Clive Small, former assistant commissioner of the NSW Police, has delivered a stinging criticism of Finance Minister Joe Tripodi in his book, Smack Express, which landed in book stores this week.

Co-authored with Tom Gilling and published by Allen & Unwin, Small gives a devastating account of his time as a senior investigator during the rise of organised crime in Australia.

In the opening chapter on the late “Ozzie” Bob Trimbole, the Riverina-based cannabis overlord, Small reveals that, prior to the 1995 state election, the NSW Labor Party planned to nominate Pasquale “Pat” Sergi for the south-west Sydney seat of Fairfield.

Sergi had been outed by the Woodward Royal Commission as members of the Trimbole syndicate involved in “the distribution of the product and the channeling of finance back to Griffith”.

Sergi’s bid for a parliamentary career was cut short when, according to Small, a police report threatened to expose his connections with the Trimbole network.

Small writes:

With Sergi’s support, his close friend, Joseph “Joe” Tripodi, became the Labor nominee for the safe Labor seat and was elected.

A year later Tripodi went into business with Sergi and others buying and selling government land and Department of Housing properties in Sydney’s western suburbs for significant profit.

He has been quoted as saying that he owned less than 2 per cent of the shares and had no management role.

In his inaugural speech in Parliament on 30 April, 1996, Tripodi paid tribute to his supporters saying:

During my election campaign I made many new friends in the local Italian community who assisted me, namely, Michael Daniele, Sam Romeo, Roy Spagnolo, Tony Mittiga and Pat Sergi. These people are friends I intend to keep for a long time.

When Sergi’s Trimbole connection was raised by The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, Tripodi insisted:

I was unaware that Mr Sergi had been named by the royal commission until last week. He has been a prominent member of the local community and we met through his charity work.

Tripodi’s factional soul-mate, former Treasurer Michael Costa, leapt to his friend’s defence, saying coverage by Fairfax journalists was a “bloody disgrace”.

“All those articles you’ve been writing about Joe and others … We’re in politics, we meet all sorts of people, you can’t hold people accountable for the fact their job leads them to talk to a whole range of people and then draw spurious connections and make unfounded implications,” said Costa, now a weekly columnist for The Australian.

Small remarks acidly:

Perhaps not, but you can expect a Labor politician to be aware of a person’s background when the person has been named by a Labor-instituted royal commission as having been involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and membership of an international crime society. That crime society has been implicated in numerous murders.

Despite continued claims by The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, Tripodi and his factional accomplice Eddie Obeid have lost their influence in the Parliamentary Labor Party and their Terrigal sub-faction is a dead duck.

Only people with the bizarre political intuition of Oz columnist D D McNicoll believe that the Tripodi-Obeid power duopoly is still functioning.

It’s almost as if they need to have “bogey men” like Tripodi and Obeid to keep their three-ringed circus coverage going.

Small’s revelations will only hasten Tripodi’s political ostracism.

Peter Fray

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