Sunday, August 5, 2012

Screen Australia response to FOI request

The first envelope I opened on my return from a few weeks of filming in Cambodia was from Senator the Hon George Brandis. It contained a copy of a letter sent by himself to The Hon Simon Crean in which I read:

“I would be appreciative if you could consider the issues raised by Mr Ricketson and provide him with the appropriate response.”

There was no letter from Mr Crean but there was one from Screen Australia. I opened it in the expectation that Ruth Harley had come to her senses and realized that banning a filmmaker on trumped up charges was not such a great idea. No such luck!~ Screen Australia is determined to take this matter through to its logical conclusion and have it decided by the Supreme Court of NSW.

In response to my FOI  request for copies of the correspondence in which I have been intimidating, harassing and placing Screen Australia staff at risk, I have been provided me with a representative sample of all the correspondence I have ever sent to the organization. Yes, all! It would seem that Screen Australia intends to argue in the Supreme Court that all of my correspondence has been “intimidating, harassing and placing Screen Australia staff at risk.” It’s going to be a very long Supreme Court case!

My FOI request for copies of “whatever documents exist in relation to complaints by members of Screen Australia staff that I have been intimidating, harassing and placing Screen Australia staff at risk,” yielded the following:

“Exempt document (pursuant to section 42 of the FOI Act.)”

How Screen Australia intends to argue that SA staff believe that they have been placed at risk without providing some evidence of the fact is a mystery that I guess will be solved in the Supreme Court.

The most interesting of the document provided to me in response to my FOI request was the
‘Proposed Resolution’ for the Screen Australia board to consider. It reads:

1) The Board notes the advice of the Australian Government Solicitor dated 9 May 2012, in relation to Mr Ricketson. (NOTE: I have not been provided with a copy of this legal advice.)

2) The Board approves management’s decision to cease accepting funding applications from Mr Ricketson (including applications from any entity acting on behalf of Mr Ricketson) and to cease engaging in correspondence with Mr Ricketson, as  advised in the draft letter to Mr Ricketson attached to the resolution.

3) The Board approves the  amendment of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade by the addition of a statement in the following terms:

“In addition to the requirement in our eligibility conditions that applicants for funding act in good faith. Screen Australia expects the communications between its staff and funding applicants will be courteous and respectful. Screen Australia reserves the right to not accept applications for funding from any person who Screen Australia forms the view persistently treats our staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion; not will Screen Australia enter into correspondence with such a person.”

So, the Screen Australia Board has voted to change it’s Terms of Trade specifically to give Ruth Harley the right to ban me.

The key words here are ‘courteous’, ‘respectful’, ‘discourteous’, ‘hurtful’ and ‘intimidating’. These words can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could be argued that any criticism of Screen Australia is not ‘respectful’ but is ‘discourteous’ and ‘hurtful.’ Indeed, this seems to the position that Screen Australia will take in the Supreme Court since the first example given to me of correspondence from me that is ‘discourteous’, ‘hurtful’ and (presumably!?) ‘intimidating’ is an email exchange that I had with Fiona Cameron early in 2010 in relation to an article I wished to write for Encore Magazine. My several requests for an interview with Ruth Harley and Martha Coleman were refused – a different reason given each time. The following extracts of my correspondence with Fiona Cameron had nothing to do with any application I had made to Screen Australia as a filmmaker. I was wearing my journalist’s hat. This correspondence was published pretty much in full in Encore online a couple of years ago.

Dear Fiona
I requested an interview with Ruth and Martha close to three months ago now - logical for a journalist preparing an article. Given that they were 'too busy' to speak with me, I requested an interview with Ross (Mathews) who, as an experienced filmmaker, would be well placed to talk with me. Either Ross does not wish to do so or he has been forbidden from doing so! Hard to know given that Ross does not respond to any email I send to him.

I accept, after close to three months, that no-one from Screen Australia will speak to me during the preparation of my article.  I will see if a member of the Screen Australia Board will do so. It would be an awful shame not to have a Screen Australia perspective.


