The Failure of AHIMSA house

It is important to get facts right.

CJ’s Pasta took over AHIMSA house after Ross Taylor defaulted on a bank loan. Ross, a retired meatworker, had been defrauded by two ‘comrades’ and various ‘financial advisors’ who took away heaps of cash when they re-financed AHIMSA house with Challenger bank. Ross’s dream was to have a community centre for migrant workers and environmental groups. Sam Watson offered the Public Trustee approx $2.5M when Ross got into financial strife. Sam wanted to set up a centre for young aboriginal kids as a safe house.

CJ’s was owned by David & Sonya Cotelli, Judith Gruber-Hallam and Christian Gruber sold 26 Horan Street to the state government. The Cotellis claim the land was resumed by the government to make way for the extension of West End school. A  real estate search shows they got $2.8M for AHIMSA in May 2018 (which they appear to have shared with the Grubers). [See ]

The Cotellis were bought out by a Claire Parviz after they sold 26 Horan Street. CJ’s supplied pasta to The Spaghetti House Trattoria on SouthBank also owned by Claire Parviz.

I think it was David Cotelli  whom I bailed up outside AHIMSA House in 2011 after the bank sold AHIMSA house for $970K (this figure is disputed in the table attached). David was very taciturn when I accused him of benefiting from Ross Taylor’s misfortune and being defrauded. He and his partners did make a large capital gain of at least $1.8M when the property was ‘resumed’ in 2018 to extend West End Primary. They had only owned the property for 6 years.

CJ’s should not be confused with PJ’s Pasta who run The Spaghetti House in Boundary Street West End. PJ’s do not pay their workers.

However the demise of Ross Taylor and the failure of his community project at AHIMSA house resulted from the weakness of various groups involved: the Left, the ALP, the Community of West End, and the religiosity of the architect who helped defraud Ross. The architect who falsely claimed 1/6th of the building at 26 Horan Street, West End in Brisbane/Meanjin.

Marcus used to travel the world touting himself as the architect of mausoleums. He could accommodate any religion no matter which country. Malaysia and Poland were two countries where he claimed to have expertise in designing tombs. Will Marcus would become whatever was required … he could be Jewish, he could be Catholic, he could be a Buddhist depending on his audience. He used to go to mass each Sunday at St Stephens cathedral in the city. Hence the term religiosity. Marcus was the ultimate sectarian, the early Christians would have been proud of him.

It didn’t stop him from stealing $168,032 from Ross to pay off the mortgage on his apartment in Mollison Street. We know Marcus took more but that was all we could prove at the time.

You might say it was the Left’s disinterest that enabled the fraudsters to get away with money from AHIMSA house. I remember going there on May Day 2007 to drop something off for Sam Watson … when I walked in, to my surprise, I found half the left in Brisbane was there drinking and yarning. Michel advised Laver not to get into too much debt but was ignored. Maggie tried to out Laver but he had too much power, he was her boss and CEO after all. Gary lent him $5,000 to pay off some debts. Brian Laver never paid him back. Jack Thompson put on films with sections of the left in attendance. Humphrey McQueen spoke at a large function put on by the Brisbane Left. Foco Nuevo played there every month to audiences of between 40 to 80 people. Brisbane Poets had their HQ there and Justice for Palestine even ran the occasional gig with well known local and overseas artists. Disinterest? No.

But only Bernie Neville had the nous to put an end to the excesses of Laver and Marcus by changing the locks and evicting them. Ross made it legal by giving Bernie his enduring power of attorney. Laver and Marcus fled like guilty rabbits.

