Monday, March 19, 2012

2nd letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Dear Prime Minister

Further to my letter of 27th Feb.

I do hope that someone in your office read my last letter, will read this one and ask the obvious questions: Why is Mr Ricketson not writing to the relevant Minister, the Hon Simon Crean? Is what he says about Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron playing fast and loose with the truth, true? Does Fiona Cameron investigate complaints made about herself? Is this a job for our top spin doctor or is there a problem with Screen Australia that needs to be and should be addressed?

The interrelated problems that need to be addressed are:
Problem # 1: Simon Crean (or whoever the relevant person in his office might be) is not at all concerned by the ramifications of having, in senior management at Screen Australia, people who have little respect for the ideals of transparency and accountability.
Problem #2: Screen Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, has little respect for facts,  for due process, and plays fast and loose with the truth.
Problem #3: Fiona Cameron investigates complaints made about herself. (Surely the days are long gone when a senior bureaucrat investigates complaints made about her own conduct!?)
Problem # 4: Fiona Cameron’s boss, Ruth Harley finds nothing inappropriate at all about Ms Cameron’s behaviour.
Problem # 5: Glen Boreham and the Screen Australia Board seem sublimely unconcerned that Fiona Cameron tells lies, that Ruth Harley turns a bind eye and that there is no functioning complaints process within Screen Australia.

Any independent observer in your office – looking at the facts, unswayed by spin – would arrive at one of two conclusions:
(1) Mr Ricketson is wrong, there is no evidence at all to support his assertions or
(2) Mr Ricketson’s assertions are backed up by demonstrable fact and need to be addressed.

Rather than acknowledge the shoddiness of an assessment of my project CHANTI’S WORLD by Clare Jaeger, the Documentary Section of Screen Australia closed ranks behind Ms Jager. That neither Ms Jager nor Ross Mathews had actually seen the promo that was the centrepiece of my application was of no consequence. With Ross Mathews refusing to answer any questions at all in relation to my complaint, I was left with no choice but to appeal to Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron to consider my complaint on the basis of facts. Ms Cameron decided not to let the facts get in the way of her decision to support Claire Jager, Ross Mathews and others in the Documentary section.  She overplayed her hand somewhat by placing on file statements she knew to be untrue – thus shifting the focus of my complaint from Claire Jager’s incompetence to my own integrity as a filmmaker. Instead of being a filmmaker with a valid complaint, Ms Cameron characterized me as a filmmaker miffed that I had not been given money that I had thought I would be given. I had, she claimed, said as much in correspondence to Screen Australia.  When asked to produce this correspondence Ms Cameron, like a petulant schoolgirl, announced that she would communication with me no further. That such dishonesty and petulance can be practiced by someone in Ms Cameron’s position beggars belief! And this is the person who looks into complaints made about Screen Australia’s inability to abide by its own guidelines!

If, perchance. Ms Cameron was unaware that the statements she placed on file were untrue, why has she, this past 16 months, done nothing to rectify her mistake? Why has she not apologized and corrected the file – as I have asked many times this last 16 months? Instead, she has informed me, in accordance with her own interpretation of the Screen Australia guidelines, that I may never again present CHANTI’S WORLD to Screen Australia for funding consideration.

And what is CHANTI’S WORLD? It is a documentary I have been working on for 16 years now – a record of the life of a young woman growing up on the streets of Phnom Penh from 8 year old beggar to 24 year old mother of five. CHANTI’S WORLD is the follow-up film to SLEEPING WITH CAMBODIA, completed in 1996 – a documentary that rated highly on the ABC and has been sold all around the world.  Alas, once Claire Jager had written her ill informed and factually incorrect assessment two years ago,leading to Screen Australia’s decision to back her and Ross Mathews regardless, the writing was on the wall for CHANTI’S WORLD as far as Screen Australia is concerned. Fiona Cameron’s decision that it can never again be presented to Screen Australia is both vindictive (in the pettiest way) and discriminatory. A person who behaves as she does should not be in the senior position she holds at Screen Australia – a position that requires total honesty and, when dealing with complaints, a commitment to the facts as opposed to a commitment to back up Screen Australia staff under any and all circumstances.

I trust that someone in your office will look at the facts here and make a determination based on them and not on whatever spin Fiona Cameron, Ruth Harley and Glen Boreham may present in their defence.

best wishes

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