Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Curiouser and curiouser!

Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka with a dash of Monty Python!

Oh dear, there I was foolishly thinking that commonsense must surely prevail and that, at the last minute, someone would say to Ruth Harley:

Release or identify the intimidating correspondence you claim Ricketson has written and which you have used as grounds to ban him.”

No such luck! Today, a letter from Screen Australia’s lawyers and a Notice of Motion to the Supreme Court of NSW seeking to have my entire Statement of Claim struck out – “pursuant to UCPR 13.4.” I have no idea what that means at this point but the last two points of Screen Australia’s Notice of Motion are crystal clear:

The plaintiff to pay the defendants costs of the proceedings,”

The plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs of the motion.”

I am not a lawyer and nor do I have money to employ one so I have no idea whether I have a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning my defamation case in accordance with the law as practiced ‘pursuant to UCPR 13.4’. What I do know is this:

- Ruth Harley circulated a draft letter to the Screen Australia Board on 9th May in which she stated that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of her staff.

- I have not intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. Ruth Harley’s 9th May letter was defamatory. It damaged my reputation.

- On the basis of Ruth Harley’s false allegation of intimidation the Screen Australia Board banned me from having any further dealings with Screen Australia. It is close to impossible to make a film in this country without some Screen Australia involvement in film production – even if it is only via the ‘Producer’s Offset’.

As I have stated many times now, if I am guilty of having intimidated members of Screen Australia staff, of placing them at risk, I deserve to be banned. If I am not guilty I am owed an apology from Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board and for the ban to be lifted immediately.

If the Supreme Court decides to strike out my Statement of Claim on the grounds that I have not articulated my ‘Pleadings’ and ‘Particulars’ with the clarity a lawyer would bring to the task, so be it. I will not be paying Screen Australia’s costs and if Screen Australia decides to commence legal action to retrieve costs from me, so be it. I will not pay them unless or until Ruth Harley identifies the correspondence in which I have intimidated and placed at risk members of her staff.

As I have not been able to acquire copies of my allegedly intimidating correspondence from Screen Australia through Freedom of Information legislation, I am now trying to acquire copies through the office of the Ombudsman. If I am successful and if the correspondence reveals that I have intimidated anyone I will publish the correspondence online and accept my being banned as appropriate punishment.

That Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board can ban a filmmaker without presenting any evidence in support of the charges laid against him is astounding. But then again, perhaps not unexpected from an organization in which it is acceptable to Ruth Harley and the Board that the Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron is able to investigate and adjudicate complaints made about herself for having put in writing statements that are patently and demonstrably false.

Curiouser and curiouser!


  1. FFS, what is going on here! Is Ricketson a thug who threatens to thump Screen Australia staff if they' don't give him money or is Ruth Harley a liar? If Harley has the evidence that Ricketson is a thug, if she has presented this evidence to the Screen Australia Board, which presumably she has, why doesn't she take up Ricketson's offer to publish it online so that there can be no doubt as to who is telling the truth in all this?

    1. Freddy, I have not 'thumped' anyone in my life. Never. Not once. I have never threatened anyone. Yes, Ruth Harley is a liar - as would be apparent if she were to release correspondence she claims bears witness to my having intimidated her staff. Correspondence of this kind does not exist but, for as long as no one asks her to produce it, Ruth can justify her ban on its supposed existence. This is why she will fight tooth and nail not to reveal any evidence in support of her banning of me. And, given its inaction on the matter (see no evil, hear no evil), why the Screen Australia Board will not ask her to do so. The Board would have so much egg on its face if (or should I say when) it becomes apparent that I was banned on trumped up charges.

  2. Having known James for 30 years, having worked with him both as a filmmaker and as an assessor for the Australian Film Commission I would be very very surprised if he were to make any kind of threat against anyone, let alone a member of Screen Australia’s staff. This is a small industry. Everyone knows everyone. Anyone who behaves as Harley alleges James has would very quickly find themselves ostracized. James’ crime, if indeed it is a crime, is to speak his mind even if (maybe especially if) it annoys bureaucrats. But questioning authority and demanding accountability from public servants (for that is what Dr Harley is) is not a form of intimidation.

    The banning of a filmmaker, the most extreme form of punishment and one that I am not aware has happened ever before in Australian film, should only happen after the filmmaker has been presented with evidence of his crime and given an opportunity to defend himself against the accusations that have been made. James has asked repeatedly that Dr Harley release the intimidating correspondence (evidence of the case against him), suggesting to me that, as James claims, it does not exist. That the Screen Australia Board does not insist that Ruth Harley release to both it and James the correspondence does not reflect well on the board’s competence. It’s role must be to be well informed of the matters about which it makes decisions and it seems, in this instance, that it has relied on Dr Harley’s word and not sought evidence in the form of actual correspondence. This is understandable. It is essential that the Board be able to trust Dr Harley to give it accurate information about the matters before it. However, in a case as serious as this one, in which an experienced senior filmmaker tells a different story to a senior bureaucrat only evidence will suffice to determine who is telling the truth. Ruth Harley must release the correspondence and if she refuses to do so the Board must insist that she do so.

  3. I have read through all of Ricketson's blog ('War and Peace' took less time) and, whilst there are plenty of unknowns, there are a few knowns - one of which is that the letters provided to Ricketson as evidence that he believed his documentary had been greenlit do not suggest this at all. It is not surprising that Screen AUstralia refused to release this correspondence for 20 months as it makes apparent that Ricketson was right and that Fiona had been (lets be polite here) playing fast and loose with the truth. This is not to say that there is no intimidating correspondence from Ricketson of the kind that warrants his banning but Screen Australia does have form when it comes to making assertions that turn out not to be true. That Ricketson is very possibly telling the truth is borne out by his repeated requests that the correspondence be released. That Screen Australia may be playing fast and loose with the truth again is borne out by Harley's refusal to release the correspondence. As for the Supreme Court, this is a bad joke. Why should Ricketson have to resort to such an expensive option to acquire the correspondence when all that is required is that the Screen Australia Board, Simon Crean or the Ombudsman insist that Harley back up her claims of intimidation with evidence.

  4. If nothing else this dispute has injected a little badly needed drama into our moribund industry and has the makings of a great story in the tradition of Kafka - a man accused and found guilty of a crime the details of which he is denied access to. Get writing Ricketson. This is a movie I want to see