The Weakness of the Left
Jim Beatson (Creative Broadcasters Ltd) and Laurie Aarons (Communist Party of Australia) entered into an improper arrangement in the sale of the CPA building at 264 Barry parade in Fortitude Valley. The building was held for the purposes of the party which was, broadly speaking, the socialisation of industry. Under the rules of the party the assets should have gone to a like organisation. The Party in Sydney transferred its assets to the Search foundation in 1990. But the Party in Brisbane had extensive assets in its building at 264 Barry Parade which included Coronation Press Pty Ltd. They sold the press to LeftPress for more than it was worth, but sold the building to Creative Broadcasters for far less than it was worth. The building should have gone to a ‘like’ organisation not 4ZZZ or the Search foundation because those organisations had quite different purposes written in their rules. The difference with AHIMSA house was neither Aarons nor Beatson benefited personally by the sale at $225,000 of the CPA building at far less than market value that was more like $1M – less than 25% of market value.

The Public Trustee’s fraud was that Peter Carne ignored Sam Watson’s bid of $2.5M for the building to set up a half-way house for young aboriginal people. Carne allowed AHIMSA house to be sold by the receiver (Colliers) for less than 50% of market value. A source says that there was only one bid for AHIMSA and that was by CJ ‘s Pasta for $970K … what about the bid by Sam Watson on behalf of Link-Up worth $2.5M? Is it still languishing Ian Campbell’s drawer at the Public Trustee’s office in Queens Street?

In accounting terms, the impropriety committed by Beatson (4ZZZ) and Aarons (CPA) was greater than that of Carne’s (ALP) dealings with AHIMSA house. In political terms, the sale of 264 Barry Parade was a theft from the old communist party people and workers who had built up their party on that site from the times of Clarrie Beckingham in the 1940s and 50s. Clarrie had gifted the building to the Party, it was not Laurie Aarons’ prerogative to gift it to Creative Broadcasters Ltd (4ZZZ) for 25% of its market value.

4ZZZ claims that it “supports local arts and musicians with airplay, interviews and promotion of local cultural events” This is hardly the work of a political party. Creative Broadcasters also claim Migrants, refugees or asylum seekers, to be a charitable organisation with the following groups as its beneficiaries: Unemployed persons, Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons, youth – 15 to under 25, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Perhaps I am being overly harsh in my critique of the sale of the CPA building. However I don’t think the issues surrounding the sale of that property and its contents were ever adequately discussed by the Left. Are the people who signed the bill of sale over 264 Barry Parade saying the Socialist Party of Australia, the Democratic Socialist Party and Left unions should not have been asked what to do with the building after the liquidation of the Party? And what about the party membership? There was quite a lot of discontent in the Queensland branch of the party concerning the sale. The ‘central committee’ was at a loss to know what to do, so much so that when Leftpress offered to set up their press in the shed out the back of the party rooms and to pay rent, a leading member, Marie Crisp, told Leftpress that they didn’t want a repeat of the bombing of the party rooms that occured in the early 1970s.

Do people think the ‘disinterest’ referred to at AHIMSA applied to this sale as well?

Personally, I think there should have been more dialogue about decisions like the sale of 264 Barry Parade and the purchase of 26 Horan Street. These discussions should have taken place in an open and comradely fashion.

Also, what about the workers? The CPA was a party of the working class. How are its aims compatible with those of 4ZZZ?

Creative Broadcasters should never have left the UQ Union complex. The student union and the authorities at UQ was forced into negotiations by the large popular support for the station after Victoria Brazil shut it down. Victoria who was tUQ union he President resigned and left the country after her precipitous actions. The move from the UQ union complex undid the station, financially and operationally. It also hurt the union because 4ZZZ put on so many functions for students in its complex.

The station came from the anti-war movement of the 1970s which the CPA also helped organise. I do not accept Laver’s criticism of the CPA – that “the party was behind the moratorium campaign, way behind”. It was Laver who was sectarian and played to the young students to build up support for his position in the movement and his own projects. Ironically Ross Taylor was himself once a member of the Communist Party. However rumours were spread that someone in the party was out to get Ross when he worked at the Cannon Hill meatworks, so he left the country. When he returned and in the absence of a viable alternative he went to Laver to help with the AHIMSA project. Laver always claimed he had enduring power of attorney over Ross’s assets. This too was false.

