Michael Pascoe writes:

What is it about Sydney real estate
dealings, public assets, political donations, mates and non-disclosure? There’s
some sort of inevitable magnetism between them all that has finished up as a
big splash on the front page of the SMH with Joe Tripodi’s name all over it.

This time it doesn’t involve the bigger end
of town, not Westfield or any of the major developers and their generous support for the
state ALP and the occasional coincidental ministerial assistance. This time
it’s all a bit small and local – a few Housing Commission fibro jobs here, a
couple of RTA and Sydney Water blocks there, all purchased from the government
and sold very soon thereafter at a nice profit. And Joe, before he became
Housing Minister, had an interest in proceedings. In part:

Mr Tripodi… was a shareholder in Westside Property
Developments, which bought 11 Housing Department properties in Warwick Farm,
including fibro bedsits. The properties were sold to a developer – six on the
same day in 1998 – with a mark-up of $120,000.

And there’s this as well:

Joe Tripodi was chairman of the
parliamentary watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, when his small
investment company bought a Cecil Hills property just 38 days after it had been
sold by the State Government. Two years later, in the same
month he became minister for housing, Mr Tripodi’s company sold the
380-square-metre block to his wife, Maria. Landco Developments, the corporation
that bought and quickly sold the government land to Mr Tripodi’s company,
donated $4000 to his election campaign later that year, according to State
Electoral Office records. But Mr Tripodi never disclosed
these transactions to Parliament.

No, it doesn’t look nice. Joe’s now Energy, Ports and Waterways Minister and
Minister assisting the Treasurer on Business and Economic Reform – titles
befitting a former Reserve Bank employee – and he’s reacted to the SMH
investigation by welcoming ICAC scrutiny of his dealings.

On the face of
it, Tripodi probably doesn’t have anything to worry about – this is Sydney after all. And the state opposition is
the Liberal Party. But there are other matters raised in the SMH yarn that
point to a broader climate of mates and dealings and appointments. Starring
there is Frank
Gelonesi

– a Fairfield accountant who has already given evidence to an ICAC inquiry into
the purchase and re-sale of Housing Commission properties.

Frank is a Fairfield
accountant, a financial supporter of Tripodi’s election campaigns, chairman of
the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board, a fellow shareholder
with Tripodi in Westside Property Developments and someone with a knack of
buying properties cheaply and selling them for more very quickly. Nice.

Peter Fray

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