Did Ray Mackereth Rip Off Business Network and Suicide Prevention bodies?

Queensland gay businessman Ray Mackereth is facing allegations of improper conduct as documents suggest he was both the referee for a gay and lesbian business network to win a government grant, while his company was the single biggest beneficiary of that grant, taking home $7,150 for advertisements placed in QNews.

Government documents obtained by RayMackereth.com  show that Mr Mackereth, along with two local LNP politicians acted as personal referees for Brisbane’s Gay and Lesbian Business Network. Originally QNews was to share equally the biggest beneficiary status with community run paper Star Observer, however an amended grant document shows that Star’s portion was more than cut in half, leaving Mackereth’s publication the front runner, benefiting the most from this government grant.

Despite his business enjoying advertising from grants, direct government contracts and taxpayer supported not-for-profits, Mr Mackereth has refused to comment on his involvement. It is also in the wake of revelations that Mr Mackereth’s  QNews has allegedly overstated Q News’ publication figures, distribution and  readership figures according to report in The Australian and Star Observer.

Separately because of advertisements run by QNews and contradictory posts on its website, questions have also been asked as to whether promised fundraising in aid of “suicide prevention” was actually diverted to a soccer club and regional Queensland community group.

Ray Mackereth or QNews appear to have started a petition on Change.org arguing “We have actively been involved in suicide prevention for over 10 years” which received a lacklustre response of 110 signatures to get the Queensland Reds to to an It’s Gets Better Campaign.

In 2011 QNews promised to share profits of an event “Carnivale”, where the publication marketed itself as the promoter under the heading of “QNews Presents”. While pre-event promises varied, they appeared to offer that profits from Carnivale would be split 50/50 between Brisbane Pride Festival and “suicide prevention” although no specific organisation was noted as the beneficiary.

Sources close to BPF confirm they received $4,108 as QNews boasted they had donated. However after a recent tip off to raymackereth.com that money was not ever disbursed to any suicide prevention charity or community group, Mr Mackereth was asked how the balance of the profits were allocated to “suicide prevention”.

Mr Mackereth has not answered any questions about how the funds were disbursed. QNews’ own pages appear contradictory about wheren the money went, where one month they say “all other proceeds” went to “youth suicide prevention” and the next month saying the money went to BPF, a soccer club and a regional Queensland group, implying that only the scraps, or perhaps none at all, went to an unnamed youth suicide body.

On 14 June 2011 QNews editor Toby Longhurst wrote a glowing review of his employer’s own event saying QNews financed and organised the one-off Carnivale:

“…which has acted not just as a stand in fair day but also as a fund-raiser to help Brisbane Pride Festival get back on its feet, as well as donating all other proceeds to youth suicide prevention.”

Mackereth himself was quoted in his editor’s article:

“QNews Publisher and Carnivale organiser Ray Mackereth, who worked with a team of enthusiastic volunteers, has long been a passionate advocate for youth suicide prevention and described the day as being of “significant importance”.”

However just one month later on 15 July 2011, a co-authored post by Big Brother graduate (and now Ministerial Advisory Committee member) David Graham and TV personality Peter Everett, suggested the money was handled differently with 100% going to “youth suicide prevention” indicating nothing to BPF.

“Brisbane Carnivale was a once off event organised by Q News and co-ordinated by Ray Mackereth after Brisbane Pride Festival fell into financial difficulties. Despite a substantial loss last year from BPF’s Fair Day, this year’s similar event managed to post a profit  despite harshly cold and inclement weather that minimised numbers. 100% of profit that is set to top $10,000, is being donated to youth suicide prevention and the last amounts will be presented over the coming weeks to community beneficiaries.”

Later in the same article it appears a different version still as to who enjoyed the spoils from this event.

“The atmosphere in Perry Park was extremely vibrant, upbeat and celebratory. The soccer club at Perry Park who host many youth soccer carnivals and were flooded earlier this year also received a $5,000 donation from Brisbane Carnivale for use of their grounds.

A new Roma LGBT group not So Straight are also about to receive a $500.00 donation from Brisbane Carnivale with more donations to be announced soon. This takes the current donations to $9,608.00 to date and still more to be donated by QNews.”

Promises of a presentation to youth suicide support group do not appear to have ever been published and it is unclear if they occurred but if $9,608 of around $10,000 was paid out as reported, then 50/50 did not got to BPF and “suicide prevention” as was promised in pre-event marketing. Carnivale also received government assistance.

In related suggestions of exaggerated claims, QNews marketing tells its prospective customers it has “at least 50,000 readers are online” (and that figure expands to up to 150,000 per issue) and also says “QNews usually ranks in the TOP 500,000 WEBSITES in the WORLD & also in the top 15,000 WEBSITES IN AUSTRALIA” (sic).

