Health Department: QAHC emails revealed
Queensland Health investigated whether QAHC – the state’s peak body for HIV campaigns for gay men – was using government funds for buying real estate and funding arts events, how many staff it had on salary and whether ‘thongs’ branded for community events were “[on] the feet or on the body”.
QAHC executive director Paul Martin told Queensland Pride an email chain acquired through a Right To Information request by an LGBTI news site earlier this week vindicated his organisation’s position and show that it complied with government requirements.
Queensland Health (QH) internal emails published by LGBTI website the stirrer show the department also made inquiries into who owned the QAHC buildings in Helen Street, Teneriffe, the same week it gave QAHC three months’ notice of defunding on May 20 this year.
Concerning QAHC executive director Paul Martin’s request for a meeting with Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, the Minster’s Chief of Staff emailed a senior media advisor: “Why not Friday as Lawrence is away... [...] I have no idea what more we can possible [sic] chat about... but anyway...”
Responding to Martin, he writes: “However, [the Minister] would like to stress that any such meeting is not about revisiting his decision in grants or the creation of a new committee, but rather to seek from QAHC its views on how it may want to contribute to the Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.”
However, no member of HC was accepted as a member of the MAC on HIV/AIDS.
Many of the 117 email documents show the Department concerned with speedily issuing a three month notice to QAHC informing it of its defunding.
Many documents also include a media release from QAHC outlining its history and its importance to the community and emphasising that no warning of the defunding was given.
“I anticipate the media line will be the LNP cuts funding for AIDS support,” states one senior government media advisor. “Certainly worth pushing no cuts in responses to media inquiries.”
Martin said QAHC had been interested in the backroom machinations of the Health Department concerning how exactly they came to the decision to defund the decades-old organisation, originally the Queensland AIDS Council.
“We’ve done our own [Right To Information request], but that’s not the one on the stirrer, there is some new stuff on there. But there’s nothing we didn’t already know,” Martin said.
“They were trying to find things where we hadn’t complied or done things correctly and reading through all of it there is nothing, because we have complied with everything.”
In a generic reply to emails from people concerned about QAHC’s defunding, the Chief of Staff provides a draft reply on behalf of the Minister, including: “I have made it clear that there will be no cut in the State Government’s resources to HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness strategies. The new Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS will have access to the same level of resources currently available through grants to QAHC.”
The letter does not include information that QAHC’s HIV campaign resources were earmarked only for gay men.
So far the Health Department has not indicated whether the original HC’s HIV campaign funding will go towards gay men’s health.
Read the Health Dept emails here.