Monday, June 18, 2012

letter to Senator George Brandis


The Hon George Brandis MP
Shadow Minister for the Arts
Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Level 36, Waterfront Place
1 Eagle Street
Brisbane QLD 4000                                                                                   
19th June 2012
                                                                                                                       
Dear Senator Brandis

I wrote to both yourself and the Hon Simon Crean on 16th Sept last year to alert you to the fact that complains made to Chief Executive Ruth Harley and Chair of the Screen Australia Board about Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron’s playing ‘fast and loose with the truth’ were passed on to Fiona Cameron to deal with.  I quoted from a letter I wrote to Ms Harley:

“Isn’t Fiona’s tendency (of which there is ample evidence) to play fast and loose with the truth a breach of Screen Australia guidelines? Isn’t Fiona’s placing on file statements about correspondence she claims I have written to SA (but have not) a breach  SA guidelines?”

I did not receive a reply from Ms Harley. Nor did I receive a reply to my follow up letters of 12th and 13th Sept. It is not Ms Harley’s style to respond to letters; to answer questions. I did, however, get the following from Ms Cameron in an email. 

“…please do not continue to waste my time. Neither myself or any other Screen Australia representative will enter into any further correspondence regarding these matters.” 

On 14th Sept I wrote to Mr Glen Boreham, Chair of the Screen Australia Board complaining about Ms Harley’s refusal to answer three simple questions I had put to her and about Ms Cameron’s tendency to play fast and loose with the truth and, when asked to substantiate the factual accuracy of her statements, to declare that she will enter into no further correspondence. It would seem, from the tone of Ms Cameron’s response to yet another complaint about her, that Mr Boreham will ignore my letter. Presumably Ms Cameron wrote the following with Mr Borehams consent: 

“Thank you for your letter to Ruth Harley dated 13 September and to Glen Boreham dated 14 September, 2011. As previously advised Screen Australia will not enter into any further correspondence regarding the project Chanti’s World.”

Unlike Mr Crean you had the courtesy to reply to my letter of 16h Sept with a recommendation that I take the matter up with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. This I had already done, but to no avail. The Ombudsman has no apparent interest in the fact that Fiona Cameron investigates complaints made about herself, with the blessing of the Screen Australia Board, and that Ms Cameron  refuses to communicate with the complainant or answer any questions at all. Six months later Ruth Harley, again with the blessing of Glen Boreham and the Screen Australia Board, decided to ban me from even speaking with members of Screen Australia staff. The reason given was that I had, in my correspondence, intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. When asked to provide evidence of the charges laid against me, in the form of the relevant correspondence, Ruth Harley refused to do so. The same applied for Chair of the Board, Glen Boreham. At no level within Screen Australia is there the commitment to transparency and accountability that we have a right to expect from the organization – especially when up to $50 million of Australian tax-payer dollars are spent in the production of an American film such as “The Great Gatsby”.

I have asked the office of the Ombudsman repeatedly to request of Ms Harley that she release the offending correspondence in question or extracts from it. The Ombudsman does not respond in any way to my requests. I finished my letter to you and Mr Crean of 16th Sept with:

Of course the lack of accountability and transparency in this instance – the dishonesty, the lies - is, in the grand scheme of things, of minor significance…My own problem with Ms Cameron is merely symptomatic of the larger problem that exists within Screen Australia…The problem, in a nutshell, is that there is no watchdog keeping an eye on what goes on inside Screen Australia. The Board doesn’t keep a watchful eye on Ruth Harley, demand that she be accountable, Ruth Harley doesn’t keep a watchful and critical eye on Fiona Cameron and so on down the chain of command – rendering the organization an autocracy in which pretty well everyone in senior management can do as they please and be assured that no-one is going to stop them. A recipe for disaster!

The lack of accountability and transparency within Screen Australia is exacerbated by the refusal of the Ombudsman to ask even simple questions along the lines of: “Please, Ms Harley, could you produce the correspondence that you refer to as the basis for your banning of Mr Ricketson?”

In the event that you are Minister for the Arts next year I trust, Senator, that you will conduct a thorough review of the way in which Screen Australia is run and see to it that the organization has a functioning complaints process and a Board that does not see its job as merely placing a rubber stamp on decisions made by Ruth Harley – in this instance a decision to ban me made on the basis of a demonstrable lie. Ruth Harley could, of course, very easily reveal that it is me who is the liar and not herself by releasing the correspondence she refers to or the extracts within it that she claims have placed her staff at risk through intimidation or harassment. She will not and cannot do so because correspondence of the kind she refers to does not exist. The problem is that no-one – not the Ombudsman, Screen Australia Board or Mr Crean – has any interest in whether the correspondence exists or not. A strange state of affairs!

My most recent attempt, through FOI legislation, to obtain copies from Screen Australia of the correspondence I have supposedly written it to be found at:

http://jamesricketson.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/freedom-of-information-request.html

In the interests of transparency and accountability I will publish this letter on the internet also.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 comment:

  1. Avoid SA at all costs!June 18, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Brandis is respobsibel for the creation of Screen Australia in the first place so I doubt that he is going to do anything when he is the new Minister (as he certainly will be) to change things. Screen Australia works just fine thank you very much if you are part of the boys club that benefits from its largesse. If you are now best thing to do is avoid the place like the plague as it will only break your heart as it is Ricketson's.

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