Monday, May 23, 2016

Graeme Mason, Chief Executive of Screen Australia repeats Fiona Cameron's lie of more than five years ago and hopes no one will ask him for evidence in support of it!

Graeme Mason
Chief Executive
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007  

23rd May 2016                      

Dear Graeme

You commence your letter of 16th May, announcing Screen Australia’s new ban on me,
by repeating Fiona Cameron’s original lie:

“Your substantive complaints about Screen Australia’s decision not to fund your production Chanti’s World have been exhaustively addressed, including by external review and investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.”
As you know, I never ever complained about Screen Australia failing to fund “Chanti’s World.” I repeat, ‘never’. And if you have any evidence that I did, produce it.

It was this lie of Fiona Cameron’s that triggered the sequence of events that led to my being banned in May 2012. In repeating Fiona’s lie you have made it your own.

I asked Fiona Cameron, over a period of more than a year, to produce evidence from my correspondence in support of her claim that I had made any complaint at all about “Screen Australia’s decision not to fund… Chanti’s World”. She could not do so, because I made no such complaint. It was my refusal to accept her non-answer as the final word on the subject that led her to announce that she would have no further communication with me.

When I wrote to Ruth Harley to complain about Fiona’s lie, her subsequence obfuscation to cover her lie, her refusal to present evidence or communicate with me any further, Ruth  handed my complaint to Fiona to investigate. Fiona Cameron investigating Fiona Cameron!

You know this. The Screen Australia board knows this. It is all well documented. Indeed, so well documented that there is little point in going over it all again since neither you nor any members of the Screen Australia board this past four years has had any interest in the facts (all available on file) but only in circling your wagons around Fiona and Ruth to protect them from being exposed as liars. The ban on me was the most extreme example of the fatwa that had already been visited upon me by Screen Australia. And here you are, in May 2016, repeating a lie that you know to be a lie and who anyone looking at the correspondence would know to be a lie.

Really, Graeme, have you no shame!

No-one back in 2011 or 2012 had any interest in looking at the facts. This includes Elisa Harris from the Office of the Ombudsman. She conducted no investigation at all into my complaint. She merely spoke with Fiona Cameron on the telephone. Ms Harris did not speak with Julia Overton, Liz Crosby or Ross Mathews – all three of whom would have been in a position to either confirm or deny the truth of Fiona Cameron’s allegation. Indeed, given that there is nothing in any of my correspondence to back up Screen Australia’s assertion that I complained about “Chanti’s World” not being funded, the meeting I had with Ross Mathews, Julia Overton and Liz Crosby was, and remains, relevant. Did I or did I not give Ross, Julia and Liz the impression that I believed “Chanti’s World” to have been ‘greenlit’?

My attempts, over a considerable length of time, to get Julia, Liz and Ross to either confirm or deny this allegation of Fiona Cameron’s were met with silence. This is understandable, on one level,  since all three knew that Fiona was lying but all three were also Screen Australia employees and did not wish to rock the boat. By repeating Fiona’s lie in your letter of 16th you have dragged Julia, Ross and Liz back into this bureaucratic farce. Instead of doing all you can to de-escalate conflict you have poured gasoline on the fire. As a result I have no choice but to ask you, through FOI legislation to:

-       Provide me with any evidence Screen Australia has in support of the proposition that I complained about “Chanti’s World” not being funded. This includes any correspondence from myself (letter or email) and any statements made by Ross Mathews, Liz Crosby and Julia Overton either in support of Screen Australia’s assertion or in contradiction to it.

I have known Julia, Liz and Ross for decades and would invite them, even after all these years, to sit at a table opposite me and say, “Yes, Fiona Cameron told the truth. You indicated to us that you believed “Chanti’s World” had been funded.” They are now caught between a rock and a hard place. They have stood by for four years and allowed me to be banned on the basis of a lie. To admit to this now would be very difficult for all three of them. However, if they believe that Fiona Cameron was speaking (writing) the truth they should have no problem coming out and saying so. To my face.

This will not happen of course. The last thing Screen Australia wants is for the truth to come out. Your job now is, in whatever way you can, to put a lid on this. And you have, foolishly, thought that the best way to do so is ban me for a further two years – a ban based on allegations but not evidence – and issue a thinly veiled threat that Screen Australia will sue me for defamation if I do not close delete evidence of my innocence from my blog.

Your repeat of Fiona Cameron’s original lie, foolish though it is, is also not relevant to the question of whether or not I intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence – the ostensible reason for my being banned. You can commit Fiona Cameron’s lie regarding ‘Chanti’s World’ to writing (again!) because you know, from experience, that the Commonwealth Ombudsman will not ask you for evidence to back it up. Nor will the Minister for the Arts. Nor will the Australian Director’s Guild. There is no-one who will hold you accountable for your falsehood – just as there has been no-one, for the past four years, prepared to hold Ruth Harley accountable for her assertion that I intimidated, harassed or placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff; to ask her (or now you) the simple question:

“Evidence please.”

When a bureaucrat such as yourself writes, “This matter has been thoroughly canvassed…” or “exhaustively addressed” they mean, “We have refused to answer your question a dozen times now and will continue to do so no matter how many times you ask it. And if you continue to ask it we will accuse you of harassment!”

‘Canvassed’ is one of many weasel words (as is the expression  “exhaustively addressed” used by bureaucrats to create to illusion of accountability and due process. It is the oft used first move in a bureaucratic chess game in which the rules are rigged in the bureaucrat’s favour. If the person whose question has never been answered (‘Evidence please’) continues to ask it (despite the bureaucrat’s declaration that it has been ‘canvassed’, ‘addressed’) he or she will next be accused of wasting the bureaucrats precious time and told that no further communication will be entered into. The bureaucrat has given him or herself the license to ignore all further asking of the question that was never answered in the first place.

