Sunday, September 23, 2012

letter for Julia Gillard

The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT 2600                                                                           24th Sept. 2012

Dear Prime Minister

Further to my letter of 17th July, for which I received neither acknowledgement or a response.

I do understand that a trivial matter such as this would not (should not) be brought to your attention. I would have thought, however, in amongst your numerous staff, that there would be someone who would deal with it. I suspect that there is and that he or she, when my letters have landed on their desk, has made a decision: “Ignore. This belong in the trash.” An alternative would be for this person to send a quick note to Simon Crean, Minister for the Arts along the lines of, “Simon, can you please deal with this one way or another ASAP.” And of course Simon could have sent a brief note to Ruth Harley along the lines of, “Ruth, can you please deal with this. Refusing to communicate with Mr Ricketson, refusing to answer his questions is not an option. At risk of what? Some evidence of intimidation please.” And so on down the line so that answers would flow back up the bureaucratic ladder such that Mr Crean could let you (your office) know, in whatever way these things happen, “having looked at the facts it is clear to me that XXX has occurred and I have recommended YYY as a means whereby this dispute can be resolved expeditiously.”

In order for Mr Crean to be clear about anything or to make any recommendation he or his representative would have to bypass the spin meisters within Screen Australia and deal with those facts that are irrefutable, of which there are plenty. This representative, Carolyn Fulton perhaps, makes a judgement call about whether or not I have intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff based on facts and not the subjective (distressed) responses of members of the staff. In short, evidence of the crime that has allegedly been committed. This, as you would know as a lawyer, is a basic principal of natural justice. Have my emails to Liz Crosby, for instance, been intimidating, placed her ‘at risk’ or were they merely distressing because I kept writing and refusing to take her silence as an appropriate response to my questions? If ‘distressing’ a public servant is the same as ‘intimidating’ a public servant and this intimidation can lead to their being denied access to government departments, to being banned, is this not just a crude way of silencing critics and whistle-blowers?

It is the lack of natural justice and the lack of accountability and transparency within Screen Australia that should be of concern to you. Perhaps Screen Australia is not an exception to the rule when it comes to government instrumentalities but typical of how government departments are run under your Prime Ministership. If so, you have a real problem and it is not one to be fixed by the employment of more spin doctors. It is one to be fixed by placing someone in a position of power in the bureaucratic hierarchy at whose desk the buck stops. There is no such person within the Ministry for the Arts. The buck just keeps being passed back and forth. No one is responsible for my being banned. The Board can claim, “We were acting on Dr Harley’s advice. We had no reason to doubt the veracity of her claims.” And Ruth Harley can say, “This was a decision made by the Board, not by myself.”

Not only does this result in the problem not being addressed (let alone resolved) but it is also a dreadful waste of energy. Think of the energy saved and the credibility gained if you replaced 4 spin doctors with one person who actually makes decisions that resolve problems as opposed to trying, in Emperor’s New Clothes fashion, to pretend that they don’t exist and that those who see them have faulty vision.

After close to two years of trying to get someone within Screen Australia, the Screen Australia Board or within the Arts Ministry to deal appropriately with my complaint on the basis of facts I am now left with two different options vis a vis having my name cleared of the charges laid against me by Ruth Harley – charges that have led to my being banned as a filmmaker from having any dealings with Screen Australia:

(1) Sue Ruth Harley for defaming me – which she has. This is a lengthy process (already commenced) and, life being short, a path I would prefer not to go down unless it is absolutely necessary to restore my reputation and to have the ban on me lifted.

(2) An option I am really too old for but one which is much more likely to yield a result:

- I arrive at Screen Australia’s Sydney  office with a request to see Ruth Harley.
- My request is refused. Ruth has made it clear, in writing, that she will not communicate with me; will not provide either justification for or evidence in support of her ban.
- I declare that I will not be leaving the building until I have spoken with Ruth and she has provided me with evidence of my having intimidated, harassed and placed her staff at risk.
- Ruth insists, through an intermediary, that she will neither speak with me nor provide me with the correspondence I am requesting. She may add that my presence in the building, making demands such as this, is evidence of my inclination to harass and intimidate. She will not be able to add that I am placing either herself or any other member of her staff at risk, however, as I will be sitting calmly in the foyer reading a book.  
- This standoff continues for the rest of the day.
- The end of the working day arrives. Screen Australia staff begin to leave. It is now 6pm. And then 7pm. The cleaners arrive and I am still sitting there reading my book.
- Ruth has to make a decision: “What to do? It looks as though Ricketson actually means it when he says he is not leaving until he is provided with evidence of his having intimidated and placed my staff at risk. What do I do? I can’t let him stay here all night and he simply refuses to leave. OMG, the only option is for me to call the police and have them come and remove him. He is, after all, trespassing.”
- Ruth is well aware of the possible ramifications of having me arrested and so calls Glen Boreham and perhaps Carolyn Fulton to get some advice.

What advice Boreham and Fulton might give I will not hazard to guess and nor will I conjecture as to what happens next in this little drama – one that I am much too old for. However, I also feel much too young to be forced into retirement by Ruth Harley on trumped up charges so one does what one must to survive – as I am sure you are well aware. Whilst it is always preferable to play by the bureaucratic equivalent of Queensbury Rules, this is not always possible if the ‘other side’ (Screen Australia in this case) plays by a set of rules it makes up as it goes with little or no regard for facts.

As I have declared on many occasions now, present me with evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff and I will take my punishment without further complaint.

best wishes

James Ricketson


  1. Wow! OMG! Go for it, James! Occupy Screen Australia till you get some answers. Can I come along and film it all?

  2. Reluctantly AnonymousSeptember 24, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Either Ricketson is barking mad or, if what he writes is true, Screen Australia is a totally dysfunctional organization out of control and in need of a new Chief Executive and a new Board.

  3. The sooner Harley is replaced the better. And the Board is in need of a new Chair. Boreham is hopeless. And Gillard is in need of a Minister for the Arts who is not asleep at the job. It is small wonder that most of the films we make are crap when the organization whose job it is to gear our films into production is filled choc a bloc with second-raters, incompetents and career bureaucrats.