Sunday, November 18, 2012

Guilty of harassment?

''Ms McClymont and the Herald have conducted a long-running vendetta against Mr Obeid and members of the Obeid family...” 

...announced Mr Obeid’s press release:

“...We have been instructed to take appropriate steps to bring those matters to a head and to prevent future harassment of Mr Obeid and the Obeid family by the Herald and its reporters,'' the missive continues.

Poor Eddie! Being asked all those intrusive questions by Kate McClymont. Questions like: 

Did you have any discussion with Minister Ian Macdonald or anyone within his department about coal exploration licences in these areas at any time?

“How dare McClymont ask such impertinent questions? Harass me in this way! Get my lawyer on the phone!”

I can’t help but smile at the parallels here. Ask questions often enough of the Empress without Clothes that she does not want to answer and you can be charged and found guilty  in absentia of harassment! It isn’t just Ruth Harley within Screen Australia  who doesn’t answer questions of course. She just sets the tone, has written the rule book for the staff who work under her. 

Since this dispute began in earnest, two years ago this month, Ross Mathews has not responded to one of my emails or letters. Answered not one question. Not one. That this is contrary to Screen Australia guidelines and the Public Service Code of Conduct is of no consequence to Ross, to Fiona Cameron, to Ruth Harley or the Screen Australia Board. Ross is a law unto himself, answerable to no-one. He has been a film bureaucrat for too long, just as Eddie Obeid was a politician far too long. Time to get back out into the real world, Ross.

Even before this dispute got off the ground I had trouble with another Screen Australia employee to whom I wrote 10 letters in hopes of getting simple answers to a few simple questions. My sixth letter, written on 14th July 2010, begins...

“This is reaching the level of farce! You have not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of the five letters I have sent you on 1st., 16th, 23rd and 29th June or 7th July. I wonder what happens to these letters! Do they go on file or into the paper recycling basket? Surely, at the very least, receipt of these should be acknowledged.”

No response.

In my 7th letter, sent on 26th July, I wrote: 

“I wonder how many letters from me you can ignore before you either respond (or at least acknowledge) or I give up writing...I find it very hard to believe that you have taken this decision to ignore my correspondence alone and can’t help but wonder if you have been instructed to do so?

No response.

In my 10th letter, written on 10th August 2010, I wrote: 

“Has Screen Australia abandoned even the pretense of a commitment to transparency and accountability? Should I take your lack of response personally or are you merely the messenger, in your silence, for Screen Australia?”

A little later in this letter I asked one of the questions I wished to get an answer to: 

“In relation to CHANTI’S WORLD I can’t help but wonder if Screen Australia has received a letter from Citipointe church that has, perhaps, made SA wary of any involvement with this documentary? If so I’d love, needless to say, to know about it. Has Screen Australia received such a letter?

27 months later I have still received no answer to this question. It is my repeatedly asking questions such as this, questions that it is not unreasonable of me to ask and not unreasonable of me  to expect an answer to, that have led to my being charged and found guilty by Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board of ‘harassment’ - the very same form of ‘harassment’ that Eddie Obeid complains of when asked questions he does not want to answer.

It Australia had an investigative journalist who asked probing questions about what actually takes place behind the scenes within Screen Australia (and who was not prepared to accept ‘no comment’ and spin as answers) no doubt he or she would likewise be accused of harassment.

As I have written many times now, the details of my own dispute are of little consequence to anyone other than myself. It is all the other questions asked and complaints made by fellow filmmakers and ignored by Screen Australia that should, I think, be of concern to the industry - especially given that Screen Australia has a non-functioning complaints process overseen by a woman who investigates even complains made about herself. Why does the Screen Australia board tolerate this and other breaches of Screen Australia guidelines and the Public Service Code of Conduct? Or is the asking of a question such as this yet more evidence of harassment on my part of members of Screen Australia staff and board members?

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