Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ruth Harley's lies and Screen Australia fatwas!

Ruth Harley is a liar. Her allegation that I have placed members of Screen Australia’s staff at risk is nonsense. If Ruth wishes to sue me for calling her a liar, so be it. She won’t, because in the ensuing court case he would be obliged to provide evidence in support of her allegations.

Harley’s declaration that in order for Screen Australia to be able to correspond with me and respond to applications from me “we would need to be certain that our staff were no longer placed at risk in dealing with you” raises the question: What risk have I ever posed any member of Screen Australia staff in my correspondence? I cannot even ask this question of Harley, however, because she has also written  “any correspondence which you send to us about the decisions notified in this letter will not be read.” This is truly Kafkaesque: We will not provide evidence of the crime we accuse you of and any question you might ask in relation to this crime will not be read. I find it hard to imagine a more extreme example of not just a lack of accountability but of contempt for the very notion of accountability. How can the Screen Australia Board countenance this? How can the Minister, the Hon Simon Crean? How can the Ombudsman? How can the Prime Minister?  If I am guilty of the crime of intimidation, harassment and instilling fear in the hearts of Screen Australia bureaucrats I am deserving of whatever punishment that is appropriate to such behavior. But surely an accusation as serious as Harley’s should be backed up with evidence and the accused should be given some opportunity to answer the charges laid against him.

I can of course, if need be, utilize the services of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to force Ruth Harley to produce the evidence that my correspondence is placing her staff at risk and, whilst I am at it, to force Fiona Cameron to produce the correspondence of mine she claims is on file but which she has failed to produce after 17 months of asking. But is this necessary? Wouldn’t it be much less time and energy consuming for someone (Crean, Gillard, the Ombudsman) to requests of Ruth Harley that she produce evidence that I have placed Screen Australia staff at risk? Harley and Cameron must surely be aware that in an AAT hearing, open to the public, they could be called as witnesses and asked to produce the correspondence they both claim exists and which I claim does not?
A small correction of the Encore piece is in order. It is written, “James Ricketson has been conducting a lengthy campaign complaining that the organisation has unfairly declined to fund his documentary project Chanti’s World. Screen Australia rejects this claim.”

I have not conducted a lengthy campaign against Screen Australia for failing to fund my documentary, CHANTI’S WORLD. Since the inception of Screen Australia I have written several opinion pieces critical of the organization – most particularly in relation to its lack of commitment to the precepts of transparency and accountability. I have NEVER complained that CHANTI’S WORLD was not funded. Indeed, I have never made such a complaint in my entire professional life. My complaint in relation to CHANTI’S WORLD was that the original assessment of it, two years ago, was very very shoddy – so shoddy that, by their own admission, none of those who were involved in deciding to knock back my application for development funds had seen the ‘promo’ that was the centrepiece of the application – 15 years of my story (the story of Chanti’s life) condensed into 8 minutes. This is a fairly significant oversight but rather than correct it and view the ‘promo’ Ross Mathews allowed the assessment to stand. And so began my 17 year dispute with Screen Australia in which I have insisted, as is my right, on getting answers to questions from Screen Australia – questions such as: How can you assess a documentary project without viewing the ‘promo’ for it? How is it that Fiona Cameron, rather than answer a question such as this, can claim that I have placed on file correspondence that lets Mathews and others off the hook and then refuse to produce the correspondence? How is it that complaints made about Fiona Cameron’s playing fast and loose with the truth are investigated by Fiona Cameron?

When answers were not forthcoming (and they never were) I began moving further and further up the Screen Australia food chain. No-one at any level had an interest in answering questions. Nor did anyone (up to and including the Screen Australia Board) have any interest in the fact that in a ham-fisted attempt to stop me asking questions, Fiona Cameron claimed, in a letter to me, that I had placed on file correspondence that I had not. Fiona has consistently refused to produce this correspondence (it does not exist) and now Ruth Harley is claiming that there is correspondence on file that is clear evidence of my having intimidated and harassed Screen Australia staff. Again, the correspondence does not exist but in the parallel universe occupied by Harley and Cameron it is spin that counts, not facts. That the correspondence does not exist is no impediment to using fictional letters as a reason to issue the fatwa Harley has issued against me. If anyone now asks Harley or Cameron to please produce the intimidating and harassing correspondence from Mr Ricketson they will get some variation of ‘no comment’ or, ‘we are a very busy organization with limited resources and we do not intend to waste those resources engaging in a dialogue…’

Screen Australia’s treatment of me is not unique. Other filmmakers have had identical experiences to my own. I am, however, possibly the first to have a Screen Australia fatwa made both official and public. If the SA fatwa has been sanctioned by the Screen Australia Board, I wonder if any members of it requested to see the offending correspondence I am supposed to have written? If the fatwa does not have the blessing of the Board I wonder whether any members of it will now ask Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence that bears witness to my having intimidated and harassed SA staff; correspondence that has invoked Ruth Harley’s duty of care to her staff to protect them from my correspondence?


  1. Screen Australia could demolish Ricketson’s allegations and support its own so easily by releasing just a few of the documents it claims to be evidence of his intimidatory, threatening behaviour that places SA staff at risk. Why doesn’t it do so? Just as we have no good reason to believe Ricketson when he says he has not written such correspondence, nor do we have any good reason to believe Screen Australia when it claims he has. Documents please. Evidence. Facts, not just allegations.

  2. Much seems to hinge in this dispute on whether or not Screen Australia viewed Ricketson's promo for his documentary project or not. Ricketson claims that SA acknowledges that it did not. Is this true? If so why wasn't a new assessment commissioned? If it is not true why doesn't SA say so? Screen Australia's silence certainly raises the speter that Ricketson may haave just cause for his grievance.