Tuesday, December 4, 2012

letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard 5th Dec

The need to generate income this week renders impractical my planned visit to the Screen Australia foyer today. If I am to be arrested again it fits in better with my employment responsibilities if it happens on 14th Dec - the day that the Screen Australia Board meets next.



The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT 2600                                                                                      5th. Dec. 2012

Dear Prime Minister

It is now seven months since I commenced a letter to you with this question:

“Is it appropriate that complaints made about the Chief Operating Officer of a federal government body that invests around $60 million a year in Australian film and television are investigated by the Chief Operating Officer herself?”

I have not yet received from your office acknowledgment of receipt of this letter, or of any of the several other letters I have subsequently sent to you. I wonder if anyone in your office or that of Mr Crean has ever investigated the allegation above to determine whether it is factually correct or incorrect; if I am speaking (writing) the truth or am lying.  Is it of no concern to you or Mr Crean that Screen Australia’s complaints process is overseen by someone who investigates complaints made about herself?

My experience with Screen Australia over the past few years (and that of many of my fellow filmmakers) is that facts count for little once a narrative has been decided upon that exonerates Screen Australia staff of any wrong-doing or to shift the blame for plain old fashioned bureaucratic cockups onto the shoulders of complainants.

My last letter to the Screen Australia Board, written on 28th Nov., speaks for itself:

http://jamesricketson.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/my-third-arrest-for-trespassing.html

I received no response. The Board has clearly decided that the most appropriate response to my asking for evidence of the crimes I have been charged with, been found guilty of and which have led to my being banned and effectively end my career as an Australian filmmaker, is to
ignore me.

With a commitment to transparency and accountability I have, on many occasions now, invited Dr Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board to present me with evidence of my having intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. One paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even one word would probably suffice to demonstrate that I am guilty as charged and that my pleas of innocence are merely hypocritical spin or, if we dispense with euphemism, that I am a liar.

Lest the details of this dispute escape you, your memory can be refreshed by visiting:

http://jamesricketson.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/letter-to-prime-minister-julia-gillard.html

This letter to you did not yield a response.

My many requests of Screen Australia to agree to mediation to resolve this long-running dispute have been ignored. No reason has been given, though I think it pretty clear that is because any independent observer, interested in facts, not spin, would be hard-pressed to find even one word in my correspondence that could be construed to place any member of Screen Australia staff at risk. That Dr Harley should not allow facts, evidence or truth get in the way of a defamatory narrative that has me placing her staff at risk does not surprise me at all. This is her style. That the Screen Australia Board allows a ban such as the one placed on me without providing me with one shred of evidence for its justification does surprise me, however.

Rightly or wrongly, cleverly or stupidly, effectively or ineffectively, I have recently fallen back on a technique that has worked in the past for others engaged in an asymmetrical battle with the powers-that-be: the non-violent protest. I have been arrested twice to date in the foyer of Screen Australia’s Sydney office whilst doing nothing other than sitting calmly minding my own business, doing or saying nothing to harm anyone, waiting to be provided with evidence of my having placed Screen Australia staff at risk. On many occasions now I have acknowledged that if I am guilty of this crime the ban that has been placed on me is appropriate. This has been an open invitation to Dr Harley and the Board to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability (not to mention natural justice!) and, in the process, completely destroy my own credibility. Neither Dr Harley nor the Board has taken advantage of this oft-presented opportunity.

On 14th Dec I will make my third visit to the Screen Australia offices - to be either provided with evidence of my crimes or to be arrested again. On this day the Screen Australia Board will be meeting to make a range of decisions regarding film and television projects. This letter, copied to members of the Board (and which I will post on my blog), is an open invitation to Board members, on 14th Dec., to provide me with evidence of my having placed Screen Australia staff at risk.  That’s all. In the interests of transparency and accountability I will post it on my blog - even if it makes me look both a fool and a liar. If any member of the Board decides that it might be worth talking to me in the foyer (during morning tea, lunch) I would welcome the opportunity. What they might discover is that I am not a ‘nutter’ (as described by one significant Screen Australia player in this drama) but a calm, rational and experienced filmmaker whose crime is not that he has intimidated anyone or placed members of staff at risk, but that he has been a vocal critic of Screen Australia under the stewardship of Dr Harley. Screen Australia cannot abide criticism of any kind and will go to extraordinary lengths not just to silence critics such as myself who have the temerity to ask questions but to deter others from asking similar questions, making their own criticisms of the way in which Screen Australia is run.

If, on 14th Dec, Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board decide, rather than to provide me with evidence of my crimes, to have me arrested again, so be it. On 20th Dec Screen Australia and myself will face off in the Downing Centre to have my first arrest charges heard.

No doubt Screen Australia will have a legal team in court to argue the validity of the decision to have me arrested. I will try to keep the smile off my face. Whether I am found guilty or innocent of the heinous crime with which I have been charged is of no consequence to me. Either verdict will, I suspect, reflect badly on Dr Harley’s management style and give Australian filmmakers something to shake their heads in wonder and laugh about at Christmas parties during the silly season.  In any event, I shall keep turning up at the Screen Australia offices and being arrested until such time as the evidence of my crimes is presented to me.

I trust that I may, this time around, at least receive acknowledgement of receipt of this letter from your office.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc The Hon Simon Crean MP
Members of the Screen Australia Board

4 comments:

  1. Reluctantly AnonymousDecember 4, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Senator John Faulkner's words today about the Labor party made me think of our own industry:

    "It is clear that the current power balance - the current power structure - have enabled have enabled too much disgraceful conduct and arrogantly corrupt behaviour. it is clear, too, that some of those empowered by our current structures are resistant to measures which curtail their power...Federal Parliamentarians need to get serious about a code of conduct to apply to them, not because I think Parliamentarians are ignorant or uncaring about ethics and integrity matters - generally they are not - but because the public at large is entitled to know that objective standards exist, and that these standards are open to public discussion, and public assessment."

    The sad and sorry tale of Ricketson's battle with SA highlights the need for discussion within the industry about the role the funding bodies play, an assessment of those bodies by members of the industry and then dialogue with the bodies themselves.

    That said, it is outrageous that Ricketson is not being provided with evidence of the offences he has allegedly committed. Outrageous.

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  2. Getting yourself arrested again Ricketson will only confirm Screen Australia's opinion that you are indeed a 'nutter'. The 60s are over, man. Time to move on.

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    Replies
    1. So what would you do if you were in my position?

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    2. I wouldn't be so stupid as to get myself in your position.

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