Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Evidence please, Dr Harley, that I have placed Screen Australia staff at risk?

“Evidence please, Dr Harley, that I have placed Screen Australia staff at risk?”

In the days when letters could be placed in a file and forgotten about refusing to answer questions such as this was a much more viable option than it is in the world of twitter, emails and blogs.

“Could you please provide both Chanti and myself with a copy of whatever contract Citipointe church has entered into with the Ministry of Social Affairs regarding the custody of her daughters Rosa and Chtia (Srey Mal)?”


Citipointe is the Brisbane-based church that illegally removed the two eldest daughters of  Chanti - the Cambodian woman whose life I have been documenting since 1995 and who is the central character in CHANTI’S WORLD.

Citipointe church and Screen Australia have in common the belief, if they ignore correspondence and refuse to answer questions long enough, that the correspondent will eventually give up.

Not so long ago the circle of people who were aware of the existence of such correspondence  and the questions it contained was small.  Today, in the new email and twitter cyberworld we live in a blog such as mine stands as a constant reminder that the questions have been asked and remain unanswered. The correspondent can still be ignored (me in this instance, with both Citipointe and Screen Australia) but the option of denying knowledge of the existence of the correspondence no longer exists. The refusal to answer questions stands nakedly exposed.

Yes, reasons can be found to refuse to answer questions but they appear increasingly lame as time passes and the questions go unanswered – especially when, in the case of Screen Australia, my credibility could be so easily destroyed if just one of my questions was answered. This one, for instance:

“Evidence please, Dr Harley, that I have placed Screen Australia staff at risk?”

One sentence, one phrase would suffice to expose me as a liar. The longer Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board refuse to supply this one sentence, this one phrase, the less credible their reason for banning me becomes for anyone interested in fact, in evidence, in truth.

Screen Australia’s cover story, the narrative that has been decided upon to avoid answering this one question seems to be that since I am the kind of person who intimidates and places at risk members of Screen Australia staff my request for evidence of my crime can be ignored. The hope is that no-one other than myself will ask for evidence sufficient of the mud hurled at me will stick and convince my fellow filmmakers, the film community, that I must have done something very wrong indeed. In this, Ruth Harley and the Board’s wishes have been granted. There is no one who will to say to Ruth Harley, “Evidence please,” and who will refuse to accept “no comment” as a valid (and final) answer.

In my dispute with Screen Australia “No comment,” has been the invariable response when Encore magazine, for instance, has asked any questions of Screen Australia. Questions like:

“How much did Screen Australia spend in legal fees in the Supreme Court defending Ruth Harley’s right to refuse to provide me with marked up copies of the correspondence in which I had allegedly intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff?”

It seems to me that a “No comment” response should not be the end of a conversation between a journalist and the person or entity being asked a question but the beginning of one. Would Eddie Obeid be forced to answer questions at an ICAC hearing if Kate McClymont had accepted “No comment,” as an answer to her investigative questions?

Tim Burrows, at Mumbrella, has the following to say about Encore’s decision not to report on my most recent arrest and time spent in jail as a result.

“The reason we’ve written no more isn’t because of any fear of Screen Australia. The legal restraints come from the courts – once somebody has been charged with an offence the press are limited to reporting just basic facts such as name, address, the charge etc. They are not allowed to write about the incident itself in caser it prejudices a future trial. Once someone is found guilty, innocent or the charges are dropped, the restrictions end.

This was in response to an observation I had made to Tim:

“I know that you don’t want to touch this story with a barge pole. Yes, in a sense it is sub judice for as long as Screen Australia insists on having me arrested but there are plenty of aspects to the story that should, at the very least, lead to certain questions being asked. Thank God Kate McClymont has pursued Eddie Obeid with her questions. Without a vigorous press prepared to ask questions and not prepared to be fobbed off with ‘no comment’ or threats of legal action there is no incentive for people in positions of power (in government or Screen Australia) to be as transparent and accountable as their jobs require of them.”

I also had a much more pointed question for Tim that he declined to answer:

“Has Screen Australia ever applied pressure of any kind to you or any other member of Encore’s staff not to report on a particular story that might present the organization in a bad light? Has Screen Australia ever issued legal threats (either covert or veiled) in relation to comments made online that are critical of the organization?

Having received such veiled, then barely veiled threats from Screen Australia it would not surprise me at all if Encore had received them also.  

To end on a positive note:

Publishing a draft of my screenplay SHIPS IN THE NIGHT online in 10 segments has yielded some positive results. Not only do I now have a few young producers and directors interested in taking on the project but, more interestingly, I have received terrific feedback from these fellow filmmakers. It has also been possible for me to figure out, from ‘page views’, how many people read segment #1 of the screenplay, # 2 and so on and how many read the entire screenplay. It seems to me that there are many positive outcomes to be gained by screenwriters publishing their screenplays online in the way that I have – not the least of which being the networking and critical feedback that could result from doing so.


  1. Easiest way to guarantee that the issues surrounding your arrest are never reported on is for Screen Australia to keep having you arrested - which you're planning to do anyway you fuckwit!

    1. Yes, Catch 22! However, the more times SA decides to have me arrested rather than provide me with evidence of my 'crimes' the more absurd the organisation will appear to those in the community (in this instance, the film community) who cling to the old fashioned notion that the accused has a right to defend him/herself on the basis of identifiable evidence.

  2. Question for Rachel Perkins:

    If Ricketson was a blackfella and he had been banned from doing anything that he wear legally entitled to and given no evidence at all that he was guilty of the crimes he had been charged with, what would your reaction be?

    1. My Oct letter to Rachel has moved into #1 position with 743 page hits: