Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BANNED AGAIN! Screen Australia flogs a dead horse!

Louise Vardanega
Australian Government Solicitor (acting)
Locked Bag 35
ACT 2604                                                                                                      

17th May 2016

Dear Ms Vardanega

Yesterday morning, 16th May, I copied you on a letter I sent to Screen Australia’s Chief Executive, Graeme Mason.  My note, note attached to the letter read:

Dear Graeme

My letter, attached, speaks for itself of my thoughts about your decision to use the letter of FOI legislation to keep secret the evidence Screen Australia claims to have in its possession regarding my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia's staff.

I have made mention of a letter I sent to you during the early weeks of your tenure in which I made yet another attempt to find a way to resolve this dispute amicably. You did not respond to it. A week earlier I had sent another letter to the board - in which I made clear that it was unfair of it to palm this problem off on yourself. The full text of the letter can be found at:

However, you have taken the problem on board, made it your own and have little choice now but to do all you can to keep the truth from coming out.


Mr Mason’s response was to write back to tell me that that Screen Australia had decided to ban me for two more years.

Mr Mason’s further banning of a filmmaker whose career he has played a significant role in destroying is an exercise in futility. The expression “Flogging a dead horse” springs to mind.

One of his many reasons for this third ban is that I post relevant correspondence on my blog. I do so for a reason, which is perhaps obvious now. Bureaucrats are skilled in the fine arts of obfuscation (and Graeme Mason is no slouch!) but such skills have been rendered a little less effective in this new digital world we live in. Obfuscating documents (and God knows there’s been plenty of them in this dispute this past few years!) can be placed in the public domain to be read and assessed by anyone interested. A new era of transparency is upon us. It would be very difficult for anyone at Screen Australia to start a sentence with “It is my understanding…” (a favourite amongst bureaucrats) when their ‘understanding’ is demonstrably false, as anyone could determine by looking at correspondence online. (‘Canvassed’ is another such weasel bureaucratic expression. More of this on another occasion)

If need be I will sue Screen Australia for defamation in the Supreme Court. I went through the motions of doing back in 2012 and, of course, Screen Australia had to respond to my Statement of Claim. The case was not heard, as it happens, because I filled out the Statement of Claim forms incorrectly. The next time around the forms will be filled out by a qualified lawyer. Screen Australia’s legal team (amounting to four the last time around) will have to mount an argument in court as to why it should not be obliged to provide documented evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. No doubt a clever (and very expensive) lawyer will try his or her hardest to convince the judge that the evidence remain secret.

I care little for the outcome f the case. My sole purposes in going down this path, if need be, is to force Screen Australia to make public one paragraph, one sentence or even one word which it considers to be intimidating and/or to place staff at risk. The evidence, in short, upon which it (with the assistance of Mr Ian Govey) decided to end the career of an Australian filmmaker.

I am now in a position, financially, to run such a case. I don’t particularly want to but nor do I want my film career as an Australian filmmaker to end with Screen Australia’s nonsensical ‘intimidating and placing at risk’ allegation besmirching my reputation.

As will be apparent from my correspondence the ban on me is no longer of any consequence. However, the idea that any senior government bureaucrat can get the Australian Government Solicitor to do their dirty work offends my sense of natural justice. And it is a very bad precedent that should not go unchallenged.

As of mid-May 2016 the list of people who know that there is no evidence of my having intimidated or placed anyone at risk is a long one. It includes yourself. All of you have a vested interest in this matter continuing to be swept under the carpet. And I have a vested interest in either being presented with evidence of my guilt (and paying the appropriate price in terms of damage to my reputation) or seeing the lot of you having to eat some humble pie when it is revealed, in public, that you have no evidence.

Please do commission a review of your decision, identical to Graeme Mason’s, to deny me access to the evidence your office claims to have of my guilt. I will jump through all the hoops available to me in hopes that common sense and natural justice prevail. If they do not, its off to the Supreme Court we go.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Graeme Mason
Senator Mitch Fifield
Commonwealth Ombudsman

Australian Director’s Guild

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