Former NSW State Labor MP, Rodney Cavalier, talks about reports that back in 1987 the plan for the now-US President’s bid for a casino was dumped because of his “mafia connections’’.
Introduction: Higher standards in Australia than the US
Ross Greenwood: In 1987, the state government of New South Wales, the cabinet, sat down to consider bids for Sydney’s very first casino. What happened, there were a number of bidders but as those ministers from a labor government sat down to consider it, they actually spotted perhaps even forgotten now, one name, and that was Donald J. Trump. Donald Trump was in a consortium with the Queensland’s property developer, Kern Group.
In this particular case, the development that he wanted he’d fallen in love with Australia. Donald Trump in that same year also wrote his book The Art of the Deal. He was 41 years old but the New South Wales cabinet when they came to consider his bid for a casino in Sydney, rejected it and that’s where the story gets rather interesting. In that cabinet were some incredible luminaries. There was Barrie Unsworth was the premier, there was Laurie Brereton who became a minister for infrastructure on a federal basis.
There was Bob Carr who became not only the premier of New South Wales after they’d been a coalition government, but then also became the foreign minister. There was also Rodney Cavalier who had been the minister for, I think at the time it was education but he was also the minister for energy, finance and for a long long time of course, the man who ran the STG as its major trustee. He’s on the line right now. Rodney good evening to you. Many thanks for your time.
Interview: Rodney Cavalier, former Minister for Energy and Finance
Rodney Cavalier: Thank you Ross.
Ross Greenwood: Can you remember this particular meeting to consider the casinos?
Rodney Cavalier: I can indeed. I certainly remember the cabinet considering the casinos and receiving a report from the police board and ticked off by the treasury, saying that two of the tenders had to be knocked out. I wouldn’t have known yesterday that one of those tenders was Donald Trump. It was only when that was reported this morning in the Australian, did I realize that and then I went to my diary and this is the value of keeping a diary, it’s so much better than the memory. I found that I had actually written those words into the diary about what happened. I had caught detail entry on the cabinet on that day; Monday the 4th of May, 1987.
Ross Greenwood: Do you have that diary handy with you right now Rodney?
Rodney Cavalier: Yes, I’ll read it to you if you like.
Ross Greenwood: Yes, read it to me. Tell me exactly what you wrote in your diary on that day 30 years ago? Of course, this is the reason why these cabinet documents are now being released about the bidders for Sydney’s very first casino.
Rodney Cavalier: Okay. I will skip over the fact that I was into the day at 7:30, went to Riverside Girls’ High, I went to my office. I went to cabinet which I find amazing I was able to move around like that given Sydney’s traffic. While into the cabinet meeting I have this entry, casinos. “This casino committee report is a matter of discussion that’s for treasurer.
“The police board and the treasury have done their work. We knock out two of the tenderers, HKM is a Hong Kong outfit for associations with the Chinese triad and just scheming in the Philippines, and Trump, for mafia connections”.
Ross Greenwood: It’s amazing. Mafia connections. In other words–
Rodney Cavalier: Yes amazing I call him Trump not Donald Trump, so I must have known him in some way who he was. But I wouldn’t have remembered that until it was all in the papers this morning.
Ross Greenwood: This all comes, it transpires as a result of a police board report where it’s concerned about his connections with the mafia. Not only for the building which was going on at that time, of the Trump Plaza Apartment building, but also even Atlantic City which is on the East coast of America from New York which is a big Casino’s strip. Of course, to get anything built in the United States pretty much at that time, you had to have some sort of a connection with mafia type figures because otherwise you couldn’t get anything build.
Rodney Cavalier: That was essentially correct. What this reveals is that the cabinet process was working and so was the public service. We relied upon reports from the police board and from treasury, and that was vital to the aspirations of Donald Trump. So, the listeners shouldn’t be in any doubt about this. The cabinet decided that Donald Trump was not a fit and proper person to run a casino in New South Wales.
We occasionally lesser rate ourselves as Australians, but we had no tolerance for someone like Donald Trump. We could go on with all of those poles to magnify 29 years on and become elected president couldn’t happen in Australia. Our Westminster system worked very well, our cabinet worked very well in 1987.
Ross Greenwood: Here’s the interesting thing about that, that the treasure at the time was quite clearly exemplary. He was running the prices, wasn’t he?
Rodney Cavalier: He was. You could ever happen to meet.
Ross Greenwood: The other irony of all of this is even that casino project did not go ahead and certainly not on the site that was planned at that time. Where the casino is in Sydney now, the Star casino, many people all around Australia will know that is a different project that was if you like inspired by a coalition government that replaced your government around six months later on.
Rodney Cavalier: That’s correct. It was a little bit longer than six months fortunately. The Guarana government decided to reignite the process, they went through whatever hoops they did. They ended up giving the license, the right to operate a casino in a different part of Sydney into a different consortium. I got no ability to know how the process worked. I presume it was entirely honourable. But we had reached.
What was happening is each of the tenders, there were four in it. Each of the four would bleed on the other three. The police didn’t have to go searching very far to find skeletons about all four. They were dumping on to each other and effectively sank each other.
Ross Greenwood: Isn’t it astonishing that the man who was rejected by the New South Wales government on this police board reports, ultimately becomes the leader of the free world? That’s something that really knocks me out about this Rodney.
Rodney Cavalier: Quite so, and he’s the sort of person, a clown, who could not win pre selection for a minor position in the state. We have higher standards in Australia than the United States. Someone like him under a Westminster system could not get elected to a seat in parliament. He certainly couldn’t lead a party. There’s a lot wrong with Australia but not having a direct election of a president is not one of those things is wrong. We’re so fortunate that the party system is strong enough to prevent someone like Trump coming to the top.
Ross Greenwood: I’ll tell you what? Great to have you on the program. Rodney Cavalier, and of course own diary. In those minutes from that cabinet meeting, by the New South Wales Labour government at that time. It really is quite an astonishing chapter in Australia. And of course, we wouldn’t know at that time what Donald Trump will ultimately become. It’s a great story. Rodney Cavalier, the former New South Wales Labour Minister for energy, finance and education. Great to have you on the program Rodney.
Rodney Cavalier: Thanks very much, Ross.