James Ashby photographed flying drone near power station

One Nation staffer James Ashby has been referred to the aviation watchdog after flying a drone near a Queensland power station.

But Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff said he did not do anything wrong.

Fairfax Media has obtained an image which shows Mr Ashby apparently operating a remote control while standing beside a ute outside the Stanwell power station, near Rockhampton.

It is understood a security guard approached Mr Ashby on July 13 about 5pm after witnessing him using a drone near the power station.

Mr Ashby stopped using the drone and handed over his One Nation business card.

The incident was referred to authorities, with a Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman confirming the Stanwell matter was being assessed.

The CASA spokesman said there were no specific restrictions or laws against flying drones over or near Queensland infrastructure, such as power stations, as current laws concerned their use near people or crowded areas.

Contacted for comment, Mr Ashby said no drone operations were performed over the Stanwell power station.

“Recorded vision from that day prove this response,” he said in a text message.

Mr Ashby said CASA officials had confirmed there was no concern of illegal activity and pointed to the CASA Drone Complier website which stated for the Stanwell power station: “You may fly here, but beware of low flying aircraft”.

Mr Ashby told Fairfax Media there was no requirement to seek permission to fly in the area.

Asked for a copy of the drone video, Mr Ashby declined and said the footage was for One Nation purposes when the party discussed electricity.

But he said he believed the footage may have been used in a Facebook video for One Nation candidate for Keppel Matt Loth.

The video contains about six seconds of footage that appears to have been filmed by a drone above a road near the Stanwell power station.

During estimates hearings in July, Stanwell Corporation chief executive Richard Van Breda confirmed an incident where a person flew a drone near the power station south-west of Rockhampton.

“In mid-July we did have an event at one of our power stations,” he said.

“We did observe a member of the public flying a drone in the vicinity of Stanwell power station taking photographs and footage of that site.

“Permission had not been sought for that activity and had not been granted.

“In accordance with our standard procedures, we confronted the person and requested that they stop that activity immediately.”

Mr Van Breda said the matter was referred to police, ASIO and CASA.

More generally, Mr Van Breda said its power station sites were considered critical infrastructure, given their importance in providing security of electricity supply.

“As a result, we treat any unauthorised activity around our sites very seriously and we have comprehensive and very strict procedures in place covering security, communication and escalation of issues,” Mr Van Breda said.

“All our power stations have perimeter fencing and we have security in place and an escalation process to deal with any security issues.”

At the time, Treasurer and Acting Energy Minister Curtis Pitt said the outcome of the case was not yet known, but he believed Stanwell had acted appropriately.

“There is a very good reason why we have all of the regulation in place to ensure that people require permission to approach, to be on premises and to be around such important pieces,” Mr Pitt said.

It is the third drone incident linked to Mr Ashby to make headlines this year.

In June, a drone video was posted on Senator Hanson’s Facebook page including aerial shots of Parliament House.

Vision from news cameras apparently showed Mr Ashby operating a drone.

Last week, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle asked CASA to look into whether the Canberra flight was illegal, with an inquiry due by September 13.

At a Senate committee hearing, CASA officials said using a drone over Parliament House was “not appropriate” because it was within the control zone of the Canberra Airport.

In July, Senator Hanson posted a video on social media of her flying a drone from a balcony over a street in Townsville, and said the drone was owned by Mr Ashby.


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