Workers deserve better than Tripodi

While there is room for people like Joe Tripodi in the ALP, it cannot be a genuine workers' party, writes Marcus Strom.

If you close your eyes til your vision goes blurry and you conjure up a parallel universe, you can just about imagine that Joe Tripodi is part of the labour movement.

I mean, he is a member of the Australian Labor Party after all - formed by the unions during the heroic struggle of the shearers, miners and wharfies in the 1890s to pursue the light on the hill for the labouring masses.

Open your eyes, clear your head and move back into the real world and the likes of Joe Tripodi clearly have no place in our movement. Self-serving hacks that ride on the back of the working class are the kind of crust that gives Labor a real stink among voters.

Joe Tripodi, NSW Labor member for Fairfield, minister for energy and ports, has profited from the purchase and sale of land originally designated for public housing in western Sydney. He has fumbled his words over his co-operation with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. He claimed that he asked ICAC to investigate his dealings with Westside Property Developments in 2002. He was later forced to retract this after ICAC said it was not true. He had merely said he was available to co-operate with ICAC.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald on August 16, "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." All probably legal, but pretty grubby all the same.

Joe Tripodi likes property. He likes money. He likes suits and likes the company of well-connected men. The Tripodi-type goes to the very rotten contradiction at the heart of the ALP. Formed by the unions to take on profiteering, challenging the bosses' political dominance in the colonies; retaining the (grudging) electoral support of millions of working-class Australians it has always been a path to government and career by middle-class apparatchiks and wannabe traitors from the ranks of the working class.

Labor has always governed for capital, but in the name of the workers. Sure, the ALP under pressure from the labour movement has at times knocked some of the harsher corners off capitalism, but that has often been all-the-better-to-govern-you-with.

NSW Labor has never been short of people willing to enrich themselves on the back of the labour movement and the working class. One only has to think of Paul Keating and Graham Richardson and you see how men from modest backgrounds have become wealthy while supposedly servants of the working class.

Former NSW premier Bob Carr is doing quite well for himself lately, spruiking for his mates at Macquarie Bank and earning a bit of coin. Yet Joe Tripodi was too much for even Carr's tastes. Tripodi was a founding member of the "Terrigals"; a cabal of senior Rightwingers that included Mark Arbib, Eddie Obeid, Michael Costa, Morris Iemma and the now cannibalised Carl Scully. Carr didn't want Tripodi in the NSW cabinet. It has been reported that under pressure from the Terrigals, the Centre Unity faction foisted Tripodi on him nonetheless. Trained as a numbers man in Young Labor he rolled the Left and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for the ALP are a pretty hard combination to ignore in the political world of NSW Labor.

So far there has been no suggestion that Tripodi has done anything illegal and I'd wager that the rather lax financial disclosure rules in the NSW parliament mean that Tripodi has been above board. But his actions carry no moral weight.

Ordinary Australians deserve better representatives than Joe Tripodi. And the working class deserves a better weapon to fight its battles than currently on offer from NSW Labor. That Joe Tripodi can rise to prominence and power within NSW Labor says more about the ALP than it does about Tripodi himself.

Labor Tribune suggests moving the following motion at your ALP branch meetings.

" _________ branch of the ALP notes with dismay that Joe Tripodi has profited from the purchase and sale of land originally designated for public housing in western Sydney.

While there is no evidence that Tripodi has done anything illegal, his actions fall short of what the working class should expect from its elected representatives.

______ branch of the ALP believes that no representative of the labour movement should enter into arrangements where they privately profit from dealings with any level of government while they are elected representatives."


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