13th June 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
The Presumption of Innocence - a legal principle for close to 2,000 years but not applicable to Screen Australia when the industry's peak funding body bans a filmmaker
Ian Robertson, Joan Peters
Members of the Screen Australia Board
150 William St
13th June 2013
13th June 2013
Dear Ian and Joan
My recent attempts to appeal to the filmmakers on the board (Rachel Perkins, Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie) that I have a right to be provided with evidence of the crimes that have led to my being banned have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps, given that you are both lawyers, I can appeal to your sense of natural justice and the application of common law – under which the presumption of innocence is fundamental until guilt has been proven. This has been the case since the 2nd century when the jurist Paul declared, “Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies.”
The presumption of innocence imposes on the prosecution (in this case yourselves as Screen Australia board members) the task of proving that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. It is not up to the accused, in this instance myself, to prove my innocence. Indeed, it is impossible for me to prove my innocence under the circumstances as I have been presented with no evidence at all of the crimes for which I have been banned and so can present no defense.
The common usage expression for this form of evidence-free rough justice is ‘Kangaroo court’. It is a form of justice practiced by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes that wish to silence critics whilst maintaining the illusion that due process had been followed. It is also a technique used by authoritarian regimes to dissuade other would-be critics, and those who have the temerity to defend themselves from false allegations, from speaking out. In this respect Screen Australia has been quite successful – public criticism of Screen Australia from within the industry, under Ruth Harley’s stewardship, being now close to zero.
Ruth ’s intention, in having me banned (with the blessing of the Screen Australia Board), was to inflict maximum damage on the career of a filmmaker dependent, as all filmmakers are in one way or another, on Screen Australia. In this Ruth has been successful to a certain extent. However, after more than 40 years of making films it takes more than a Screen Australia ban to stop me from pursuing my profession. It has always been hard (and remains so) to survive as an independent filmmaker but screenwriting is a time and not a capital intensive profession. And, in this new digital era we live in it is possible, if not always desirable, to make films on the smell of an oily rag.
Given that the Screen Australia board seems determined to maintain the ban on me and provide neither myself nor the film industry with any evidence in support of it, I will attempt to make a feature film, SHIPS IN THE NIGHT, with no budget at all. If I am successful, if the film is even halfway decent, this letter, along with the countless others to be found on my blog, will bear witness to the lengths Screen Australia has gone to in its attempts to thwart this and other of my films from being made.