Aboriginal coal Shine Energy chief’s fury at ‘push to replace me with a white CEO’.

The Australian
June 11, 2020

Plans for a new clean-coal plant in Queensland are in turmoil after the project’s chief executive accused the ­Morrison government of trying to force him out of the Aboriginal business and delaying its development.

Shine Energy chief executive Ashley Dodd has accused the government of trying to “white clad” his company by removing him and using an “Anglo-Saxon as a company figurehead” — without links to the traditional Birri owners — to champion the project.

In a series of emails to the offices of Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor, Mr Dodd also accused officials in the Energy Department of stonewalling the approval of a $4m grant for a feasibility study into the proposed coal-fired power station in the central Queensland town of Collinsville.

The federal government promised to fund the study in the 2019 election campaign, contributing to the Prime Minister’s electoral success in regional Queensland. The plan was heavily backed by state Nationals MPs but opposed by city-based state Liberals.

In an email sent last week to Mr Morrison and Mr Taylor, Mr Dodd said he had been pressured to leave Shine Energy by a member of the Morrison government’s ministry, who he claimed was acting on behalf of Mr Taylor.

A spokesman for Mr Taylor told The Australian at “no stage” did the minister or his office suggest to Shine Energy or “anyone else” that the company needed a new chief executive.

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But in an email sent on the weekend, Mr Dodd said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the suggestion the indigenous company, controlled by the Birriah people, should be led by an Anglo-Saxon, as Adani Australia did with its appointment of Lucas Dow as chief executive in 2018.

“I received a phone call yesterday from a member from your federal government ministry regar­ding Shine Energy’s grant funding application for the Collinsville … project,” Mr Dodd wrote.
“It was suggested that I should step aside as Shine Energy’s CEO and employ someone like Lucas Dow, the CEO of Adani Australia, to conduct government relations.
“I was lead (sic) to believe that this member of … your ministry was conveying a message on behalf of Minister Taylor.
“I was dismayed and shocked by the suggestion that Shine Energy should ‘White Clad’ … our company with a non-Birriah Traditional Owner as CEO, to develop a greater public perception of confidence for Minister Taylor and his department.
“I am lost for words regarding this matter, as I thought the days of oppressing Birriah Traditional Owners were over, but it appears I have been proven wrong.”

Northern Australia Assistant Minister Michelle Landry confirmed she was the MP who spoke to Mr Dodd but denied she pressured him to step down.

Ms Landry, who holds the Queensland seat of Capricornia where the project would be built, said she merely suggested Mr Dodd hire a “head-kicker” to manage government relations.

“I did not tell Ashley to step down. I said it was a massive multi-billion-dollar project, that we all want it to succeed, and it might be handy for him to have a right-hand man like they did with Adani getting Lucas Dow … someone who is a head-kicker who can deal with the government,” she said.
“(Mr Dodd) has done an amazing job. He has got it this far.”
When asked if Mr Taylor influenced her decision to talk with Mr Dodd, Ms Landry said: “I have a lot of conversations with different ministers about it.”

Ms Landry heavily promoted the Collinsville project during the 2019 election campaign, winning her seat with an 11.7 per cent swing on a two-party preferred basis.

Greg Brown | National Correspondent

Source: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/aboriginal-coal-chiefs-fury-at-push-to-replace-me-with-a-white-ceo/news-story/ff7258dd0dae695f582b62d34ef162f1