Friday, April 29, 2016

A return to the Supreme Court to get a simple answer to a simple question!

The question is:

“Evidence please that Mr Ricketson intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff?”

The Commonwealth Ombudsman could have picked up the phone and asked this question. He declined to do so. The Minister for the Arts could have picked up the phone and asked this question. Three Ministers for the Arts have now failed to do so.

Now, a great deal of time, energy and money will be expended by myself – to get an answer – and by Screen Australia to prevent me from getting one.

A sad state of affairs!

Jane Supit
Head of Legal
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                              

12th April 2016

Dear Ms Supit

re Supreme Court Statement of Claim  # 2012/220477

In late 2012 I appeared in the Supreme Court (Division: Common Law; List: Defamation) with legal representatives of Screen Australia. I was representing myself.

The presiding judge declined to hear the matter, claiming that I needed, in my ‘Statement of Claim’ (drawn up by myself) to more clearly articulate my case and suggesting that I seek the services of a lawyer. I could not afford to do so - hence my representing myself.

I have now retired as an Australian filmmaker and am in a position to pursue the matter, which I intend to do. The last four years of my professional life have been destroyed by Screen Australia’s banning of me and, whilst there is nothing that can be done to bring these years back, there is something that can be done to undo the damage done to my reputation by the ban.

You will, of course, be able to look at the file and acquaint yourself with the case. In the meantime I am seeking one particular document from Screen Australia

In order to impose a ban on me on 10th May 2012, Screen Australia had to amend its ‘Terms of Trade’.

As Nick Coyle, Governance Manager wrote under ‘Proposed Resolution’ 0n 9th May 2012:

3. The Board approves the amendment of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade by addition of a statement in the following terms:

“In addition to the requirement in our eligibility conditions that applicants for funding act in good faith, Screen Australia expects that communications between its staff and funding applicants will be courteous and respectful. Screen Australia reserves the right to not accept applications for funding from any person who Screen Australia forms the view persistently treats our staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion; not will Screen Australia enter into correspondence with any such person.”

The Screen Australia board, without meeting to discuss the matter, amended its Terms of Trade with the intention of banning one filmmaker – myself. Then, the following day, convicted me of being in breach of a segment of SA’s ‘Terms of Trade’ that had not existed 24 hours earlier! An extraordinary state of affairs!

I have never, despite four years of asking,  been provided with any evidence that I “persistently treat(ed Screen Australia) staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion.” This is unsurprising as there is no evidence. I am not guilty as charged. The banning of me was an abuse of power by Ruth Harley; a ham-fisted attempt to silence a critic and to provide herself and Fiona Cameron with a seemingly valid reason to refuse to answer questions relating to Fiona’s having placed on file statements that Ruth knew to be untrue.

I initiated my Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court in 2012, seeking only $1 in damages, with the sole intention of proving that I had intimidated no-one; that I had placed no-one at risk. I had no interest in financial gain; only in having my name cleared.  Four years later, I still wish to have my name cleared.

In order for the Australian Government Solicitor to have been able to give Screen Australia advice regarding the proposed ban on me (9th May 2012), Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron must have provided him with documented evidence that I had breached the ‘eligibility conditions’ that were retrospectively applied to me. Whilst the Australian Government Solicitor’s letter of 9th May 2012 is, according to Nick Coyle’s memo to Screen Australia board members on 9th May 2012, confidential, the same does not apply to Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron’s letter(s) to him. It is in these documents that will be found (or should be found) evidence that my correspondence placed SA staff members at risk and that Screen Australia had a duty of care, to use Ruth Harley’s words, to “protect out staff from harassment and intimidation.”

If Screen Australia does not wish to provide me with copies of Ruth and Fiona’s correspondence with the Australian Government Solicitor I am, here, making a formal request to be provided with a copy through Freedom of Information legislation.

yours sincerely

James Ricketson

cc Senator Mitch Fifield
    Mr Colin Neave, Commonwealth Ombudsman
    Australian Director’s Guild

Louise Vardanega
Chief Operating Officer
Australian Government Solicitor
Locked Bag 35
ACT 2604

18th April 2016

Dear Ms Vardanega

Acting on legal advice I am seeking copies of the following documents, utilizing Freedom of Information legislation:

(1) Any and all correspondence from members of Screen Australia staff to the Australian Government Solicitor - up to and including 9th May 2012 - in relation to the allegation that I intimidated, harassed and/or placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff in my correspondence.

(2) A copy of the confidential letter of advice to Screen Australia from the Australian Government Solicitor dated 9th May 2012.

The enclosed copies of documents relating to this matter will place my request in a context.

I will be in Cambodia for the next six weeks. In the event that these documents become available to me in the next month or so, could you please send them to me electronically.

yours sincerely

James Ricketson