Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ombudsman fails to ask the most important question: "Evidence of Mr Ricketson's guilt, please?"

Mr Colin Neave AM
Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
ACT 2601                                                                                          

30th March 2016

Dear Mr Neave

Following on from my letter to you of 1st  March, acknowledgment of receipt of which I have not received.

Is the role of the Ombudsman’s office to resolve conflicts in a fair and equitable way for all parties involved, or to take a side, without asking any pertinent questions, and then stick with that side (in this instance, Screen Australia) regardless of the evidence?  Or, in this case, the total lack of any evidence at all that I intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff?

Had your office been interested in an Ombudsman-inspired resolution back in May 2012, this is what it could have looked like.

Scenario # 1

Screen Australia provides evidence, in the form of copies of correspondence, that James Ricketson had indeed intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. Your office would find that the ban on Ricketson was be quite justified; as was any damage to his reputation for having behaved so badly. End of story.

Scenario # 2

Screen Australia fails to provide evidence that James Ricketson has intimidated or placed anyone at SA at risk. The ban is lifted immediately and both Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron (along with members of the board) would have to suffer damage to their reputations for having behaved so badly.

Both these scenarios could have been pursued if Alyssa Harris had asked of just one question back in May 2012.  A resolution, one way or another, could have been achieved in a few weeks.

If your office had wished to take it one step further the previous Ombudsman could have recommended that all parties involved in this dispute sit down and talk, face to face, and reach an agreement in an amicable way. I have suggested this many times but all of my offers have been rejected.  Had such a meeting occurred Screen Australia would have been in a position to think of a face-saving way of  acknowledging that no intimidation had taken place; that no-one had been placed at risk. At this point I would have accepted an apology and the matter could have been put to rest. Within a very short time it would have become irrelevant to all concerned and be a matter of history of interest to no-one.

It seems to me that from the time that Alyssa  Harris failed to ask the one and only question relevant to a resolution (“Evidence please of Mr Ricketson’s crimes”) your office has sought to protect itself by refusing to ask it. Having to acknowledge that there is no evidence (and there isn’t) would place your office in the embarrassing position of having to admit to having failed in a very basic way, back in May 2012, to fulfil its mandate:

“We investigate complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by an Australian Government agency.”

There was no investigation of my complaint. Alyssa called Fiona Cameron, had a chat, didn’t bother to ask her or anyone else at Screen Australia (or myself) any questions at all and swept my complaint under the carpet – where it remains as far as your office is concerned.

When the ban was imposed on me, I had around a dozen documentary and drama projects in the pipeline. One, a documentary entitled CHANTI’S WORLD, would soon attract a National Geographic pre-sale. As a banned filmmaker I was not able to take up National Geographic’s offer. I have been self-funding this documentary for 20 years now but can proceed no further with it with this ban in place. Some of my other drama projects I am re-working in hopes of transforming them into non-Australian stories.

Ruth Harley, Fiona Cameron and the Screen Australia board have achieved their desired goal – to end my career as an Australian filmmaker. At the time the ban was instituted I was 62 years old,  entering into the final years of my career as a filmmaker. These years have been stolen from me by the and my career as an Australian filmmaker is now finished. The ban is no longer of any relevance. What is of relevance, however, is my reputation. I want to be either found guilty on the basis of evidence or not guilty.  Either verdict should be made public. I deserve to be publicly shamed if I am guilty. If I am not guilty the Screen Australia Board deserves to be publicly shamed – not just for the original ban but for pursuing it for four years (with new board members in place) despite all members of the board being aware that I was innocent of the charges laid against me.

For the office of the Ombudsman to do its job properly at this point (ask for evidence of my crimes four years late) and to find the ban unwarranted, would be embarrassing. Nonetheless, natural justice demands that it be done and I ask you, again, to get the relevant person in your office to ask for this evidence.

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Screen Australia Board
    Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts

   Australian Director’s Guild

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