Embattled PwC pulls pin on sponsorship of hottest budget-night event

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CBD loves an awkward encounter, and there would have been some classics of the genre in Canberra on Tuesday, when consulting giant PwC – in strife amid a deepening scandal over the misuse of government information – was due to sponsor a swanky, $5000-a-head budget night dinner.

The firm’s former Australian CEO, Tom Seymour, had already been planning to give the event at Canberra’s Hotel Realm a miss before he bowed to the inevitable on Monday and stepped down. Later in the day came the news that PwC had pulled the pin on its sponsorship altogether.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers won’t be served up PwC on a plate at the Hotel Realm budget bash. He’s still expected to be there, but PwC has dropped out. Credit: John Shakespeare

Labor’s Deborah O’Neill, one of the senators who have been pursuing the firm over its use of confidential ATO briefings in a plan to help clients minimise taxes, and who called on Monday for everyone at PwC connected to the scandal to be sacked, will be there.

“PwC’s sponsorship of the event will not silence or deter my continuing critique of their behaviours in the interests of the people of Australia,” the senator told CBD on Monday before the news broke.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers – reported to be “absolutely ropeable” when news of PwC’s conduct surfaced in January – remains the big drawcard for the event. Finance Minister Katy Gallagher was going to steer clear.

As for the rest of Labor’s frontbench economic team, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones and Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, well, their offices were no assistance when we asked if they would be at the Realm for the budget bash. Guess we’ll just have to show up on the night and see who else does. We reckon there will be a few empty seats where PwC would have been.


But the Realm soiree isn’t the only game in town. Labor types can attend a “stand up” event next door at the National Press Club, where Industry Minister Ed Husic has hosting duties. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chalmers, no doubt in full victory lap mode, are set to drop in after swinging by the Realm first.

These affairs were traditionally held in the Great Hall of Parliament House, until Albanese banned fundraisers from the hill.

The National Aboretum.Credit: National Aboretum

But last October’s mini-budget event at the National Arboretum was such a disaster that there’s relief about both of budget night’s events being hosted within walking distance of Parliament.


The Victorian Bar Council is preparing for what promises to be a fractious evening at Melbourne’s silk-central, Sir Owen Dixon Chambers in Lonsdale Street, on Tuesdayas the wigs and gowns try to thrash out a position on the Voice referendum. And there’ll be one bloke in the room who might be glad not to have a vote.

Owen Wolahan is one of four honorary secretaries to the Bar Council, and brother to Liberal MP for Menzies Keith Wolahan, the lucky punter chosen to lead the Coalition’s cross-examination on the Voice referendum joint parliamentary committee in Canberra.

As an honorary secretary, a non-political support role, Owen, who politely declined to comment, doesn’t get a vote on the night, so his views on the Voice are neither here nor there.

Not that the Bar Council is short of strong opinions.

Council president Sam Hay, KC, was forced to smooth things over after an extraordinary attack on the NSW Bar Association and its pro-Voice stance by high-profile Victorian silk Stuart Wood, KC, a key player in the “Ticket for Change” movement of conservative lawyers, railing against the profession’s “woke” leadership, which scored a clean sweep of the council’s 21 positions in 2020.

Nine of the group are still on the council, while 300 Victorian barristers have signed a petition calling for the Bar Council to back a Yes vote. Should be quite an evening. We’re not invited.


Upmarket Flinders Lane events space The Trust was filled with a sea of women in white shirts for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s first Women of Influence lunch.

The event, hosted by Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew and sports journalist Abbey Gelmi, marked World Ovarian Cancer Day and Witchery White Shirt Day.

Gelmi gave birth to her first child eight weeks ago. “The fact that you are out of the house wearing make-up and wearing white is a credit to you,” Bartholomew quipped.

White shirt ambassador and former tennis champion Jelena Dokic was present, but her fellow ambassador Julie Bishop was an apology as she was still in the UK after getting a guernsey to King Charles’ coronation.

Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew.

Former Project host Lisa Wilkinson made it along to lunch, although she missed the white shirt memo.

Wilkinson said ovarian cancer research was severely underfunded compared with other causes like breast cancer which had been more successful at attracting cash for research.

“I’d hate to say it’s because male bureaucrats can identify with breasts more than they can with ovaries that they’ve never seen before, because that would be incredibly sexist,” the host told the room.

No news yet on when Wilkinson will be back on our TV screens, but plans are definitely progressing. “We’re talking at the moment, there’s nothing firm but yes, that’s the plan,” she said.

The Witchery White shirt campaign has raised $1.074 million for the World Ovarian Cancer Day so far this year.


It’s a funny thing, but for all the obvious desperation of Liberal ex-MP Tim Wilson to get his former seat of Goldstein back from Zoe Daniel, the teal independent who defeated Wilson at last year’s federal election, he hasn’t formally declared his intention to stand again.

However, he might as well have, putting his name and some stirring words to a membership drive by the seat’s Liberal electorate conference, reminding local members to renew their tickets before the end of May.

Wilson has clearly decided that channelling his glory days as the George Brandis-appointed freedom commissioner at the Human Rights Commission is the stuff to steel the hearts of any Liberal waverers by the bay.

Independent Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel and former Liberal representative Tim Wilson.Credit: Simon Schluter

“Handing the next generation a country that values individual freedom, personal responsibility and free enterprise depends on your continued support,” Wilson told his fellow Liberals.

He included a helpful reminder that anyone who failed to renew by the end of the month might have to re-register, and as a new member for official purposes would be unable to take part in “party activities”.

That includes preselections, hint, hint. We asked Wilson on Monday if there was any sign of him making all of this official soon. We haven’t heard back.

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