Innovation Minister Christoper Pyne and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten are among a growing number of public figures confused as to why they were said to be involved in the launch of a new app called Sociabl.

Last Sunday, public relations guru Max Markson issued a press release to media outlets claiming that Pyne and Shorten would be attending the launch of Sociabl, an app that allows users to talk to celebrities via video chat for a fee, half of which is donated to charity. Celebrities announced to be included in the app to chat with included Gary Ablett Jr, Brendan Fevola, Shane Warne and Ian Thorpe. The press release starts:


“The official launch of Sociabl will be held at Sydney’s Jones Bay Wharf on Monday the 18th of January, 11am … with special guests Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science and Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition Hon Bill Shorten MP and AFL star Gary Ablett Jr.”

The release states that Sociabl is valued at over $9 million and is the brain child of two Australians, 21-year-old Brandon Reynolds, and 22-year-old Jarrad Hrotek. The company now has offices in Adelaide, Los Angeles, and London, with 11 staff in total. Reynolds told Crikey‘s sister publication StartupSmart last year that Reynolds began working to get investment for the company at age 19 by emailing every single member of the BRW Rich 200 List and pitching them his idea.

The release also suggested that Jimmy Barnes and Reece Mastin were signed up to be part of the app, but both have denied that they are involved. Barnes’ son, David Campbell, was also featured on the app — without his knowledge — and confronted Reynolds about this on a Today Show segment yesterday.

On Sunday, the company posted on Facebook that three celebrities (Campbell, Mastin, and Barnes) had been removed from the app “due to miscommunication among their managers”.

In a long statement published on Medium today, Reynolds has accused the Today Show segment of being “false and defamatory”. He said it was tricky to get celebrities to sign up fro the app, but said that the CEO of the record label representing Campbell, Barnes and Mastin had made an arrangement to have the three celebrities included in the app. Despite claims on the Today Show that was not signed onto the app, Reynolds insists he is working with the musician’s manager to get him signed up to the app, publishing an email, allegedly from’s management, inviting Reynolds to a fundraiser in February.

Shorten and Pyne were both listed in the release as attending the launch of the app on Monday on the multimillion-dollar yacht Masteka II for a cruise around Sydney Harbour, but both denied they had agreed to attend. Reynolds yesterday tweeted an image of Shorten endorsing the event from last week. A spokesperson for Shorten’s office confirmed it was never the case that Shorten would attend the event, and the office had provided a standard written message. Sociabl asked Shorten to provide a video message, but he declined.

It is understood Pyne was unable to attend due to prior commitments. Assistant minister Wyatt Roy is believed to have attended the event yesterday. Crikey sought confirmation from Roy’s office but did not hear back by deadline. There is no evidence on his social media accounts that he attended.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey