Sunday, May 15, 2016

Australian Government Solicitor not able to comment without Screen Australia CE Graeme Mason's permission

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

13th May 2016

Dear Ms Vardanega

Many thanks for your email of 9th May suggesting that I make contact with Graeme Mason.

I have written to Graeme Mason requesting his permission to give you permission to ‘comment’.  He has not responded as yet and I doubt very much that he will. 

As you know, Ruth Harley declared 4 years ago that Screen Australia staff would not communicate with me. And your predecessor, Mr Govey, gave his stamp of approval to both this banning of me and Screen Australia’s refusal to communicate with me. He was even prepared to allow Screen Australia to amend its Terms of Trade to make the ban legal. And yet I am not allowed to know upon what evidence Mr Govy based his legal opinion!

As of Friday 13th May 2016, here is the state of play, stripped down to its bare bones:

-  - May 2012. The Australian Government Solicitor, after considering evidence provided to him by Ruth Harley, recommends the banning of a filmmaker and the changing of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade to make the ban legal.

-  - The filmmaker’s request, through FOI, to be appraised of the evidence held by the Australian Government Solicitor, that Mr Govey felt warranted the ban, is knocked back.

-   - You, as Acting Australian Government Solicitor, will not comment in any way on this matter without Mr Graeme Mason’s permission.

-   Mr Mason will not respond to my letter of 9th May 2016 because, on 10th May 2012, with the blessing of Mr Govey, Ruth Harley announced that there would be no communication at all between myself and Screen Australia.

-   - You will now be able to declare: “We cannot communicate with you any further on this matter Mr Ricketson as we do not have our client’s permission.”

If I have, in this very brief description of the dynamic in play here, misrepresented the position of the Australian Government Solicitor, please correct me, Ms Vardanega.

From your perspective, as Australian Government Solicitor (acting) is Graeme Mason entitled to simply not respond to my letter of 9th May 2016 because Ruth Harley banned communication with me four years ago? 

Is it possible that Ruth Harley, in May 2012, was going much further than Mr Govey ever intended Screen Australia to go in destroying my career when she announced that there would be no communication with me?

Are you able to answer questions such as these or are you, in accordance with the law, not obliged to answer them at all?

It might be argued that the fate of one particular filmmaker is of no great consequence; that this is just bureaucratic vindictiveness at work. It happens all the time. Get over it, James! This is the attitude of many within the film and TV industry.

However, what the ban on me makes apparent (and this should be of concern to all Australians whose profession is in any way tied to government patronage) is that the Australian Government Solicitor can be used by a government body, as Ruth Harley did, to silence a critic or to destroy a persons career. And the person who has been ‘banned’ from accessing government funding, or even of talking to staff in a government department, is not entitled, by law (as you are interpreting it) to be appraised of the reasons for the ban on him/her; to be provided with the evidence upon which the Australian Government Solicitor gave his/her stamp of approval to the ban.

Surely, Ms Vardanega, you must be able to see, from the point of view of natural justice, that this is a serious problem that transcends the fate of one filmmaker? 

Again, if I am misunderstanding any part of the Australian Government Solicitor’s role in my banning, please correct me.

Given that all doors are closed to me when it comes to acquiring evidence of my crimes I am left with no option but to recommence legal proceedings (put on hold in 2012) in the Supreme Court. That I should need to do so in order to obtain evidence of my crimes is, I trust you will agree, an absurd state of affairs.

As you would become aware, if you read my blog, I have tried every tactic I can think of this past 4 years to have this dispute resolved in accordance with the evidence – all of which must be on file since it is my correspondence that was deemed to be ‘intimidating’ and placing Screen Australia staff ‘at risk’. My first attempt at an equitable resolution can be found at: 

An extract:

17th May 2012

“…A meeting along the lines described above could happen next week. I would suggest that such a conciliation meeting occur as soon as possible and that all present agree with whatever findings the Conciliator arrives at and that the matter to be put to rest once and for all. If I am guilty as charged, Screen Australia’s ban is not an unreasonable one. If I am not guilty as charged an apology is in order.

As for the question of whether or not Fiona Cameron investigates complaints about Fiona Cameron (at least in this instance) the Conciliator needs merely to read, in the Screen Australia file, the correspondence between myself, Fiona Cameron, Ruth Harley and Glen Boreham.”

I do not accept your decision to withhold documents that either point to my guilt or my innocence and wish to have your decision reviewed.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Graeme Mason
Sentor Mitch Fifield
Commonwealth Ombudsman
Australian Director’s Guild

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