Monday, May 16, 2016

Graeme Mason refuses to provide, through FOI, evidence that I am guilty of intimidation and placing Screen Australia staff at risk!

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

16th May 2016                                                                        

Dear Graeme

You have not responded to my letter of 9th May requesting that you give Ms Louise Vardanega permission to ‘discuss’ the ban on me, with me.  You have, however, responded to my FOI application for evidence that I intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence.

Your response, in a nutshell, is “no,” expressed in the following bureaucratese:

“Screen Australia is not required to give you access to these documents under section 11A(4) of the FOI Act. This is because they are exempt from disclosure under section 42(1) of the FOI Act because they are subject to legal professional privilege.

Really, Graeme! A filmmaker accused of a crime sufficiently horrendous to warrant the termination of his career is not entitled to be provided with evidence of his crime because the evidence is “subject to legal professional privilege!”

Franz Kafka, Alice In Wonderland and Monty Python combined cannot do justice to the the nonsensical position that you have adopted here.  You know that there is no evidence and hope, fingers crossed, that you can use 11A(4) 42(1) to keep the lack of evidence secret! And perhaps you can. This is the scary possibility. Not so much in relation to my own case but as a general principle. It boils down to this:

Any senior government bureaucrat who wishes to destroy the career of an individual whose livelihood is dependent on a relationship (especially communication) with a government department, can call upon the  services of the Australian Government Solicitor to do their dirty work, secure in the knowledge that, owing to FOI legislation, their legal sleight of hand will remain secret.

The ban on me, imposed by Ruth Harley and endorsed by you this past two and a half years, is no longer of any real consequence. The damage to my reputation is, however. Ruth Harley defamed me. It was her intention to destroy my career. She succeeded. And you, along with the current Screen Australia board, continue to endorse the position Ms Harley adopted. The board has had 20 or so meetings this past four years in any one of which a decision could have been taken to either present me with evidence of my guilt or acknowledge that there is no evidence. The board has chosen not to do so; to circle the wagons around Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron.

Two and a half years have elapsed since I presented to you a way in which this matter could be resolved in private:

11th Nov 2013

Dear Graeme

In May 2012 Ruth Harley recommended to the Board that I be banned from making applications to Screen Australia or speaking with members of staff. The reason given was that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. The Board altered SA’s Terms of Trade in order to make such a ban possible.

For 18 months I have been asking Ruth Harley and the Board to provide me with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. My requests have been ignored.

I had hoped it would not be necessary to involve you in this dispute. It is unfair that both Ruth Harley and the Board have left me with no option, now that you are Chief Executive, but to ask you to either provide me with evidence of my crimes or lift the ban….

…Given that the ball is now in your court, I would much appreciated it if you could identify one letter, one email, one paragraph, one sentence or even one phrase in any of my correspondence in which I have intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff.

If none of the suggestions I have made to resolve this matter appeal to you (one being:, there is one more I would like to make. It is that you and I and Fiona Cameron meet to discuss whatever evidence Screen Australia believes it has in support of the ban. If Fiona can point to anywhere in my correspondence where I suggested or even implied that I believed CHANTI’S WORLD had been greenlit and if either of you can point to even one phrase in my correspondence that places the intended recipient at risk or which is intimidating, I will accept my ban and say no more.

If, on the other hand, Fiona cannot identify where in my correspondence I expressed my belief that CHANTI’S WORLD had been greenlit and if neither of you can identify anything in my correspondence that is intimidating etc. the ban should be lifted. This could be done with a minimum of fuss and could be announced by SA along the lines of: “The dispute between James Ricketson and Screen Australia has been amicably resolved and the ban on him has been lifted.” We could agree that neither I nor  Screen Australia will comment further. That will be the end of the matter and I can get back to simply making films and stop fighting for the right to be able to make them unencumbered by the Screen Australia ban.

You did not respond in any way to this letter. Knowing full well that it was impossible for me to make films in Australia whilst the ban was in place you were prepared to sacrifice the career of a filmmaker in order to protect Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron.

Please do set in motion an internal review of your decision to use 11A(4) 42(1) to keep evidence of my guilt (or innocence) secret. This review should not be undertaken by Fiona Cameron. I mention this because five or so years ago, when I complained about Fiona Cameron’s playing fast and loose with the truth Ruth Harley handed my complaint about Fiona to Fiona to deal with!

The key question for this person to address in his or her review is:

“Why should evidence of a crime or misdemeanor sufficient to warrant Screen Australia’s banning of a filmmaker be kept secret from the filmmaker?”

The fact that Screen Australia can, legally, keep the evidence secret will not be a satisfactory answer. Indeed it will only confirm, what is already blindingly obvious – namely that there is no evidence and there has been a cover up this past four years to prevent this from becoming public knowledge.

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Ms Louise Vardanega
Sentor Mitch Fifield
Commonwealth Ombudsman

Australian Director’s Guild

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