An Alexa search, which RayMackereth.com understands to be the reference tool used by QNews online claims suggests a very different picture with a global ranking not even close to the the top one million world websites, limping in at 1,126,116. Similarly the Australian results suggest QNews are only in the top 48,568 most popular website meaning they are potentially tripling their actual performance to attract advertisers.

Mr Mackereth has not responded to how his company verifies this claim.

In a statement on Thursday to community radio Joy949, Mr Mackereth did not specify which allegations he was referring to, but said that things being said about him were “untrue”.

Mr Mackereth in August 2013 told a Brisbane community group committee that there was a “vendetta” against him and that the journalist had “mental issues” and telling others the journalist was “schizo”. He conceded to this community group that he has no intention of ever responding to the questions.

Related:

Ray Mackereth accused of being an old hand at living off his employees’ entitlements

Ray Mackereth in Federal Circuit Court for Unpaid Employee Entitlements

Ray Mackereth an Unreasonable Manager: WorkCover

Gay titles accused over distribution data

This story first appeared in The Australian on 7 October 2013

Advertisers were also told the publication was widely distributed in southeast Queensland when the documents suggested only 310 copies were delivered outside of Brisbane. Source: Herald Sun

AN Office of Fair Trading investigation has been launched into allegations that two of Australia’s largest gay street press publishers, Sydney-based Evolution Publishing and Brisbane’s QNews, had misled advertisers by inflating their distribution numbers by as much as 300 per cent.

In one case, Evolution claimed its fortnightly title Queensland Pride was distributing 15,740 copies per issue at the end of last year when only 4970 copies were going out, according to information provided to the OFT in Queensland.

Advertisers were also told the publication was widely distributed in southeast Queensland when the documents suggested only 310 copies were delivered outside of Brisbane.

Evolution, which also produces titles including SX in NSW, Melbourne Community Voice and South Australia’s Blaze, was wound up in May but a new company, Evo Media, run by the same people and publishing the same titles, launched immediately after.

According to distribution manifests being looked at by the OFT, QNews claimed 14,370 copies of its fortnightly newspaper QNews hit the streets in the last quarter of 2012 when only 7785 editions were actually printed.

The manifests showed that since 2010 QNews appeared not to have printed more than 10,000 copies of any of its publications, with most averaging about 8500 copies or fewer, despite claims it was distributing as many as 16,250 copies.

An OFT spokeswoman said it did not provide details on open investigations. “They are being investigated, that’s the only comment we can make,” she said.

In its 2012 media kit QNews warned prospective advertisers about publications exaggerating their figures. After questions about its distribution practices, QNews has changed the information on its website, removing references to how many copies it prints and scaling back readership and distribution claims. QNews director and publisher Ray Mackereth said he was not aware of any investigation and the company had never “intentionally” reported incorrect distribution numbers.

“Our distribution is entirely available on our website. We try to keep it all as up to date as we can,” he said. No one from Evolution could be contacted to comment on the OFT investigation. Hundreds of small businesses and community groups advertise in the gay street press, including the Gay and Lesbian Business Network, which has had more than $15,000 in government aid to run ads in the publications.

Evolution’s former Victorian manager, Shane Bridges, said he had received complaints from advertisers and distribution points about poor responses to their advertising and from distribution points about not receiving enough copies of Melbourne Community Voice and other publications from the company. “MCV got down to 4950 copies being printed when it was meant to be triple that,” Mr Bridges said.

National distribution company MMPD worked for Evolution and “continually” complained that there were “simply not enough issues printed” and it could not fulfil its distribution manifests, said MMPD managing director Simon Coulter. “The whole point of MMPD’s service was targeted to each distribution outlet, down to the local cafe, so the advertising would work with the exact demographic targeted,” Mr Coulter said. “Evolution’s failure to print even half of what they promised undermined the whole process, so it is a shame to hear we were blamed by their staff.”

Miles Heffernan is a freelance writer who has previously contributed to QNews.

Boycott Call Against Ray Mackereth’s Q News

This first appeared in Samesame.com.au on 24 Octoer 2012.

The owner of Queensland gay magazine QNews is facing a community-driven boycott campaign as suspicion about his involvement in the defunding of a local gay men’s health network intensifies.

Rumours have circulated for some time in the Brisbane LGBT community that Ray Mackereth met with key government officials to convince them that Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) did not deserve the millions it gets from the state. Then as Campbell Newman’s team swept into power earlier this year, QAHC’s funding was swiftly cut off, seemingly with little or no consultation with its stakeholders in the gay and HIV prevention communities, ostensibly as part of the new government’s controversial cost-cutting measures.

Concerned that Mackereth aimed to profit from QAHC’s demise, as the government’s new HIV awareness campaign is now advertising in QNews, the recently-created LGBT activism blog The Stirrer went public with the allegation yesterday, under the title ‘Gay Businessman Claims He Brought Down Queensland AIDS Council’.

