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Not Feeling Well

A popular definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’. In which case the NSW Liberal Party should start shovelling the Lithium in with their Weet-Bix.

Ex-Federal Senator and former ALP kingmaker Graham Richardson recently gave testimony at the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into circumstances surrounding the assassination of the colourful identity Michael McGurk.

This inquiry luxuriates in its formal name of Badgerys Creek Land Dealings And Planning Decisions Inquiry – General Purpose Standing Committe No. 4

Richo cheerfully gave evidence into how he lobbies NSW ALP govt. ministers and bureaucrats into land rezonings and other favours to make Richo’s property ‘developer’ mates (and himself) richer and fatter.

Such ‘lobbying’ is legal but serves no public purpose. It’s just another name for graft and nepotism and in my opinion should be outlawed.

Every Move You (May Or May Not) Make

Six weeks before Richo’s evidence, Liberal MP Brad Hazzard, Shadow Minister for Planning, issued a mildly hysterical press release alleging the nefarious Richo was centrally operating NSW Property zonings in cahoots with Joe Tripodi and Minister for Planning Kathleen Keneally, or perhaps without Keneally and just Richo and Tripodi running the lot.

On October 22, two days after Richo’s evidence Hazzard moved a motion against Keneally censuring her for her policy of deliberate ignorance in relation to Richo’s meetings with NSW Planning bureaucrats.

The relevant bits of Hazzard’s press release of Sept. 9, Minister Fails To Answer For Accountability follow:

Minister Keneally fail[ed] to answer what actions she has taken to ensure appropriateness of meetings [of NSW Planning bureaucrats] involving Graham Richardson

Graham Richardson also allegedly told media that he had met with Joe Tripodi who is the factional master of Kristina Keneally.

As Mr Richardson represents a number of developers, it raises the question as to who is pulling the strings on planning decisions in NSW.

The Thing

The thing is, Tripodi flatly denies ever speaking to Richo about Planning and there is no evidence that he has. The allegation is unprovable.

I wrote the Mr Hazzard asking for the source of his contention that Tripodi has been meeting with Richo. His advisor, Lee Dixon, wrote back saying:

I refer you to the Sydney Morning Herald article “Fixer Richo still working in the shadows” of February 6, 2009.

I also refer you to the Planning Ministers response to a question in Question Time on September 10 where she does not deny that meetings take place between Graham Richardson and Minister Tripodi.

The SMH article does not say that Richo met with Tripodi (though Richo did admit to one phone call to Tripodi) and Keneally’s silence also does not prove that Richo is meeting with Tripodi.

Tripodi flatly denies having any meeting at all with Graham Richardson in relation to zoning or planning. Here is Tripodi, completely relaxed, effortlessly fielding questions directed at him by Trevor Khan of the National Party supposedly the Coalitions best Inquiry performer, on Sept. 14 at Budget Estimates for Ports and Waterways (pages 11-13)

The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Minister, in the time that you have been Minister have you met with or had telephone discussions with Graham Richardson?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: Yes, I have met Graham Richardson.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Have you met with him in his role as lobbyist?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: He has never lobbied me on issues to the best of my recollection.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Have you met with him in his role as lobbyist?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: No.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: When was the last time you had a discussion with Graham Richardson?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: I do not remember a specific event. It was a fleeting conversation—hello, goodbye. I cannot remember when that occurred.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: When was the last time you had a telephone conversation with him?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: A very long time.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: When was the last time you had—
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: Sorry, I have met Graham Richardson. I have said that to you. To the best of my recollection he never raised any issues with me relating to Mr Medich.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Have you met with Mr Richardson in your offices?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: No. Not that I can recall for quite a long time. It would have been years ago if I had.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Have you met with Mr Richardson in Parliament House?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: If I have it has not been for many years.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: For many years? How do you term “many years”? Is that one year, two years or three?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: It is definitely more than one, so it would be at least two or three years. As I say, not within recent memory.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: In the last 12 months, how many times have you either spoken with or met with Mr Graham Richardson?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: In the last how long?
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Twelve months.
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: Once or twice. It was hello and goodbye, crossing paths. Never had an organised meeting.
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN: Does that include telephone conversations as well?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: Yes. I have not had a telephone conversation with him for quite a long time.
(etc.)

