Narrabeen, NSW, 2101 1st June 2012
Sunday, June 3, 2012
letter to Hon Bronwyn Bishop, 1st. June
To be banned by Screen Australia is no small thing. All film producers, directors and other filmmakers know how difficult it is to get a film made in Australia without quite substantial input and assistance from Screen Australia. To be banned from even having a conversation with anyone within the organization renders the making of films just that much more difficult. To be banned has the added effect of tarnishing your reputation, adding yet another obstacle. Certain letters, calls and emails are not returned and who can blame the recipient of them! Do they really want to be publicly associated with a filmmaker who has intimidated, harassed and placed Screen Australia staff at risk? Being persona non grata with Screen Australia is not a great career move. It is also not a status that any self-respecting filmmaker can accept without a fight – especially when he is not guilty of the crimes Ruth Harley has both accused and convicted him of.
My battle now has one primary objective – to get someone with the authority to do so to ask Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence she has used as the basis for my banning. If she cannot, the whole house of cards on which her accusation rests will collapse. It is a house of cards whose construction began 18 months ago now and is so far advanced that it would now be embarrassing for a variety of people to allow it to collapse – people who, 18 months ago, could have intervened and prevented a mole hill becoming a mountain.
Whilst my dispute with Screen Australia simmered for some time before really getting under way, the moment it became serious was when Fiona Cameron wrote a letter to me on 12th Nov 2010 in which she made statements that were demonstrably untrue – namely that I had placed certain correspondence on file at Screen Australia. I asked Fiona to produce the correspondence. She refused to do so. Ruth Harley also refused to identify the correspondence in question so I appealed to Glen Boreham, Chair of the Screen Australia Board, for his assistance in resolving my dispute. In his letter to me of 1st. Dec. 2010 Glen made his position clear. This is “an operational matter,” he wrote, “most appropriately handled by management rather than the Board, and I do not intend to enter into further correspondence with you on this.” The refusal to enter into further correspondence is standard operating procedure when senior management at Screen Australia are asked questions they would prefer not to answer. Questions like: “Which correspondence are you referring to?”
Glen was right on one level. Neither he nor the Board should have to take an interest in a dispute such as the one that had arisen. However, given that neither Fiona Cameron nor Ruth Harley were prepared to identify the correspondence in question back in Nov 2010, to whom could I turn? I tried Ministry for the Arts but was told that it was a matter for Screen Australia to deal with. My next port of call was the office of the Ombudsman. Surely, I thought to myself, the Ombudsman would insist that Fiona Cameron identify the correspondence she was referring to! Surely the Ombudsman would ask the few questions that needed to be asked in order for my complaint to be dealt with expeditiously on the basis of verifiable facts and not on the basis of spin and reference to correspondence that does not exist? No, the office of the Ombudsman does not work this way, I was to discover.
“It is not the role of the Ombudsman to...adjudicate disputed versions of events between agency officers and complainants,” wrote Alisa Harris of the Ombudsman’s office in Jan 2011. If it is not the role of the Ombudsman to adjudicate disputed versions of events, whose role is it? Screen Australia has a formal complaints process, hasn’t it? Yes, it does. And who administers (adjudicates) complaints made about Screen Australia? Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron. And who adjudicates complaints made about Fiona Cameron’s refusal to identify correspondence that she claims exists but does not? Fiona Cameron. That the office of the Ombudsman has no difficulty with Fiona Cameron investigating complaints made about Fiona Cameron astounds me. Or, should I say, it used to astound me. Nothing in the Emperor’s New Clothes world of transparency and accountability that we live in these days astounds me any more. Lies repeated often enough become truth and anyone with the temerity to call a spade a spade, to call a lie by its true name, is guilty of intimidation and harassment!
The correspondence that Fiona referred to in her letter of Nov 2010 either exists or it doesn’t exit. If it exists it can be produced. Fiona Cameron can point to it and say, “Mr Ricketson wrote such and such to so and so on such and such a date.” The same applies for the correspondence that Ruth Harley claims has intimidated, harassed or placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. If it exists it can be produced. Ruth Harley can point to it and say, “Mr Ricketson wrote such and such to so and so on such and such a date.” The existence or non-existence of correspondence cannot be simply dismissed as “disputed versions of events between agency officers and complainants.” Correspondence, be it a letter or an email, is not a ‘disputed version’. It is a fact. The correspondence either exists or it does not. And if it exists it either backs up Harley and Cameron’s claims or it does not.
That there is no-one within Screen Australia or the Ministry for the Arts prepared to ask Harley and Cameron to produce the correspondence and given that the office of the Ombudsman does not see asking them to do so as its role, I have been left with no alternative but to try another route:
The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP
1238-1246 Pittwater Road
Narrabeen, NSW, 2101 1st June 2012
Narrabeen, NSW, 2101 1st June 2012
As my elected representative I wonder if you may be able to offer me some advice. I am a filmmaker who lives in your electorate.
Three weeks ago, on 10th May, Ruth Harley, Chief Executive of Screen Australia, sent me a letter informing me not only that I have been banned from making any applications to the organization but that I may not communicate with members of her staff in any way. The reason Ms Harley has provided is that I have harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff through my correspondence. I have asked Ms Harley to identify the correspondence she is referring to or extracts from it that bear witness to the crimes for which I have been charged and found guilty by her. Ms Harley refuses to do so. She refuses to communicate with me in any way regarding this matter. My entreaties to the Hon Simon Crean and the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to ask Ms Harley to release the offending correspondence have gone unacknowledged. The enclosed letters to Mr Crean and Ms Gillard speak for themselves.
Being banned by Screen Australia is the culmination of my having, this past few years, asked of the organization many questions that it refuses to answer. The most relevant and perhaps the most significant to anyone other than myself is revealed in the opening paragraphs of the letter I wrote to the Prime Minister on 27th Feb; a letter whose receipt has not been acknowledged:
“It is more than a little absurd that it should be necessary to write to the Prime Minister of Australia to ask a simple question for which there is a not only a simple answer but an obvious one:
Is it appropriate that complaints made about the Chief Operating Officer of a federal government body that invests around $60 million a year in Australian film and television are investigated by the Chief Operating Officer herself?”
The Chief Operating Officer, Ms Fiona Cameron has also referred, in a letter dated 12th Nov 2010, to correspondence I have supposedly sent to Screen Australia and which I claim does not exist. Ms Cameron has refused, despite many requests this past 18 months, to identity the correspondence she refers to. My complaint to Ms Harley about Ms Cameron’s refusal to identify the correspondence was handed to Ms Cameron to deal with. Ms Cameron’s way of dealing with the complaint made about herself was to tell me that she would communicate with me no longer!
I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how best I may be able to get Ms Harley to provide evidence of my harassment, intimidation and placing her staff at risk and to get Ms Cameron to identify correspondence that I insist does not exist.