Sunday, June 23, 2013

Will Screen Australia's new Chief Executive champion the ideals of transparency and accountability?

Members of the Screen Australia Board
Level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011                                                                                                 21st. June 2013

Dear Board Members

Ruth Harley will soon leave the Screen Australia stage – having never been asked or obliged by the Board to provide evidence that I have, in my correspondence, intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. One of the new Chief Executive’s early tasks may well be to make a decision as to whether or not  s/he believes I am entitled to be provided with evidence of the crimes for which I have been tried, found guilty and led to my being banned. Will s/he demonstrate a commitment to the precepts of transparency and accountability by recommending to the Board that I be provided with such evidence? Or will s/he, like Ruth, simply ignore my request that the evidence of my alleged offenses, in the interests of transparency and accountability, be made public?

Is it appropriate that a new Chief Executive be saddled with such a decision? Would it not be more appropriate, before s/he takes over, that the Board make the evidence public and reveal either myself or Ruth to be playing fast and loose with the truth? Or, if there is no evidence (which is my contention) that the Board recommend to Ruth before she leaves that the ban on me be lifted or simply overrule Ruth?

The question of the existence or non existence of intimidating correspondence from myself cannot be considered in isolation from Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron’s letter to me dated 10th Nov 2010 - a letter in which the existence of phantom correspondence is first raised. Fiona writes, in relation to my meeting with Ross Mathews and Julia Overton in August of that year:

“Unfortunately it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that meeting with an understanding that you application for further development for further development funding for Chanti’s World had been effectively green lit. This is jot the case, nor could it be….It is certainly regrettable that you came away from the meeting with a misunderstanding of its intent, or of remarks made by Mr Mathews.”

For two years I asked Fiona to provide me with copies of the correspondence in which I suggested or even intimated that I had come away from the August 2010 meeting with the belief that Chanti’s World had been green lit. When, after two FOI applications, many letters and blog entries, Fiona eventually identified the correspondence in which I had, supposedly, revealed my belief that Chanti’s World had been green lit, it did not contain any such suggestion from me. The Board has been aware of this fact for the past year at least.

Fiona’s allegation that I had written correspondence that I had not written is one of the main triggers of the long running and, in so many ways, farcical dispute that led to my being banned. And, because Fiona was never obliged to provide evidence that I had written in my correspondence what she claimed I had written, the stage was set for Ruth Harley to do the same – as she did in her letter to me of 10th May 2010. Ruth knew full well, when she justified her ban on me on the grounds that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff in my correspondence, that she would never be asked by the Screen Australia Board to provide evidence that I had done so. She could make whatever allegations she chose knowing that they would go unchallenged.

A precedent has been set in place with my banning such that Screen Australia’s Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer (and anyone else in senior management) can justify the banning, defamation or marginalizing of any filmmaker by making reference to non-existent correspondence secure in the knowledge that the Screen Australia Board will not ask to see the correspondence; secure in the knowledge that they will not be held in any way publicly accountable for decisions made on the basis of this non-existent correspondence.

If Fiona Cameron has made it onto a short list to replace Ruth Harley as Chief Executive I trust that the relevant decision-makers will ask her to provide evidence, from my own correspondence, of her assertion that I came away from my meeting believing that Chant’s World had been green lit. Do we want a new Chief Executive who plays as fast and loose with the truth as did Ruth?

If the Board find this last statement offensive, please provide me with just one example from my correspondence (or more  if the Board so chooses) in which I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff; one sentence or even one phrase from my correspondence that suggests I believed Chanti’s World had been green lit. And make these examples public – the very essence of the kind of transparency and accountability the Board should be committed to.

If the Screen Australia Board feels ill equipped to decide whether or not the offending correspondence exists or whether or not I (and the industry) should have access to it, perhaps the suggestions I made in May 2012 could, even at this ate date, be entertained.

On 17th May 2012 I suggested a ‘Simple Solution’ – namely that:

“A Conciliator is called in who has no connection with Screen Australia or myself and no vested interest in the outcome – a cross between Judge Judy and a marriage guidance counselor. S/he would be interested in verifiable facts only…I would suggest that such a conciliation meeting occur as soon as possible and that all present agree with whatever findings the Conciliator arrives at and that the matter be put to rest once and for all.”

A week later, in 23rd May 2012 ‘Conciliation…Mediation’, I wrote:

“Please Ruth, Fiona, agree to take part in a conciliation/mediation process overseen by someone who has no vested interest in the outcome but who is interested in the facts only.”

A great deal of time, energy and angst could have been prevented if the Conciliation/Mediation process I recommended over a year ago had taken place. It should take place now

best wishes

James Ricketson 

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