Monday, February 29, 2016

As Screen Australia's ban on me approaches its 4th anniversary

The ban placed on me by Screen Australia approaches its 4th anniversary.

My December 15 letter to the Ombudsman (to which I have received no response) speaks for itself.

Screen Australia expects (hopes) that I will give up requesting that I be provided with evidence in support of the proposition that I intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.

Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
ACT 2601                                                                                          

7th Dec. 2015

Dear Ombudsman

Further to my previous correspondence.

Whilst the Screen Australia computer continues to accept my applications, Chief Executive, Graeme Mason, Senior Development Executive Nerida Moore and the the SA board will not.

I will, yet again, make a formal complaint to you, though experience suggests that your office will ignore it; as has been the case this past 44 months.

You must ignore my complaint if your office is to retain credibility in this matter. To take it seriously would necessitate asking of Screen Australia the one question that has never been asked:

“Please provide evidence that Mr Ricketson intimidated or placed anyone at risk within Screen Australia with his correspondence.”

Your staff will not ask this question, as has been the case with various Minister for the Arts, because they know full well that no such evidence exists. To ask the question now, to insist on an answer, would of necessity lead to the following conclusion:

“There is no evidence that Mr Ricketson intimidated or placed anyone at risk members of Screen Australia staff with his correspondence.”

This would both raise a Pandora’s Box of questions not only about the board and senior management at Screen Screen Australia but about the competence of those within your own office who, from the outset, failed to ask this most obvious of all questions.

The ban has been enormously damaging to my career. I can no longer make films in Australia. This was Ruth Harley’s original intention, rubber stamped by the SA board. It continues to be the intention of Nerida Moore, Graeme Mason and the current Screen Australia board. Collectively they continue to refuse to provide me with any evidence in support of the ban placed on me. I now stand as an example of the fate in store for other filmmakers who are vocal critics of Screen Australia or who do not accept that senior management can play fast and loose with the truth in order to cover their own errors in judgment.

The more important issue now, in my view, has to do with the erosion of free speech. Whilst I am not in any way a whistle-blower, I have been treated as one. The message to the film and TV community is clear: If you do not wish to be a member of the Screen Australia cheer squad it would be in your best interests to keep your dissenting opinions to yourself.

This silencing of critics has ramifications that extend far beyond the film and TV industries or the fate of one particular filmmaker. Filmmakers and the organizations dependent on Screen Australia (or any other government body) become inclined, if they do not wish to suffer bureaucratic retribution, to practice self-censorship. This is not healthy. Freedom of speech must extend to critics of government policy and those whose job it is to put such polices into practice. Filmmakers can be (and often are) subjected to bad reviews of their work in a public forum. Why should it be any different for film bureaucrats?

If the office of the Ombudsman should experience a last minute Road to Damascus moment, the question could still be asked of Screen Australia:

“Please provide evidence that Mr Ricketson intimidated or placed anyone at risk within Screen Australia with his correspondence.”

If Screen Australia can produce one example of my having done as alleged I will accept the fatwa that has been placed on me with no further complaint. This has been my position since may 2012. If Screen Australia cannot, surely the lack of transparency and accountability within a funding body that expends millions of Australian tax-payer dollars each year must be of concern to your office?

best wishes

James Ricketson

No comments:

Post a Comment