The Weakness of the Labor Party
With two different local members during the period AHIMSA was operating (2004-2012), the Labor Party never supported the project. Perhaps for good reason the authorities didn’t want Laver to have a liquor licence. This would have added cash flow to the business. Their reason, it was directly opposite West End Primary School. Laver did however hire out the building next door (owned by the Public Trustee) to an organisation that helped physically challenged kids. He ran a bookshop on the other side of AHIMSA house. Plus he rented out the PT’s building to an environmental radio station (a ‘narrowcaster’). Illegally as it turned out. Laver was making powerful enemies first in the street and then in the community. He was publishing a local newpaper called Neighbourhood News which was critical of the Labor Party in government. Plus money always went missing, never properly accounted for, so the Labor Party froze him out, but never had him charged with fraud. Anna Bligh even presented a petition to the parliament taken up by Friends of AHIMSA to expose the fraud. But that was her last day in office. She was swept aside by Campbell Newman after the Queensland Labor government sold Queensland Rail.

One of Anna Bligh’s personal assistants threatened two friends of AHIMSA with defamation when they were taking up the petition against architect Will Marcus. Why? Was it because Marcus had received contracts from state and federal Labor governments? Marcus was involved in obtaining $50,000 fraudulently from the Labor government to put in water saving tanks at AHIMSA. Officers from the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Department in Canberra flew up t investigate the fraud. Nothing was ever done even though the grant monies were never spent on the water tanks. That went into Laver and Marcus’s pockets to pay a debt to a contractor for other work. The relevant ALP ministers were all aware of the fraud but sat on their hands. Long time ALP member and Public Trustee (Peter Carne) even went to the Supreme Court of Queensland in order to avoid chasing the fraudsters: Suleiman Sabdia (accountant, Brian Lennard Laver (CEO) and Will Marcus (Architect). Collectively they had all defrauded Ross Taylor over $1.7M. Instead, the Public Trustee with the help of the Public Guardian dragged Ross out of his house at 433 Mains Rd Sunnybank and put him a high security aged care facility for demented patients over 100 kilometers away. Shame on them all.

The Weakness of Community in West End
Business men, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody offered his word
Hey, hey
– All along the Watchtower, Bob Dylan (Hendrix version)

There are some people who wish to flirt with the great unwashed from the safety of community. At times they are radical chic, at other times they are professional, they hardly ever stick. Later on, they can end up being magistrates, judges even, restaurant owners, social workers, actors, musicians, public servants, managers, university professors or community arts bureaucrats. They like it on the fringe, being alternative, but would not want to remain there. AHIMSA house attracted people like that. They came and went. These were the people who are truly disinterested. Laver played to them, he even handed out Ross’s hard earned money to them. For example Will Marcus received ‘loans’ of $80,000 from Laver that were never paid back, plus he had free rent in the building for 7 years. The one thing these people have in common is that they know how to benefit from organisation without ever doing any work themselves. Some may end up running government funded NGO’s and when they do, they will nearly always exclude the Left.

And then there is the cocaine, alcohol and viagra … but let’s not go there.

The Failure of the Media
Until recently the media have not taken up the extensive evidence for maladministration by Peter Carne and his officers at the Public trustee (Mark Crofton, Ian Campbell, Greg Chapell and others). Thanks to Stephanie Zillman (ABC Brisbane), Anne Connolly (Four Corners), Anthony Marx (Courier Mail) who are now following up this story. No thanks to previous editors of the Courier Mail and the ABC’s news reader, Matt Wordsworth who could not see anything in the story until recently when they were forced by weight of public opinion to give it some modest coverage.

So how do we fix all this? All community organisations must be accountable to their members and supporters, in other words, democratic. They must be properly constituted organisations and meet annual financial reporting and accounting guidelines. They should not engage in discrimination or sectarianism. AHIMSA house had sufficient good people supporting it to be successful, however the bad people undermined all their good work and made it a failure.

The sectarianism of the Left … well, that’s another problem entirely …

Ian Curr
8 April 2021

One thought on “The Failure of AHIMSA house

  1. Young Pete says:

    Great article, i listen to ZZZ but agree with you 100%.

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