Subject: RE: interview request
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2010 15:08:35 +1100

We are not in a position to spend time and resources undertaking research for your article. There are a variety of sources open to you including our annual report and our website Get the Picture.  I would encourage you to use these services.


Fiona Cameron
Executive Director Strategy and Operations
Screen Australia

Dear Fiona

Does this mean that I will not be getting answers to any of my questions either?



Dear Mr Ricketson,

Screen Australia and its executive team cannot see any value (for either party) in acceding to an interview request. No such interview will be forthcoming.

yours sincerely,

Fiona Cameron

Dear Fiona

If there is to be any dialogue between us regarding my request for an opportunity to interview Ruth Harley and Martha Coleman, can it please be on the basis of the facts and not of spin?

As you know full well, I informed Victorian Buchan both in a telephone conversation and in an email to her written on 22nd. Nov. 2009 that I was writing my article for Encore Magazine. And I made reference to this again in my email to Elizabeth Grinston of 27th. Jan to which your email of 29th. Jan is a response. To refresh your memory: "Victoria got back to me to say that an interview could not be granted if I did not have a newspaper or magazine lined up to publish it. When I told her that Encore magazine would publish it Victoria told me that an interview was not possible “at this time.”

Even if I had been writing my article ‘on spec’ (as indeed I was, when I first spoke with Victoria on the phone) what difference does this make? With a few exceptions (commissioned work) I have spent my entire career starting work on projects ‘on spec’ and completing stage one before approaching a broadcaster or publisher. The same applies for many freelance journalists. Does Screen Australia have a policy of only giving interviews to affiliated journalists?

You write “There comes a time when an organisation such as ours cannot afford the time or resources to continue with such unproductive dialogue.” Again, this is, as you are aware, factually incorrect – as even a cursory glance at my attempts to communicate with Ruth, Martha and Ross vis a vis my interview request would reveal. It is the total lack of dialogue with Ruth, Martha and Ross regarding my interview requests that has led me to continue making such requests.

That Ross Mathews has not responded to my emails of 10th Dec, 17th. Dec and 12th. Jan. is not anomalous behaviour on the part of Screen Australia personnel, it is standard procedure. Again, in my email to Elizabeth on 27th. Jan I wrote, "My email of 11th Dec to Martha (see below), has still not been answered. It seems that Screen Australia has abandoned all pretence at transparency, accountability and professional courtesy."

Did you actually read my 27th.Jan email to Elizabeth, Fiona, before responding to it?

Given that you have not indicated in your email of 29th. Jan. that Ross is, like Ruth and Martha, too busy to talk with me, it will be interesting to see if Ross responds to the email I sent to him yesterday. Perhaps Ross might find half an hour in the next couple of months to speak with me on Screen Australia’s behalf! Or, if Ross is also too busy, perhaps I could interview you, Fiona. Or Elizabeth Grinston. Anyone! Does Screen Australia have any spokesperson to deal with the media when Ruth, Martha, Ross are too busy to do so?

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 12:17:27 +1100

Dear Mr Ricketson,

I understand that you have requested an interview with the CEO and/or the Head of Development for an article that you are writing 'on spec'. I am advised that our media relations company, the Lantern Group, has already advised you that providing detailed information or interviews for articles being written on spec is not possible given the competing demands on Screen Australia's time.  It is fair to say that subsequent to your discussions with the Lantern Group, many of your emails have gone unanswered.  There comes a time when an organisation such as ours cannot afford the time or resources to continue with such unproductive dialogue.

To be clear, the CEO and the Head of Development will not be available for an interview.  I have provided some basic facts that may assist with your research as follow.

Fiona Coleman

It will be interesting to see how this email exchange - a request for an interview with Ruth Harley and Martha Coleman - is argued in the Supreme Court by Screen Australia’s legal counsel as an example of my having intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff!

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for the Supreme Court case. Should be a hoot! Reserve me a front row seat. I wonder how much SA will spend on lawyers defending the indefensible!