Thursday, June 13, 2013

Caroline Fulton, Director of Screen Industry Section of the Creative Sector Development Branch of the Office for the Arts

Caroline Fulton
Screen Industry Section
Creative Sector Development Development Branch
Office for the Arts
GPO 6500
ACT 2600 30th May 2013

Dear Caroline

When a close friend told me that she had written to the Prime Minister I warned her not to get her hopes too high that she would receive a response. I was speaking from experience, having received no response to any letter I have sent to the Prime Minister this past 12 months.

To the pleasant surprise and delight of my friend she did receive a response from the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, writing on behalf of the Prime Minister. It took two and a half months for my friend to receive this response – leading Jenny Macklin to finish her first paragraph with: “I apologize for the lengthy delay in responding.” The professional etiquette extended to my friend (old fashioned good manners!) has not been extended to me. Somewhere along the line a decision has been made within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to simply ignore my repeated requests of both the Hon Simon Crean MP and the Hon Julia Gillard MP to be provided with evidence that I am guilty of the crimes that have led to my being banned by Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board.
On the Prime Minister’s website is to be found the following:

“Prime Minister Gillard leads an accountable and open Government which welcomes your views and feed-back. You can ask the Prime Minister a question, give advice and pass on well-wishes here.”

This is nonsense. I have written to you eight times since the Screen Australia Board ratified Dr Harley’s ban on me. I have yet to receive even acknowledgement of receipt of my letters from your office. Consider the dynamic in operation here, removing myself and Screen Australia from the equation:
A member of the public whose profession renders her dependent on communication with a tax-payer funded government body. Let’s call her Alice, given the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ qualities my dispute with Screen Australia has acquired. Alice is informed, in a letter written by a senior bureaucrat, that she has, in her correspondence, placed certain statements on file that do not reflect well on Alice’s character. She asks this senior bureaucrat that she be provided with a copy of the correspondence being referred to. The senior bureaucrat not only refuses to do so but writes to Alice saying that she refuses to communicate with her any further. Alice lodges a complaint with the senior bureaucrat’s boss, the Chief Executive of the organization. The Chief Executive hands the complaint back to the senior bureaucrat about whom the complaint has been made to deal with. Alice, not prepared to accept that false statements about her can be placed on file, writes to the relevant Minister and, when the Minister ignores Alice’s request, to the Prime Minister – whose office does not have the courtesy to even acknowledge receipt of letters from her.
This one-way correspondence continues for 18 or so months, at which point the Chief Executive informs Alice in writing that the tax-payer funded body she heads up will have no further dealings with her because Alice has intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of her staff. Again, Alice requests evidence that she is guilty as charged. The Chief Executive, the relevant Minister and the Prime Minister ignore her oft-made requests.
There is just one element to this all-too-familiar scenario that I would like to add. Let’s say that Alice is a whistle blower. The accusation that Alice has written certain correspondence (demonstrably untrue) has been made to discredit her, to silence her and to warn off others who might feel similarly inclined to speak out. It has worked. Alice is persona non grata.
I am not, of course, a whistle blower but merely defending my right to be provided with evidence of the crimes for which I have been found guilty; a member of the public who is quite prepared to accept the punishment meted out to me (being banned) if I have in fact intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff at any time.
Whilst pursuing my career as a filmmaker as best I can under the circumstances I will not give up on my quest to have my name cleared of these false charges when there is a new government in power. It is to be hoped that Senator Brandis will replace those currently in senior positions in the Office of the Prime Minister’s with men and women who have the professional courtesy (which you do not) to respond to letters; with men and women who take seriously the new government’s commitment to the ideals of transparency and accountability.
My letter of last week to Senator Brandis can be found at:
best wishes
James Ricketson

Caroline’s response to my 30th May letter to her was brief and to the point.

Dear James
Thank you for your email. I have noted the points you have outlined below.

On 31st May I responded with:
Dear Caroline
What point is there in merely 'noting' the points I have made? I have been making these same points for over a year now and no-one (yourself included) has presented me with one shred of evidence that I have intimidated or placed at risk anyone at Screen Australia with my correspondence. If you have any evidence at all, please present it to me; please make it public.
Given that no-one at Screen Australia will provide me with evidence of the crimes for which I have been banned and all that your office can do (after a year of asking) is 'note' the contents of my letter, to whom should I turn now with yet another request that I be provided with, at the very least, one example of my having intimidated or placed at risk anyone at Screen Australia with my correspondence. Just one example. This 'dispute' (if that is the right word) has cost me $130,000 and made it very difficult indeed the pursue the career I have been practicing for more than 40 years now
I really would appreciate an answer to this question and not merely an acknowledgement that you have received this email.
It should not be necessary to be writing to the new Minister for the Arts about this in a few months.

And, when no response to my email was forthcoming:

Dear Caroline
It comes as no great surprise that you have not responded to my email of 31st May. This is your style.
I have another question for you:
Do you, as Director of the Screen Industry Section of the Creative Sector Development Branch of the Office for the Arts, have the authority to ask Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia board to provide me with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff?
Or, to put the question in another way:
If, as Director of the Screen Industry Section, you become aware that the Chief Executive of Screen Australia has lied in falsely accusing a filmmaker of intimidation etc., do you have any power at all to rebuke the Chief Executive or is s/he free to lie with impunity and so defame a filmmaker and cause enormous damage to his or her career?
Hopefully Ruth Harley will be replaced with a Chief Executive who does not play fast and loose with the truth, who is not given to spiteful acts of revenge and who is committed to transparency and accountability in his or her dealings with the industry as a whole and with individual filmmakers. Nonetheless, if s/he is not, to whom will s/her be accountable within the Ministry for the Arts?


  1. James, you’ve lost the battle. You’ve made your point. Time to beat a dignified retreat, mate. Screen Australia can afford to ignore you, safe in the knowledge that no-one reads your blog. And Ms Fulton couldn’t care one way or another about what happens to one lone filmmaker.

  2. Yes, I have lost the battle and in all likelihood I have lost the war also but the fat lady hasn’t sung yet so, who knows, perhaps with a change of government and a change of Chief Executive there might be some new people in the upper echelons of power within Screen Australia and the Ministry of the Arts in a few months who believe that it is not appropriate to ban a filmmaker without providing him and the industry of which he is a part with evidence of the crimes he has been found guilty of in a kangaroo court; a Minister for the Arts and a new Chief Executive who are actually committed to the ideals of transparency and accountability in practice and not merely in word. We shall see.

  3. James, there is a time for strategic retreat and that time has come. Stop wasting your energy fighting a battle already lost. Put your energies into things creative or you’ll wind up (if you haven’t already) as an embittered single issue obsessive.

  4. Freddy

    Not embittered, I can assure you. Disappointed to have received no support from the industry but not embittered. My days are spent mostly with creative work and, on average, not more than 10 minutes a day goes into my ‘battle’ with Screen Australia. As for no-one reading my blog, this is not so. On a slow day 20 people read it, on an average day around 30 and on a good day between 40 and 60. Since my ban I have received clos to 24,000 page hits. Clearly there is some interest in my ‘battle’. There are many who support me privately but who do not wish to do so publicly.