Ashley Dodd
Ashley Dodd

Auditors alarmed at company’s $3.3m grant

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

A Brisbane-based energy company with limited experience in the sector scored a $3.3m federal government grant last year to carry out a feasibility study on a new coal-fired power station.

What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

The Auditor-General this month released a scathing critique of the process which saw Shine Energy awarded the money to examine the pros and cons of a possible North Queensland project at Collinsville estimated to cost up to $2bn if it ever gets built.

Launched in 2016 as a solar start-up, Shine is controlled by traditional owners and maintains an office at the Brisbane Technology Park in Eight Mile Plains. It's now gung-ho for coal.

Ashley Dodd
Ashley Dodd

Rather intriguingly, among its inaugural directors was none other than Luke Shaw, the young National Party member who gained eternal notoriety for torpedoing the perjury trial of former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1991. He stepped down after just a year.

Shine boss Ashley Dodd, an ex-director of the Birriah Aboriginal Corporation and one-time candidate for the Katter Australia Party, claimed in 2019 that his people supported the 1-gigawatt project, which allegedly would create up to 2000 jobs.

But that point remains in dispute, with some Birriah folks disavowing the idea, which has also been lambasted as a political stunt by the Labor Party.

Dodd's firm won the grant early last year but by last month he was fuming over the fact that only part of the money had been turned over.

He alleged in an email that bureaucrats were trying to "sabotage'' the low-emission project and harboured anti-Aboriginal bias.

Dodd also warned that Australia needed to ramp up its energy production as a bulwark against a possible war with China.

In a report released last week, auditors said the ad hoc grant funding without competition "was not fully informed by an assessment process and sound advice,'' nor did it comply with the Commonwealth Grants Rules Guidelines.

There was no probity framework, nor appropriate mechanisms to address conflicts of interest, they found. Due diligence on Shine was also not up to date.

"There is a risk that the Shine Energy grant will not result in the completion of a bankable feasibility study,'' auditors cautioned.

Dodd, who has said previously he expects the report to be finished by the end of the year, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

DASHED DREAMS

Jailed fraudster Craig Gore, and his late father, Mike Gore, each had audacious plans at various times to turn a 394ha Gold Coast hinterland cattle property into golf course-focused resort and residential project.

Saddleback
Saddleback

Both schemes collapsed, turning into financial disasters, and the site at Canungra, known as "Saddleback,'' has just changed hands once again.

The current owner, a pastoral outfit, sold the site at auction last week for $8m to a local family intending to keep the cattle grazing.

Elevated 550m above sea level, the property is considered one of the largest holdings close to coastal beaches and it affords spectacular 360-degree views. Even the Glasshouse Mountains are visible.

Originally published as Auditors alarmed at company's $3.3m grant



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