Ray Mackereth, owner of gay publication QNews, is now profiting from full page advertisements in the wake of Queensland’s Healthy Communities’ (QAHC) demise after claiming to be responsible for its downfall. Mackereth is a former sole director of popular Brisbane Sex on Premises Venue (SOPV) Klub Kruise, and is said to have held at least one undisclosed meeting with key ministerial staff, pushing for the defunding of QAHC.
Close to the time of the announcement Mackereth was also seen meeting one of the soon-to-be-appointed advisory committee members, Big Brother Housemate, “Farmer” David Graham, who was a former poster boy for QAHC’s Rip and Roll campaign.
New HIV infections in Queensland have been declining for nearly two full years, bucking the national trend, which is on the increase. This follows claims by state Health Minister Lawrence Springborg that infection rates in Queensland were rising and the peak HIV prevention body had failed. But questions have been raised about the Minister’s source for his assertions.
Mackereth was known to be an open critic of the direction that QAHC had taken and had confided in people close to him that it was “his duty” to see an alternative health promoter appointed.
The Stirrer put specific questions to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg’s office about Mackereth’s actions. A spokeperson for the minister did not deny the involvement of Mackereth, saying:
“You’ve heard the minister’s criticisms of QAHC and its stance many times. That’s his view. He has established the ministerial advisory committee which is broadly representative and will look to them for guidance. That’s not to deny input to any other stake-holding group which may want to raise issues from these areas of policy.”
When pressed, the Health Minister’s spokesperson said that the only role Mackereth played was as a “journalist” and that he was there only to “ask questions” of the Minister and that he was not informing the minister on his decision to defund QAHC. He was also not able to confirm with certainty whether Mackereth met with ministerial staff prior to the defunding announcement of QAHC’.
However according to a well placed source, Mackereth claims he met with the minister’s office prior to the defunding of QAHC and spoke in great detail about how he was instrumental in QAHC’s downfall.
It is unclear whether this is the posturing of a disgruntled business leader, claiming credit where it is not due, or whether he in is fact a key player with the ear of the minister or his key personnel, and was the architect of QAHC’s defunding, as he has publicly claimed.
Paul Martin from QAHC said that he was well aware of the allegations. The Stirrer’s well placed source has also provided a written statement outlining in detail how Mackereth claimed to be the architect of QAHC’s defunding.
The source is a manager of a leading LGBT targeted business and the statement details how Mackereth bragged about his involvement in the defunding of QAHC. After reading the source’s statement Martin toldThe Stirrer:
“If true, these revelations bring further into question the decision and motivation for defunding Healthy Communities. The involvement of a gay community businessman, conspiring behind closed doors with the LNP to remove Queensland’s main LGBT community organisation would be a major breach of trust and of proper process.
QAHC was a customer of QNews, of which Mackereth is publisher and sole director. QNews was losing advertising revenue as QAHC diversified its marketing spend away from just print to online and outdoor media.
QNews stood to benefit financially if a new health promoter were to re-embrace a print media marketing strategy. And such a change in strategy by the Queensland Government has now occurred, with full page safe sex advertisements currently being run. Martin expressed concern about these latest revelations
“Healthy Communities has had some people we know and trust approach us directly over the past few months to tell us that they heard directly from Ray Mackereth, where he has boasting to them that them he had meetings with the Minister for Health and his staff in relation to the defunding of Healthy Communities and was actively working to have us defunded.
“While we have heard several suggestions, it is not known directly by us why Ray Mackereth has allegedly taken a negative view of Healthy Communities. Mr Mackereth has not contacted the Executive Director or Board with any complaints.
As HIV infection rates bounce nationally by 8%, Queensland’s has reduced by nearly the same amount, a 16% improvement, according to the Kirby Institute’s HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2012
These results come just months after the health minister Lawrence Springborg sacked QAHC claiming poor performance and citing an increase in HIV as the reason.
A spokesperson for the health minister suggested those results were a one-off, which meant little in isolation, saying “one swallow does not make a summer”, and pointed to two statements in the Kirby Institute report:
“In regard to HIV, the institute is not prepared to accept a trend based on a single year.
“Increasing rates of HIV diagnosis in Queensland and Western Australia over previous years have stabilised, at around 5.0 and 4.3 per 100 000 population,respectively.’
This “one off” position is contradicted by the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young, who said “the downward trend continued in the first nine months of this year”, suggesting that the results are not an aberration.
She added, “This is likely to be due to a combination of prevention activities undertaken in Queensland over the past few years”, apparently referring to QAHC, which was the principal agency responsible for prevention among gay men.
The health minister has come under fire for sacking QAHC. The replacement advisory committee has already lost one high profile community member Dr Wendell Rosevear because of the politics involved.
Klub Kruise, the sex-on-premises venue that Mackereth owned, went into liquidation after allegedly failing to pay taxes and employee entitlements soon after QAHC’s defunding, according to former employees. Mr Mackereth did not return emails or our call. The new owners of Number 29 Cruise Club, that replaced Klub Kruise did not wish to comment.
Statement by QAHC: Follow the link to read the full statement from QAHC.
What Mackereth told me: an account of a conversation in which these claims were made
DISCLOSURE: The journalist personally knows all of the parties written about due to being a former contributor to QNews. He resigned from QNews over the coverage of the QAHC defunding. Strenuous efforts were made to get Mackereth’s side of the story but he failed to respond.