had been fitted with a temporary floor for the occasion and decorated by Perth floral king Wayne Stubbs.
Guests paid $10,000 a head, although couples were given a $5,000 discount. All up, the evening raised $140,000. The dinner was hosted by Dr Nattrass and his partner, Julie Bishop, although the money raised will be distributed to marginal seat campaigns, not Ms Bishop's seat of Curtin.
The guest list is a tightly guarded secret but apart from Dr Nattrass, Ms Bishop and the Schaffler siblings, Bill Wylie, a prominent supporter, also attended.
The next day, Mr Howard flew to Kalgoorlie where be attended a Primary school assembly, the opening of an art exhibition at the Prospectors Hall of Fame and then spoke at a fundraising lunch at the WMC Graduates Hall.
About 280 guests at the hall were charged $70 a bead but those at the PM's table forked out $2000 for the privilege. They included priminent Goldfields GP Neville Joseph, Daphne Hahn, whose husband runs an electrical engineering outfit in Kalgoorlie, PGA boss Barry Court and David "Shorty" Ryan, National resources manager of Aggrecomachinery.
Prominent Kalgoorlie publican and accountant Ashok Parekh was also at the table.