Thursday, December 20, 2012
Claudia Karvan, Rachel Perkins, Richard Keddie
Screen Australia Board
Level 4 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011 21st Dec 2012
Dear Claudia, Rachel and Richard
I have been found guilty of trespassing in the Screen Australia foyer at 4 pm on 15th Oct. No conviction has been recorded but I have been placed on a six month good behavior bond – to deter me from making any further visits to the Screen Australia foyer. For six months at least!
In part 5 of her ‘Statement of a Witness’ Fiona Cameron says,
“…about 10.am I became aware that James Ricketson was holding a silent protest in our reception area regarding his rejected applications for funding,.”
In my cross-examination of Fiona I tried to point out the factual inaccuracy of this statement but the accuracy or lack thereof was not deemed relevant to the question of whether or not I had a right to be in the foyer at that time, having been asked to leave.
As Fiona knew all too well from my correspondence and from my blog (which she admitted in court to reading) I had come to Screen Australia on 15th Oct with only one objective in mind – to be provided with evidence that I had harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. My ‘silent protest’ had nothing to do ‘rejected applications for funding.’ I have never, in my entire film career, complained about not receiving funding but this is a great fallback position for senior management when dealing with a complainant who, inevitably, will be a filmmaker. “S/he is complaining because s/her did not receive funding.” An all purpose response to all critics of Screen Australia. It certainly works, in my experience, with the office of Mr Crean!
In section 6 of her statement Fiona says,
“While I was working in my office, the CEO of Screen Australia, Ruth Harley, presented James Ricketson with email correspondence received from James Ricketson. The emails were of a threatening nature, one stating, ‘Fiona Cameron is a liar.’ I felt threatened and defamed by the emails.”
A few points worthy of being placed on record:
(1) Yes, Ruth provided me with copies of my correspondence with those parts highlighted that bore witness to my having harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. I was reading through this, searching in vain for evidence of the crimes for which I had been charged and found guilty, when Screen Australia felt it necessary to call the police to have me removed from the premises.
(2) On 15th Oct, during a brief conversation with Fiona in the foyer, I had asked her to point out to me one example, in the highlighted correspondence, in which I had intimidated and placed at risk members of SA’s staff. She declined to do so but did say that she felt threatened by my calling her a liar. Fiona then refused to talk any further about my correspondence.
(3) A liar is someone who tells lies. Fiona qualifies amply. As she well knew, I had not turned up that day to complaint about a rejected application but to be provided with evidence that I had placed staff at risk etc. If my statement regarding Fiona’s propensity to play fast and loose with the truth is incorrect and if Fiona feels that she has been defamed, two options open to her are (a) sue me for defamation or (b) provide evidence in a public forum that makes it apparent that it is me who, in calling Fiona a liar, is in fact the liar. If I call Fiona a liar for stating that I have written X in my correspondence, the simplest and most appropriate response for Fiona is to produce X and reveal me to be the liar. I have issued this invitation countless times. The invitation has been declined countless times. As must be abundantly clear to all three of you, this dispute has nothing to do with facts, evidence, truth. It is driven entirely by spin – the false narrative that I have, with my correspondence, placed members of Screen Australia’s staff at some kind of risk. The question “At risk of what?” is never addressed.
Regardless of the truth or otherwise of my statement, is calling someone a liar inherently threatening anyway? Prime Minister Gillard has every right to feel annoyed, angry even, at being called a liar, but she has never suggested that she has felt threatened by being called one in a public context? No. For her to do so would, quite rightly, result in her being ridiculed in public. And if she started ‘banning’ people who had called her a liar on the grounds that she felt threatened, imagine the outcry! And yet, in the absence of any evidence that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff, that seems to be what has happened here.
The logic goes something like this:
(1) James Ricketson calls both Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron liars on his blog. He does so based on evidence that any independent person could look at and assess for themselves. Hence his suggestion (first made more than two years ago) of mediation.
(2) Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron do not appreciate being called liars in a public forum but also do not want any independent person to to look at the evidence – ie, the correspondence. So, the offer of mediation is refused.
(3) Harley decides that the best way to stop Ricketson calling her a liar in public, is to have him banned – the hope being that Ricketson will cease and desist and close down his blog, or at least self-censor it radically to remove criticism of herself.
(3) Harley has a problem. She can only ban Ricketson if she can accuse him of a serious offense of some kind. Writing many letters and asking questions repeatedly will not suffice. Accusing Ricketson of intimidation and placing staff at risk is perfect. Harley suspects that the Board will not ask for evidence but if it does, placing staff ‘at risk’ is sufficiently vague to cover almost anything – including Fiona’s feeling ‘threatened’ by being called a liar.
(4) Harley still has a problem. There is nothing in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade that makes such a ban possible so she asks the Board to vote to alter the terms of trade at the same time as she requests, in her draft letter of 9th May, that the Board ratify her ban.
(5) Within 24 hours the Screen Australia Board, having had no meeting to discuss Harley’s 9th May draft letter, having given Ricketson no opportunity to be appraised of the charges made against him or to present a defense, agrees to his being banned and to an alteration of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade to make the banning legal.
(6) Ricketson does not respond as hoped and cease his criticisms but, after months of asking, arrives at Screen Australia’s foyer on 15th Oct stating that he will not leave until he is provided with evidence of his crimes in the form of marked up correspondence.
(7) Harley provides Ricketson with copies of correspondence whose marked up parts do not contain any evidence of his having intimidated staff etc. The police are called, Ricketson is arrested.
(8) A few weeks later, in the hope that a member of the Screen Australia Board might meet with him and/or provide him with evidence of the crimes for which he has been banned, Ricketson turns up again at in the foyer as the Board is meeting. The police are called, Ricketson is arrested again and spends the weekend in jail.
(9) The Screen Australia Board’s response to this is silence. Total silence. Three filmmaking members of the Board do not believe that a fellow filmmaker has a right to be provided with evidence of his crimes and given an opportunity to answer the charges before ratifying a Ruth Harley ban.
In conclusion: To ban a filmmaker and effectively end his career it is not necessary in Ruth Harley’s Screen Australia for him to actually threaten, intimidate or place anyone at risk. All that is required is that a member of staff feels threatened. And what kinds of things might make a staff member feel threatened? Being called a liar.
The circularity of the logic here is extraordinary. Facts, evidence, truth…none of these matter. What maters is how Fiona Cameron feels; how other members of staff feel when asked questions they do not wish to answer because a truthful answer would bolster the argument being presented by the complainant and demolish the argument being presented by the sultans of spin at Screen Australia - that I had written correspondence that made it apparent that I believed my project CHANTI’S WORLD had been ‘greenlit’, for instance. The fact that no such correspondence exists, the fact that there is no correspondence at all in which I have intimidated or placed Screen Australia staff at risk is of no consequence in Ruth Harley Empress’ New Clothes world. An extraordinary state of affairs!
I can, to an extent, understand why the courtiers whose job security is dependent on Ruth’s patronage might nod their heads and go along with this nonsense but I cannot understand is why it is that the Board, particularly filmmaker members of it, are prepared to accept this state of affairs.
Again, I ask of the three of you, produce the evidence that I have harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. Alternatively, please explain why you have no intention of doing so or, to put it another way, why it is that the precepts of transparency and accountability that supposedly inform the Board’s decision-making are being suspended in this instance. Is this going to be your modus operandi, as Board members, when making decisions of far greater import in the grand scheme of things than the one you have made in banning me?