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Under-fire Racing SA director returns to duties despite NT loss

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UPDATED | The deputy chair of South Australia’s peak racing body has returned to duties today after a leave of absence, despite unresolved legal questions continuing in the Northern Territory, where he was this week voted out as chair of the Darwin Turf Club.

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Businessman Brett Dixon took leave of absence from both Racing SA and the NT body at the end of June after the Northern Territory ICAC made findings against him and four others in relation to the awarding of a tender to one of his companies to build a grandstand at the Darwin Turf Club’s Fannie Bay racecourse.

The Northern Territory Government demanded his resignation from the turf club, but he refused, instead renominating for election. This week he failed in his bid to be re-elected to the board, and also resigned his position on the board of Thoroughbred Racing NT.

The board of Racing SA met this morning, with the opposite result.

A spokesman for the racing body told InDaily today: “Following this week’s special general meeting of the Darwin Turf Club and his subsequent resignation as chair of TRNT, Brett Dixon has concluded his leaving of absence from the board of Racing SA and has returned to his duties as a Director”.

“Mr Dixon is a Director of Racing SA and remains qualified to be so under the terms of the Racing SA constitution and so, having advised us that he has decided to conclude his self-requested leave of absence, he has returned to his duties as a Director,” the Racing SA board said in a statement.

Dixon, who is legally contesting the ICAC findings against him, was a controversial appointment to the board of the then Thoroughbred Racing SA in 2019.

As InDaily reported at the time, his elevation to the board was widely considered within the industry to be in breach of the South Australian racing body’s constitution, which precluded appointments of people involved in the management of other racing clubs.

Racing Minister Corey Wingard endorsed Dixon’s appointment at the time, under a process he instituted to increase government oversight of a multi-million-dollar funding stimulus package provided to the industry.

A director selection panel, with a majority of members appointed by Wingard, included Dixon’s name in a list of new appointees, which was then endorsed by the Minister.

Dixon was elevated to deputy chair of Racing SA last year.

In June this year, the Northern Territory anti-corruption watchdog handed down a report into a multi-million dollar government grant to the Darwin Turf Club, which resulted in one of Dixon’s companies getting a contract to build a new grandstand for the club.

The report 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”.

The ICAC inquiry focused on events after an NT government announcement in 2019 that $12 million of taxpayer funds had been awarded to the Darwin Turf Club to build a new grandstand at its racetrack.

The report found Dixon and the turf club board failed to declare and manage conflicts of interest in the process of awarding the subsequent tender.

Dixon has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and has reportedly taken action to overturn the findings in the Supreme Court.

Wingard would not comment on Dixon’s return to duties, in response to questions from InDaily.

So far the Minister has refused to intervene in the matter, saying the board’s make-up is a matter for Racing SA.

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