Hazzard Has Nothing.

This is reminiscent of the 2007 NSW State Election, where then leader Peter Debnam made shocking allegations about the Minister Jack Debus in Parliament, for which he had no proof. This caused a sea-change in sentiment against the Libs who were polling well at the time.

Debnam from then on was regarded as a bit of a dill, a perception reinforced by his penchant for allowing himself to be interviewed wearing nothing but budgie-smugglers and by his assertion that ‘transport is not an election issue’ the day before a peak-hour train breakdown on the Harbour Bridge wreacked mayhem with city traffic (OK he was unlucky there).

NSW Labor Deserves The Flick

… and that mob of gluttonous nest-featherers deserved it years ago, but if Hazzard and the rest of them continue to make unprovable assertions they will mess it up again as in the last Election where Debnam went too far with his allegations.

The Libs are not yet polling that well that they are home free.

NSW Labor has plently of provable ‘form’. Stick to that, it should be plenty…or it should have been.

Nathan Rees, who struck me as a decent bloke from the time he came into office looks like he’s plucked up the considerable guts to take on Tripodi. I wish him well and if he succeeds he might get the NSW ALP back in.

Smoke Etc

In fairness to Hazzard, there’s more than a whiff of smoke around the Richo-Tripodi-Keneally troika. Keneally got her job due to the sponsorship of Tripodi, she deliberately chooses not to know or be informed about her bureaucrats meeting with Richo or anyone else’s parasitically motivated lunches, and Richo by his own admission has phoned Tripodi once. One can safely assume this is would be in relation to Planning/Zoning issues.

Hazzard calls Keneally the ‘Minister for Tripodi’ (to her outrage) which is true enough since the entire cabinet is the ‘Government for Tripodi’, surely the last person on earth you want within barge-poles distance of the public interest.

Here’s Joe and Richo in action, helping their rich mates the community yet again:

Mr Richardson told the Herald that he lobbied the head of the NSW Planning Department, Sam Haddad, last month over his refusal to rezone Mr Medich’s land. If rezoned, the land Mr Medich bought a decade ago for $3.5 million would be worth about $400 million.

Several months ago Mr Tripodi’s friend, the Fairfield jeweller Michael Daniele, took out an option for $5 million to buy the rural block owned by retired concreter Rinaldo ”Ron” Morlin. The land, which is worth less than half that amount, is estimated to be worth $25 million if rezoned.

Mr Daniele, who was praised in Mr Tripodi’s maiden speech to Parliament, is the sole director of Mr Tripodi’s private company, New Arm Investments. Mr Tripodi has previously declared his stake in the company on his pecuniary interests register. Corporate records show that the minister resigned as a director in 2005.

Mr Morlin, 73, confirmed Mr Daniele had taken out an option a few months ago. When asked if the option was worth $5 million, he replied, ”Mamma mia, you know too much about it.’

But you need proof to support specific allegations. Debnam didn’t have it and neither does Hazzard.

For his part, Richo says, I think quite plausibly, that he does not actually need to meet with Tripodi or any Ministers to get his back-room deals done. From the SMH ‘Fixer’ article of Feb 6th

“I don’t have to talk to ministers, I can get things done through other means,” Mr Richardson said.

Asked to expand, Mr Richardson said he did not have to reveal any such thing.

“Often it’s better not to talk to them [ministers] because if I do, people like you want to make something of it,” he said.

“I have known people in the bureaucracy for years. I have lots of contacts, lots of ways to press for things. I can get done what I need to get done…”

In the meantime, if anyone can source any article where Richo says he has met with Tripodi or vice-versa then I would be interested to read it.

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