There were more hard-to-believe moments in yesterday’s Firepower media conference than the assembled hacks had space to report this morning – but there’s also a story in the missing stories in some media.

The mysterious Firepower itself first – not only does this strange company splash around millions of dollars on sports sponsorships and ownership, it turns out it gives Austrade money as well as receiving it. Such generosity by an outfit that doesn’t make any profits.

Firepower has picked up nearly $400,000 in export grants but CEO John Finnin says it kicked in $200,000 to sponsor Austrade’s Moscow Australia Day. You’ve got to love a mob who just likes to give back. Finnin also said Firepower was his main client when he was an Austrade executive.

Firepower’s strange business activities are concentrated in Russia, which prompted the Oz’s Michael West to ask if the operation could be explained by money laundering for the Russian mafia. Oh, Michael, so sad to see such cynicism in one so young. The suggestion was strongly denied by Finnin.

Given the lack of credible information currently available from Firepower and the general tenor of its operation, I’m left wondering if the Russians are just more gullible.

But let me not also become cynical. Maybe it’s because there are more nuclear physicists in Russia who might understand how Firepower’s magic petrol pill and fantastic diesel potions improve your mileage by 20 per cent or so. You see, it’s all about “greater atomisation” of the fuel.

Finnin agrees that it sounds like gobbledegook, but it’s Firepower’s “intellectual property” and he won’t be telling us how it works. Perhaps the nuke nerds among our subscribership can enlighten us.

Meanwhile, why does this seem to be such a non story to some media outlets? Here’s a dubious-looking outfit (it’s actually not a company in Australia in the usual meaning of the word) that’s become remarkably high-profile by emerging almost overnight as one of the nation’s biggest sponsors of sport, that’s enlisting various jocks to spruik its unproven products, that’s picked up nearly $400,000 from the tax payer, that claims the support of a state premier and a prime minister – and it’s largely unreported.

The SMH broke the story and continues to run it but the Age reduced the conference to a couple of pars and most of that was wasted on an AWB sidetrack. Michael West covered for the Oz but most curiously, a quick skim of the Terror at the coffee shop this morning and a search of its web site failed to find a mention. There wouldn’t be any conflict there between News and NRL sponsorship, would there?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey