Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Knowing All The Facts"+ 'Stolen' children in Phnom Penh

At the airport this morning, waiting for a flight to Phnom Penh, where I will try yet again to secure the release of 8 and 10 year old girls 'stolen' from their poor mother by a Christian church based in Brisbane (http://citipointechurch.blogspot.com), Evan Whitton's piece in this morning's The Punch caught my attention:

What is justice?


After researching the law for 11 years, Justice Russell Fox concluded that justice means fairness, and fairness and morality require a search for the truth, otherwise the wrong side may win.
Justice Fox also said the public knows that “justice marches with the truth”. That means common lawyers are the only people on the planet who believe you can dispense justice without knowing all the facts.

The Screen Australia board has dispensed justice without knowing 'knowing all the facts'. Indeed, the board shows no interest at all in being acquainted with the facts. And, as evidenced a few times now, Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron go to great lengths to keep from public view facts that do not support their contention that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australias staff.

In the French system:
• Trained judges are in charge of evidence. On a fixed wage, they do not have an incentive to spin the process out. Most hearings take no more than a day or so.
• Evidence is not concealed, and lawyers are not allowed to question witnesses directly lest they pollute the truth with sophistry: trick questions, false arguments, etc.
• The innocent are rarely charged; 95 per cent of guilty defendants are convicted.
In the adversary system:
• Lawyers are in charge of evidence. On $300 plus an hour, they do have an incentive to spin the process out; the record is 117 years. Lawyers for white collar criminals – tax evaders, price fixers, inside traders, and so on – can run regulators round the courts for years. Trials can take months.

In anything approximating the French system, with the mediator or conciliator I have been suggesting for months this dispute could have been (and should have been) settled in a couple of hours in Nov 2020. Both Screen Australia and myself would have presented pertinent facts to this independent arbitrator. S/he would have looked at the facts (made up almost entirely of correspondence), handed down a ruling and the time, energy and money of a lot of people would have been saved. If the ruling had gone against me, based on the evidence, the facts, fair enough. Matter closed. I would have accepted the result.

That Screen Australia had four legal representatives in the Supreme Court speaks volumes of how much money the organization was prepared to spend, had the case proceeded, to prevent me getting my hands on copies of my 'intimidating correspondence'. Screen Australia knew that the only reason I was suing for defamation was to get hold of the correspondence, having had no joy getting it in any other way. Ruth Harley handed the marked up correspondence to me in the Screen Australia foyer a couple of weeks later anyway, so it's difficult to understand why she didn't simply give it to me on 11th May when I asked for it!

Herein lies one of the big problems with Screen Australia, from my experience - playing its cards so close to its chest. Information is to be hoarded, dialogue to be avoided at all costs. When challenged in any way, bring on the spin doctors - one of the best being Fiona Cameron herself. She is adept at making silk purses out of sows ears and if the going gets tough, if the questions asked of her require answers that might not sit comfortably with the narrative she has created, there is always, "I am not going to communicate with you any longer," to fall back on.

Is this what we want, need, expect of Screen Australia management? I think Screen Australia needs a new Chief Executive. And I think that the new CEO, in conjuction with the Screen Australia Board, needs to re-think the question of how long SA bureaucrats in positions of significant creative and fiscal control can stay in their positions. I would suggest four years maximum. There is no shortage of highly qualified filmmakers who could fill, for four years, the positions now held by some who have virtual tenure. The organization would benefit enormously from a constant turnover of personnel; from regular injectsions of new blood.

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