The story, which quotes unnamed ‘well placed sources’ close to the situation, spread quickly via social networks to a mixture of responses yesterday. Its author was a previous contributor to QNews, who says he left the magazine as the QAHC situation developed.

Several commenters via social networks backed up the article’s central claim, saying Mackereth had “bragged” about his involvement in QAHC’s defunding. “He’s a traitor to our community,” read a typical comment, and it wasn’t long before a Boycott QNews Facebook page appeared.

Noticeably absent from the blog’s exposé is a reaction from Mackereth himself. Speaking to Same Same yesterday evening, he flatly denies all the allegations in the article, describing them as “completely untrue” and the work of “people with a vendetta” against him and his business. Last night he was even considering legal action, eager for the article to be taken down.

Mackereth’s lengthy statement now appears on the QNews website, in which he says he has always been a supporter of QAHC, and has never lobbied the government for its defunding.

“Let me state very clearly – not only are these allegations total nonsense, they are just plain wrong and downright offensive,” he reacts.

“We (at QNews) have long prided ourselves with the strong relationships we have built with Queensland’s LGBT community groups and I hope that we continue to do so.”

Response to QNews’ – “Our own gay State of Origin”

This first appeared on the Brisbane Pride Festival Website MAY 20, 2012

To all Brisbane Pride Members, Friends, Volunteers and the GLBTIQ Community at large,

In issue 299 of QNews an article entitled Our Own Gay State of Origin was published that contained erroneous facts about Brisbane Pride Festival.

The Brisbane Pride Festival would like to set the record straight.

Brisbane Pride Festival does not have an exclusive deal with any publication, Sydney based or otherwise.

We do have a media sponsorship agreement with Star Observer.

Star Observer successfully tendered for and won this position.

QNews was invited to tender and chose not to be part of the process that may have enabled them to be the media sponsor for this years festival. As a sign of good will QNews was even contacted by phone to remind them of the deadline, and still they did not submit a tender.

The deadline for invitees to accept was within the legal guidelines of tender law and QNews amongst other invitees had ample time to reply. The deadline was not Christmas as suggested in the article.

One condition of this tender was that any indication of exclusivity from the media sponsor would not be tolerated by Brisbane Pride Festival.

Brisbane Pride Festival has the right to accept any offers of support and or advertising specials that they deem fit. Brisbane Pride Festival has to this date sent all media releases to all publications of interest including QNews. To date Qnews is the only publication not to print these press releases.

Brisbane Pride Festival has received a commitment of support for Queensland Pride magazine, who despite Brisbane Prides Festival’s media sponsorship with Star Observer see fit to bring to their readers issues of community interest. Brisbane Pride Festival has a strong and positive relationship with both Star Observer and Queensland Pride.

Brisbane Pride Festival Committee is male heavy at the moment but not male exclusive.

The committee has a proud Lesbian member who is in charge of womens interest and youth.

Brisbane Pride Festival works in close conjunction with City Lickers, Scarlet and LHAG, all devoting their efforts to the advancement of the Lesbian and womens community at large.

Brisbane Pride Festival Committee has had six members resign within this financial year. Each of these resignee’s have been contacted and stated that at no time were they ostracised by the rest of the committee. All have resigned for personal reasons, not Pride related reasons.

The Brisbane Pride Festival Committee is not dwindling, in fact it has grown by one member more than has resigned over the last three months.

In conclusion Brisbane Pride Festival is a legal, compliant registered Non For Profit organisation, headed by a team of hard working volunteers dedicated to representing the interests of the entire greater LGBTIQ community. Brisbane Pride Festival is bound by a constitution that ensures the protection of the community we represent and has serious legal consequences if found to be non compliant.

It is Brisbane Pride Festival’s view that the entire community regardless of which letter of the title if any they fall under are represented to the best of the committees ability.

It is the committees view that articles such as the one in QNews do not represent the community or indeed the spirit of it.

It is Brisbane Pride Festival’s opinion that rather than harbouring support for the community in all its forms, this article is in fact divisional and derisive of the community.

It is also insulting to a hard working team of volunteers who give up of their own time to sit on a committee, volunteer to assist at events and of course the members themselves. In striking at Brisbane Pride Festival in such a vicious way, it is the Committees opinion that QNews has struck at the community it so loudly likes to claim it represents.

Brisbane Pride Festival’s, records, books, financials and minutes are open to public scrutiny from its members, who are the community.

Brisbane Pride Festival is owned by its members, QNews is owned by one single business man.

Brisbane Pride Festival is a non for profit association committed to supporting the community and its needs by a constitution. QNews is a commercial business designed to create a single owner with an income.

For the reasons listed above and the irresponsible use of journalistic integrity in allowing an article so incorrect to be published Brisbane Pride Festival is no longer able to support or endorse QNews as a true community publication.

 

Deeje Hancock

President

For and on behalf of
BRISBANE PRIDE FESTIVAL Incorporated, IA31167

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