Now, if the person asking the question continues to ask it, despite it having been ‘canvassed’, despite the fatwa that has been placed on communication, the next move in this particular bureaucratic chess game is to accuse the questioner of ‘harassing’ the person who will not answer the question.

It is but a small step from ‘harassment’ to ‘intimidation’ – especially in an era in which a person’s ‘feeling’ that she is being intimidated is what counts; not whether or not she has in fact been intimidated. This particular ‘intimidation’ ploy is one oft used by female bureaucrats. On the one hand they can play bureaucratic politics in as hardball and Machiavellian a manner as any man but they have a secret weapon, if they choose to use it; one not readily available to a make bureaucrat: “I feel intimidated.” The person whose questions have never been answered is now the bully who intimidates!

I am not sure how the imaginative leap is made from intimidation to ‘placing at risk’, however. How can correspondence, words on paper, words on a computer screen, constitute a risk to the reader? How can a telephone conversation between myself and a member of Screen Australia staff place them at risk? At risk of what? Have I ever, in either my correspondence or on the telephone, threatened a member of Screen Australia’s staff? Have I ever sworn or been abusive in my use of words or tone of voice? If so, I presume that some complaint must have been placed on file by whoever was at the receiving end of such behavior from myself.

I have asked this ‘placing at risk’ question many times but received no answer. And, of course, the fact that I continue to ask it is evidence (as is this letter) of my continuing to harass Screen Australia staff! And so it is that Screen Australia has stacked the deck such that any communication from me is evidence of the need to have me banned!

To add to my list of FOI questions:

-       Please provide me with whatever documented evidence Screen Australia has that I placed any member of Screen Australia staff ‘at risk’ in any of my correspondence – either email or letter?

As I have been making clear for sometime now Screen Australia’s ban on me is no longer a matter of great concern to me. As one door has closed, another opened, and at the ripe old age of 67 I have commenced a new career as a non-Australian filmmaker. What is of concern to me is that you can perpetuate the same lie Fiona Cameron placed on file more than five years ago. This is the same Fiona Cameron who, when I spoke with her in the foyer of Screen Australia, where I was sitting waiting to be presented with evidence that I had intimidated her (amongst other things) called the police to have me arrested for ‘trespassing’! Sitting on  couch in the Screen Australia foyer reading a book at 3.30 in the afternoon! Really, Graeme! You think this was necessary? An action worthy of your defending?

It will come as no surprise to you that I felt a little intimidated by being led from Screen Australia by the police, placed in the back of a paddy wagon and placed in a cell (belt removed lest I top myself!) and released on bail four or so hours later.

A few weeks later I arrived again in the Screen Australia foyer, whilst a board meeting was in progress, hoping that common sense would prevail; that some member of the board would come and talk with me; present me with evidence of a crime so heinous that banning was the only possible solution. No, the police were called again. I was arrested again. I spent the weekend in jail. Such is the mind-set of Fiona Cameron and the Screen Australia board when confronted by a filmmaker who has the temerity to ask questions that they do not wish to answer. Questions like: “Evidence please.”

Quite apart from the stupidity and unfairness of having me twice arrested, this action reveals a mind-set that should not exist amongst high-level film bureaucrats and a board whose task it is to develop and fund high quality TV and feature film projects for Australian and international audiences. That Screen Australia should refuse to read any screenplay I write, on the stated grounds that I am banned (because the reading of it presents a ‘risk’ to the reader!) is just plain nonsense, Graeme. And you know it. And yet you go along with it because the alternative, the truth of the matter (no intimidation, no placing at risk) would leave you, Ruth Harley, Fiona Cameron and a dozen or so board members who have given their imprimatur to my ban this past few years, with egg on their faces. A lot of egg.

I do not recognize the validity of your most recent ban, announced on 16th May, when I had just started (as you know) the process whereby I appealed your decision to withhold evidence of my guilt. In order to be 100% sure that you are standing by this ban I have this morning made an electronic application for development funds for a 10 hour drama series I am writing entitled NEST OF VIPERS. The sum I have asked for is $1.  The Screen Australia computer has still not been programmed to reject my application but, interestingly, the other electronic applications I have made last year have been deleted from the computer.

So, Graeme, you can either accept this application (and hence nullify this latest ban) or instruct the person who administers electronic applications to delete my application.

Back in Nov 2013 you had the opportunity, Graeme, of bringing this dispute to an end. You chose not to take me up on my offer. You are again faced with the same choice. You can keep up your defense of the indefensible, writing nonsense such as you have written in your letter to me of 16th May and we can take this to the Supreme Court so that I can get evidence of my various (and growing list of) crimes. Alternatively you can find some face-saving way out of the mess created by Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron (with the imprimatur of the SA board); a mess that you seem all too keen to add to with lies of your own.

One final thing, Graeme. Given the lengths to which you are going to withhold evidence of my crimes, I can’t help but focus on the ‘placing at risk’ allegation. This one mystifies me. It makes no sense. Could it be that Ruth Harley has placed on file (in her communications with the Commonwealth Government Solicitor) an allegation that is so demonstrably untrue that the release of it would open up a Pandora’s Box of questions that Screen Australia would not want opened up.

So many questions, Graeme, and so few answers. And now you wish to use the letter of FOI legislation to provide Screen Australia with a quasi-legal justification for keeping evidence of my alleged crimes secret.

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Louise Vardanega, Australian Crown Solicitor (acting)
Commonwealth Ombudsman

Australian Director’s Guild

No comments:

Post a Comment