Monday, April 28, 2014

# 7 letter to Senator George Brandis, 6th Jan 2014

The Hon George Brandis MP
Minister for the Arts
Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Level 361 Eagle St
Brisbane QLD 4000                                                                           

6th Jan 2014

Dear Senator Brandis

When I wrote to you on 22nd May 2013 as Shadow Minister for the Arts (copy enclosed) I hoped it would not be necessary to write to you as Minister; that the ban placed on me by Screen Australia would have been lifted by Jan 2014. It has not been. Indeed, there is no indication that it ever will be. There is clearly no desire on the part of Screen Australia to arrive at a resolution based on facts, on evidence, on the fundamental right of the accused to be provided with evidence of his crimes enshrined in the common law principles outlined in the Bill of Rights, 1698:

Among the other rights recognised by the common law and enjoyed by the people were the right to be informed of reasons for arrest, the right to a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Whilst I was not arrested, I was effectively charged by Chief Executive Ruth Harley with intimidating Screen Australia staff and placing them at risk without either being informed that the charges had been laid or provided with evidence of my having intimidated or placed anyone at risk. I was then effectively tried by the Screen Australia Board without being informed that a trial was in progress, without the Board actually convening to discuss the evidence and without ‘the accused’ being given an opportunity to present a defence!

“For too long we have seen freedoms of the individual diminish and become devalued. The Coalition government will strive to protect and restore them.”
These are your words. One of these freedoms, surely, is that a person accused of a crime (intimidation, placing at risk and harassment in this case) has the right to be appraised of the evidence of his guilt and an opportunity to defend himself. Twenty months after being banned, and despite multiple requests, I have been provided with no evidence that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence. From the Australian Government website:
“In Australia, anyone, including the government, can have the lawfulness of their actions scrutinised in a court of law and be held accountable for any activity determined to be inconsistent with the law.”
Using the law, the courts, in a matter such as this should be unnecessary.  All that was required, when this mole-hill dispute began to acquire mountainous proportions, was an ‘independent review’ by an impartial adjudicator to determine, on the basis of the content of my correspondence, whether or not it contained evidence of the crimes I had been accused of (in absentia), found guilty of (in absentia) and with no right of appeal. In May 2012 I wrote:
“Citizens have the right to be given reasons for administrative decisions made about them by government officials, and to have those decisions independently reviewed through the administrative tribunal system….”  
Screen Australia has no independent system of review. Complaints such as mine are dealt with by the Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron. Not only has Ms Cameron shown a lack of interest in facts, in evidence, she has also placed on record statements that are demonstrably untrue. And when a complaint was made to the Chief Executive and the Screen Australia Board about Ms Cameron playing fast and loose with the truth, Ms Cameron investigated the complaint about herself? Another suggestion solution:
There are also ombudsmen and commissions that can inquire into government decisions and allegations of misconduct.
In this instance, the office of the Ombudsman made one phone call to Fiona Cameron but spoke to no one else, including myself. Ms Harris asked Fiona Cameron if the correspondence existed that Fiona had insisted existed in which I had expressed my belief that my project CHANTI’S WORLD had been greenlit. Ms Harris did not ask to see the correspondence but accepted Fiona Cameron’s word that it existed. It took me 18 or so months, two FOI requests and a complaint, before Screen Australia released copies of correspondence that did not support Ms Cameron’s allegations and made apparent that Ms Harris had made an error of judgment in not asking Ms Cameron to provide copies of the correspondence.
Given what I can only describe as the incompetence of the Office of the Ombudsman in this matter, the intractability of the Screen Australia Board, and the total lack of interest in a fair resolution from the former administration of your ministry, I have had only my blog as a means whereby I can seek redress for the wrong done to me in being banned. As I have stated repeatedly, provide both myself and the film community with evidence of my having intimidated or placed at risk anyone within Screen Australia with my correspondence and I will accept my punishment as both appropriate and just.
All I am asking of you, Minister, is that you please request of the Screen Australia Board that it provide me with evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff that it found so compelling as to warrant my being banned. One paragraph, one sentence, one phrase will suffice. Might I make one other request – that this matter not be placed in the hands of a spin doctor within your ministry who tries to muddy the waters, to obfuscate and to make a sow’s ear appear to be a silk purse. The provision of evidence of his crimes and the right to a fair trial has been enshrined in common law for many centuries now and should (must!) apply in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
Evidence, please!
yours sincerely
James Ricketson

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