Tuesday, October 15, 2013
letter to members of the Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia Board
150 William St
15th Oct 2013
Dear Members of the Screen Australia Board
On May 17th 2012 I suggested a simple solution to the problem that had arisen between myself and Screen Australia
My suggestion was ignored.
On May 23rd 2012 I suggested that mediation/conciliation was an equitable and fair way resolve the dispute between Screen Australia and myself.
My suggestion was ignored.
I have made many suggestions as to how this dispute could be resolved in accordance with the facts by some independent arbitrator. All of these suggestions have been ignored. I have suggested meeting with the Board or members of it. Again, my suggestions ignored.
In the 17 months since Ruth Harley’s ban on me, a ban ratified by yourselves, I have asked the Board many times that it present me with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. My multiple requests have been ignored.
Twice, during Board meetings, I came to the foyer of Sydney’s Screen Australia office, making myself available for discussion and/or to be presented with evidence of the crimes that led to my being banned. On both occasions, rather than communicate with me, the police were called and I was arrested for trespassing during Screen Australia business hours – despite my doing nothing other than sitting calmly hurting no-one, speaking to no one. On the second occasion I had to spend a weekend in jail.
If evidence exists that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff, why has it not been presented to me? Yes. Fiona Cameron provided me with copies of pretty well every email or letter I had sent to Screen Australia over a period of four years but in not one of them was there any evidence that I had done anything other than advocate on my own behalf to get answers to questions. Given the refusal of Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron to answer questions and to place demonstrably untrue statements on file, it was necessary for me to question the honesty of both Ruth and Fiona.
The demonstrably true facts were, and remain, that Claire Jaeger failed to view the ‘promo’ for CHANTI’S WORLD before knocking my development application back . This was clearly an error on her part (and by his own admission, on Ross Mathews’ part also) but rather than apologize and rectify the mistake Screen Australia defended this patently unfair decision. The unfairness was exacerbated by Claire’s suggesting, in her assessment, that I try to obtain funding from the Brisbane based church that I had accused in my submission of the illegal removal of two children from their family in Cambodia – akin to asking Wal King to invest in a film investigating his own shady dealings with Saddam Hussein. This church (Citipointe) subsequently threatened to have me arrested, jailed and banned from visiting Cambodia again for asking questions not dissimilar to those I was asking of Ruth and Fiona.
Claire’s assessment did not pass the ‘laugh test’ but I did not kick up too much of a fuss (check the files) and came aback a year or so later after a meeting with Julia Overton and Ross Mathews to make another application. This led to another cock-up on the part of Claire Jager (the details of which are not important now) but which in turn led to Fiona Cameron claiming, in writing, that I had made it clear in my own correspondence that I came away from the meeting with Ross and Julia believing that CHANTI’S WORLD had been ‘green lit’. Fiona was trying to blame a Screen Australia cockup on me and, in the process, suggesting that I had behaved in a corrupt manner in both expecting that I could obtain a green light from Ross Mathews (nudge nudge, wink wink) and then being peeved because my attempt had been unsuccessful. To have such a statement about myself on file was (and remains) totally unacceptable. I have never in my career and never would I expect to have a project green lit under such circumstances. I challenged Fiona’s lie and so began the next phase of this stupid conflict.
When I asked Fiona to produce the correspondence in which I had, allegedly, made the claims she claimed I had, she refused to do so. It took a couple of years and many FOI requests before Fiona eventually identified the correspondence. It came as no surprise to me that it contained nothing from me that is even remotely suggestive that I believed CHANTI’S WORLD had been green lit.
At this point (especially given Claire Jager’s error in not viewing my ‘promo) the logical and fair thing to do would have been for Screen Australia to apologize for the error (multiple errors at this point) and let the matter drop. But no, Screen Australia – right up to and including the Board – decided to dig its heels in and make it seem that it was me who was at fault for insisting, vociferously, that Fiona’s lie be removed from the file.
The best way to silence me was to ban me but in order to do so Screen Australia had to change its terms of trade and then find some suitable grounds upon which to base a ban. ‘Intimidation’ and ‘Placing at risk’ worked perfectly – or would have if I had not asked for evidence that I had done either. My continuing to ask for evidence led to the Board, yourself, including a few fellow filmmakers, to extending the ban on me by a year.
From here the conflict has snowballed and, in an attempt to silence me (and/or punish me) you, the Board, ratified Ruth Harley’s second ban – extending the first y a year. As far as I can tell there was never any attempt on your part to separate facts from spin and you, the Board, refused my many requests that the conflict be placed in the hands of an independent arbitrator who would have no vested interest in the outcome; my suggestion that both Screen Australia and myself would accept his/her determination without question or comment.
This struck me as both a fair and the most sensible way to resolve this conflict and put the matter to rest. You refused to endorse this plan, this suggestion, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the last thing the Board wanted (especially now that it was deeply implicated in my ban) was for any facts to emerge that would make it apparent that the ban was unfair and should not have been implemented in the first place. No, Screen Australia and the Board closed ranks, refused all requests that I be presented with evidence of my crimes; all requests that an independent arbitrator be called in.
I am now confronted by a new dilemma. Do I want to drag Screen Australia’s new Chief Executive into this whole sorry affair? The answer is ‘no’. He will be deeply embroiled in looking forward and implementing whatever plans he may have in mind to address where it is that Screen Australia stands (or must stand) in the new and challenging broadcasting and distribution environment we all find ourselves in. The last thing he needs (or, I suspect, wants) is to be going through a five year old dispute and having to decide, on the basis of the facts available to him, whether the ban on me should stand or be lifted. I do not want to put him in that situation. And nor do I think the Board should. If you have evidence that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff, (even one phrase) make it public after this weeks Board meeting and put this matter to rest. I will be appropriately shamed and humiliated and revealed to be a liar for having insisted this past 17 months that I am not guilty. If you do not have one phrase, one sentence, one paragraph or one letter/email in which I have intimated or placed at risk a member of Screen Australia’s staff, lift the ban.
Whilst I would love to have an apology (this ban has caused incalculable damage to my career) it is not vital. The lifting of the ban would constitute a tacit acknowledgement that I am not (and never was) guilty.
But, let’s just say you do not decide to lift it? May 2014 rolls around and, as of 10th May, I am no longer a banned filmmaker! The conclusion that must be drawn from this is that between May 2012 and May 2014 I was able or had the desire to intimidate and/or place at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff but on 10th May 2014 this risk will magically disappear. Screen Australia staff will again be able to speak with me and my development applications will be assessed. What will change from 9th May to 10th May 2014? Nothing, of course. I will be the same person – still demanding, as a matter of natural justice, that I have the reasons for my ban explained to me and still, if need be, be a critic of Screen Australia.
Please provide me with evidence of my crimes or lift the ban. Or, if you do not want to do either, find some independent arbiter and place it in his/her hands. The damage to my career has already been done and cannot be undone. The damage to my reputation can be undone, however, and I will keep pursuing this until I have either been exonerated or found guilty on the basis of facts and not lies and spin.