Tuesday, March 20, 2012

letter to Glen Boreham, Chair of Screen Australia Board

Dear Glen

Further to the many letters I have written to you this past 16 months regarding Fiona Cameron’s tendency to play fast and loose with the truth and with Ruth Harley’s tendency to turn a blind eye to Fiona’s lies. Of course, you and the Board have likewise chosen to turned a blind eye to the lack of transparency and accountability exhibited by senior management at Screen Australia. In all my 40 years of filmmaking I have never encountered such a toxic combination of corporate dishonesty and incompetence as has been manifest during Ruth Harley’s reign as CEO. It seems that these qualities are prerequisites for positions in senior management at Screen Australia!

You will no doubt ignore this letter as you have the vast majority I have sent you. That Fiona Cameron is a liar, that she investigates complaints made about herself, herself, are of little interest to the Screen Australia Board! Mind you, these aspects of the way in which Screen Australia is run are not of concern to the Minister, the Hon Simon Crean either and it may be that the office of the Prime Minister feels the same. We shall see.

My most recent letters to the office of the Ombudsman, to the Prime Minister and to Caroline Fulton (copies enclosed) speak for themselves. They contain nothing that you have not been aware of for the past 16 months and have chosen to ignore – in the hope, I guess, that I would eventually simply accept that I have been screwed by Screen Australia and forget about it. Alas, this is not my style.

On Friday 16th March I sent the following email to Nick Coyle, Screen Australia’s FOI officer. It also speaks for itself:

Dear Nick

It is important always to maintain one’s sense of humour when dealing with Screen Australia! Perhaps the same applies for employees!

I know that it is an incredibly complicated question and many meetings may be necessary to  find an answer, but how long does it take to find out which members of senior management at Screen Australia are public servants and hence subject to the Public Service Code of Conduct? It’s been over two weeks so far! How many more weeks is it likely to be? Mind you it would never have been necessary to call upon your services anyway if Screen Australia did not believe that it was necessary to keep this information secret!

I have another FOI request – most definitely the oddest I have ever made and, I suspect, the oddest one you will ever have to deal with. It is for a document (or documents) that do not exist. Let me explain:

In Nov 2010 Fiona Cameron wrote a letter to me that included the following assertion:

“Unfortunately it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that meeting with an understanding that your application for further funding for Chanti’s World had been effectively green lit. This is not the case. Nor could it be.”

For 16 months I have asked Fiona to produce the correspondence she refers to. She has not done so. This is not surprising because it does not exist. Not only does Fiona know it does not exist but so too do Ruth Harley and Glen Boreham. And the Commonwealth Ombudsman would have discovered that it did not exist also if he had bothered to ask Fiona Cameron to produce it. He did not. He simply accepted Fiona’s word (implicit in her letter) that it existed! As I say, a sense of humour is necessary in this age of transparency and accountability we live in!

There is, I suppose, the possibility that at some moment in 2010, having taken temporary leave of my senses, I did write the correspondence  that Fiona is referring to and, amnesia being a component of my addled state at the time,  have completely forgotten that I did so. So, in order to find out if such correspondence exists, what better way than to call upon the services of Screen Australia’s FOI officer with my strange request – for a document that I claim does not exist! If it does exist I will have egg all over my face and may well need to plead insanity. If it does not exist, Fiona has some explaining to do and an apology to make.

I do appreciate, Nick, that having Fiona as your boss must complicate a request  such as this somewhat but I trust that the fair administration of FOI is not affected by such details.

I am copying this to all of those in the Documentary section of Screen Australia who likewise know that the correspondence Fiona refers to does not exist but who have managed to maintain a conspiracy of silence this past 16 months. And I have attached my letter of two weeks ago to Prime Minister Gillard in hopes that she may put some pressure on Simon Crean to take an interest in the lack of respect for the ideals of accountability and transparency evinced by senior SA personnel. Not sure who to write to if the Prime Minister’s office ignores the letter. The United Nations!


Poor Nick! I do not envy him the dilemma he is confronted by. If he can’t find the correspondence that Fiona refers to (and he won’t be able to) this should be proof positive that Fiona was lying when she wrote her letter to me in Nov 2010. But then you’ve known that, Glen,  for a long time – you, the Board, Ruth Harley, everyone in the Documentary section of Screen Australia. For you to acknowledge now that Fiona has lied would amount to a confession that the entire organization, up to and including the Board, has had, this past 16 months, no interest in facts, in the truth, but will accept as Gospel whatever spin Fiona Cameron comes up with – with the blessing of Ruth Harley. As I have acknowledged many times, my dispute with Screen Australia is (to all but myself) a storm in a teacup. What this particular storm says about the management of Screen Australia is, however (or at least should be) a matter of concern to the Board and to the Minister.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard
Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 comment:

  1. James, you are pissing in the wind. No-one is listening, nobody cares. The industry is a lost cause. Perhaps when Crean goes there might be some change, tho I doubt that Brandis will be any better.