Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The impotence of the office of the Ombudsman

I have lost count of the number of blog entries I have made since the Screen Australia Board banned me on the basis of allegations made by Ruth Harley that have not, to date, been backed up with any evidence of my having intimated or placed at risk members of her staff. My many attempts to have this dispute resolved in accordance with facts and evidence, as opposed to unsubstantiated allegations, have failed. This letter to the Ombudswoman, written four months ago, is just one of my many attempts:

Ms Alison Larkins
Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442, Canberra 15th June 2012

Dear Ms Larkins
re 2010-118398

Following on from my letter of 25th May and my several letters previous to it. As the months drag by with no resolution in sight I can’t help but think of what the alternative might have been, had Alisa Harris asked Fiona Cameron to produce the correspondence she referred to in Nov 2010 and to spend five minutes on the phone asking a few questions of staff within the documentary section of Screen Australia. One way or another the matter would have, or at least could have, been resolved in an hour. Alisa would have discovered that the correspondence did not exist and that Ross Mathews and Claire Jager had not seen the ‘promo’ for my CHANTI’S WORLD project. An apology could have been given to me and the matter would have been over and done with.

Surely, some part of the role of the Ombudsman’s office is to defuse disputes before they get out of hand as opposed to sitting on the sidelines and waiting till hostilities occur of the kind that both parties find it difficult to back away from. I am not going to back away because I have been defamed and my capacity to work in my chosen profession has been adversely affected by my being banned. And Ruth Harley can’t back down without making the implicit admission that she should have and could so easily have resolved the matter 18 months ago .

The same applies with Ruth Harley’s banning of me five weeks ago now. Your office was made aware of this new development almost immediately and could, if it had chosen to do so, asked Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence she was referring to in justification of her banning to whoever it is that is investigating matter # 2010-118398. If Ruth Harley produced the correspondence and it contained clear evidence of the crimes of intimidation, harassment and placing at risk of Screen Australia staff, this would have been immediately apparent and a letter could have been sent to me by your office declaring this to be the case. The matter would have come to an abrupt end and I, with egg all over my own face for having lied about the non-existence of correspondence, would have had to crawl into a hole and lick my (self-inflicted) wounds. Alternatively, Ruth Harley would have had to admit that correspondence of the kind I have been accused of writing does not exist and apologize. Yes, egg all over Ruth Harley’s face but the matter would then have been closed and a great deal of time and energy saved on the parts of many people – including that of whoever it is in your office that is investigating this matter.

Is it possible for your office to give me some indication as to whether or not it intends to ask Ruth Harley to produce the offending correspondence? If the answer is ‘no’, if it is not the role of Ombudsman’s office to do so, I can stop wasting my own and your time by continuing to write to you regarding the matter. If the office of the Ombudsman cannot ask Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence (or relevant extracts from it) I am at a loss to know how the Ombudsman can determine whether my being banned is appropriate or inappropriate. If it is possible to get an answer to this one question from yourself that would be much appreciated.

best wishes

Ms Larkins did not respond to this letter. She has not responded to any letter from me. The Ombudsman’s ‘investigation’ of Nov 2010 was one in which no questions were asked of Ross Mathews, Claire Jager, Julia Overton or Liz Crosby that would have illuminated the event (or should I say, non-event) that was the catalyst for this dispute – Screen Australia knocking back my application for development funds for4 ‘Chanti’s World’ without viewing the ‘promo’ that was the centrepiece of it. This led to Fiona Cameron’s ham-fisted attempt to shift the blame for this cockup to me etc etc. Oh, what a dreadful waste of time and energy to get Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia board to be transparent and accountable in their decision making.

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