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Minor parties call for Wingard to act on Racing SA deputy

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UPDATED | The Greens and SA Best have added their voices to calls for Racing Minister Corey Wingard to take action to ensure the removal of a Racing SA director under an ICAC cloud.

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Wingard is refusing to intervene in the position of Brett Dixon, the deputy chair of Racing SA and chairman of the Darwin Turf Club, who is the subject of adverse findings by the Northern Territory ICAC.

Wingard insists he has no power to act, arguing that “racing is not legislated in South Australia and therefore the Minister has no authority over the racing codes”.

The Territory anti-corruption body handed down a damning report just over a week ago about an NT Government grant of more than $12 million that was used to build a new grandstand for the Darwin Turf Club. The contract to build the grandstand went to one of Dixon’s companies.

The ICAC’s report on the matter found Dixon and four others had engaged in improper conduct and Dixon’s actions “may be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the consideration of criminal charges”.

Dixon took leave of absence from the Racing SA board last week, but Wingard – who essentially controls the appointment of directors for the peak body – has refused to demand his resignation.

In the Northern Territory, the Government has demanded the resignation of all Darwin Turf Club directors.

SA Labor has already called for Dixon’s resignation and the minor parties added their voice today, saying Wingard needed to show some leadership.

“Leadership is sorely needed,” said Greens MLC Tammy Franks.

“The NT ICAC report makes for a sobering read about the modus operandi of this industry. Mr Dixon’s appointment was controversial from the start, holding dual roles in racing administration in SA and NT was already problematic and it’s high time the appointing Minister (Wingard) admitted his mistake.

“Minister Wingard is the one saddled with the responsibility of appointing Members of the board; if one of them ends up being a dud not a stud he should take the reins and remove them from the Board. The NT ICAC findings are such that Mr Dixon must go, and he must go now. A self-imposed leave of absence is not enough; Minister Wingard must turf him out today.”

Pangallo went further, calling on Wingard to act but also indicating he would ask the Auditor-General to look at Racing SA’s expenditure of Government funds.

“When the Minister wants to have a say in the thoroughbred racing industry, he makes it known, but when it gets controversial he looks to handball it,” Pangallo told InDaily.

“This is quite a serious issue of probity concerning a prominent member of Racing SA – the Minister should take some responsibility for it.”

The controversy mentioned by Franks is in relation to a series of InDaily reports from 2019, which revealed concerns in the racing industry that Dixon’s appointment was in breach of the constitution of Thoroughbred Racing SA.

The rules state that someone involved in management at a racing club cannot be appointed to the board. Dixon at the time was the chair of the Darwin Turf Club.

His name was on a list of potential appointees to the board, sent to Wingard by a selection panel which is dominated by members nominated by the Minister.

Wingard then endorsed the appointment, despite “concerns” being flagged with him.

That process of appointing directors was imposed by Wingard as a condition of a $24 million “stimulus package” for the racing industry.

Dixon was elevated to deputy chair last year.

The Minister says he’s pleased with the operations of the Racing SA board.

“The Racing SA board is working well and is delivering great outcomes for the racing industry in South Australia,” he told InDaily in a statement.

“Any further questions regarding the operations of the board or members should be referred to the Racing SA board.”

Racing SA has told InDaily that it is “monitoring developments” in the Northern Territory case.

However, it also said it did not play a role in the appointment of directors.

“Racing SA is not involved in the director appointment process. The Director Selection Panel makes a recommendation to the Minister who has the final power of endorsement,” a spokesperson said.

The Director Selection Panel has five members, three of whom are appointed by Wingard.

The chair of that panel, former Liberal senator Amanda Vanstone, told InDaily this week she had no comment to make.

Dixon has denied any wrongdoing.

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