Delayed payments of money raised from this year’s Azure party were in accordance with the wishes of the party organisers, according to AIDS Trust of Australia chairman Chris Puplick.

The new claim comes eight weeks after the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby first raised the issue of outstanding fundraised money with the AIDS Trust. Although the Lobby has received and banked two cheques of $3,000 each, they are waiting on a further $29,000: money the organisation’s leaders say they always anticipated receiving in one lump sum.

But Puplick blamed the arrangement on the party organisers, Iris Group Productions.

Our initial agreement with the donor [Iris Group] was that it was the donor’s wish that the money be paid in a staggered fashion, Puplick told Sydney Star Observer. It is our first obligation to act in accordance with the requirements of the donor. If the donor’s requirements in these things aren’t honoured, I think that significantly reduces our credibility.

Iris Group director Jay Myers did not return phone calls this week, but previously told the Star the payment schedule was an issue between the Trust and the Lobby.

Lobby co-convener Rob McGrory said Puplick’s statement about the wishes of the Iris Group was completely contrary to what he had been told by Myers.

The contract between Iris Group Productions and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust (who manage the site of the party) also stipulated the funds raised by the party were to be passed on to the beneficiaries within eight weeks of the event.

As this issue of the Star went to press, representatives from the Lobby were due to meet with the Trust’s executive officer, Terry Trethowan, to discuss a new AIDS Trust payment proposal. The new proposal would see the remainder of the outstanding money paid to the Lobby in three monthly instalments.

McGrory said the Lobby would consider accepting the Trust’s proposal, but stressed the Trust had provided no cogent reason for the delay in payment.

The AIDS Trust has acted in a way which has put some of the work of the Lobby in jeopardy, McGrory said. The Trust’s representatives had acted in a high-handed manner and disregarded the views of the Lobby, he said.

We feel that the AIDS Trust hasn’t shown that they feel that they are accountable to our community, McGrory said.

The AIDS Trust’s delay in passing on the Azure party money to the Lobby has mystified many community members, with some surmising that perhaps the Trust does not currently have sufficient funds to cover the outstanding amount.

When asked to comment on this, Puplick said: I’m not aware of exactly what we have in the bank at the moment, but my understanding is that we have sufficient arrangements over the next couple of months to meet all outstanding requirements.

Now, whether in fact that sum of money -“ the total of $35,000 -“ is immediately available and we could pay that to the Lobby and then not be in a position to pay other people until a later stage, I’m not in a position to say, Puplick said. The AIDS Trust is also over $100,000 behind in scheduled payments to AIDS Councils and other community organisations.

An attempt by the Trust to explain their current situation to community members (via an advertisement in last week’s Star) led to more questions this week.

The advertisement claimed that 100 percent of individual donations were passed on in their entirety to community organisations. However the AIDS Trust annual report for 2001/2002 showed that general bucket collections brought in $188,000, but the direct cost of that fundraising was $79,000. Similarly, KWAIDS bucket collections brought in $246,000 but incurred costs of $86,000.

Puplick defended the advertised statement.

I don’t classify putting $2 in a bucket as an individual donation, he said. What we are saying is that when individuals donate to us, they say -˜I want to give $1000 to a community organisation’ -¦ when we get donations from individuals in that sense, and not the $2 in a bucket, we make sure that the money is passed on entirely, he said.

When asked whether this was misleading, Puplick replied: No. Mischievous, but not misleading.

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