Wednesday, May 11, 2016
The Australian Government Solicitor refuses to provide the evidence upon which the recommendation was made to ban me!
Europe Guest House
# 51, Street 136 Phnom Penh
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Level 7, 45 Jones St
9th May 2016
Four years ago today your predecessor, Ruth Harley, conducted a ring around of members of the Screen Australia board. She requested that they vote to ban me from making any form of application to Screen Australia, or of even speaking with members of Screen Australia staff.
The board agreed to Ruth’s request, made on the recommendation of Ian Govey - the then Australian Government Solicitor. In order to make the ban on me legal, Mr Govey agreed that Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade could be amended.
For four years I have asked Screen Australia to provide me with examples of my having intimidated, harassed or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence – the ostensible reason for the ban on me. No evidence has been forthcoming. Not one example!
As you know, as the Screen Australia board knows and as three successive Ministers for the Arts know (and have done for four years), there is no evidence. The board, perhaps acting in good faith at the outset, rubber-stamped Ruth Harley’s request – perhaps in the belief that if Mr Govey believed such a ban was warranted he must have had solid evidence that this was so. The following extract from my letter to Mr Govey speaks for itself:
Given that, back in May 2012, you gave Screen Australia your stamp of approval on my banning, I would like to ask you:
Did Ruth Harley provide you with evidence that I had intimidated, harassed or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence?
If Ruth Harley provided you with no evidence, on what basis did you agree to allow the Screen Australia board to change its Terms of Trade (overnight!) in order to provide a retrospective legal basis upon which to ban me?
If Ruth Harley did provide you with evidence, from my correspondence, of my guilt of the crimes that led to my being banned, why did you feel the need, back in May 2012, to keep evidence of my guilt secret? Why do you, in May 2016, feel the need to keep this evidence secret?
Yes, you have the legal right to keep the reasoning behind your decision to recommend that I be banned a secret. But why? I imagine that situations do arise in which such secrecy is warranted. Do such reasons apply here? Is there some national security reason why the evidence against me must be kept secret?
This dispute has gone beyond absurd. It has entered the realms of Alice in Wonderland and Franz Kafka:
“You have been accused of a crime, found guilty of that crime and are being punished accordingly. You have no right to be appraised of evidence in support of the proposition that you committed a crime and nor are you entitled to defend yourself.”
One does not need to be a trained lawyer to see what is wrong with this proposition. Or of how dangerous a precedent it sets.
As I have written countless times now, if there is any evidence that I am guilty as charged, (one paragraph, one sentence or even one word) make this evidence available to me and my fellow filmmakers. If there is no evidence, make this publicly known and restore my reputation to me.
I have sought from Louise Vardanega, the current Australian Government Solicitor (acting), under FOI legislation, copies of the correspondence Mr Govey had with Ruth Harley that led him to believe that Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade should be altered to ban me.
Ms Vardanega has informed me that this correspondence is “exempt from the operation of the FOI Act.” In short, I am not entitled to know upon what evidence Mr Ian Gorvey was basing his decision to approve a ban on me.
An extract from my letter to Ms Vardanega:
Dear Ms Vardanega
…If there is evidence on file, in writing, the ban on me is justified and my fellow filmmakers are entitled to know the truth. If there is no evidence, there has been a gross miscarriage of justice here and the record needs to be set straight. And, again, my fellow filmmakers are entitled to know the truth.
That the truth has been kept hidden this past 4 years is absurd. Why?
I can only come up with two possible explanations:
Mr Ian Govey rubber stamped a decision made by someone further down the bureaucratic ladder within your department to have me banned and to have Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade changed to make the ban possible. In short, he did not pay adequate attention to the letter he was signing.
If this be the case I can well understand why Mr Govey (and now yourself) might have a vested interest in keeping the circumstances surrounding this rubber stamping secret.
Mr Govey was provided with a solid argument, in terms of evidence, as to why a ban on me was justified and cannot be blamed if the evidence he was provided with was false.
If Mr Govey was acting in good faith on the basis of the evidence before him there is only one conclusion that I can draw – namely that Ruth Harley presented Mr Govey with lies of such magnitude that he felt quite justified in providing his imprimatur to my banning. If this be the scenario, I wonder if Ruth Harley knew, in advance, that her lies would never come to light – for reasons outlined in (Ms Vardaneg’s) letter to me?
If there is some other explanation that has not occurred to me as to why I cannot be appraised of the reasons for my being banned, please provide it to me as soon as you possibly can. I would much rather not expend a huge amount of time, energy and money getting an answer to a question you could so easily provide with a quick review of the files; an answer to a question that both the Minister for the Arts and the Commonwealth Ombudsman could have obtained at any time this past 4 years by simply picking up the phone and saying: “Please provide Mr Ricketson with evidence.”
Ms Vardanega’s response was:
“The matters of which you complain are of a nature upon which AGS would only comment if instructed to do so by a client. AGS has no instructions to comment on your email.”
As Chief Executive, you are now the ‘client’, Graeme. Unpleasant though it may be, it is your job to clean up the mess created by Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron. Could you please instruct Ms Vardanega to release copies of the correspondence upon which Mr Ian Govey based his decision to recommend to the Screen Australia board that I be banned. If you will not so instruct Ms Vardanega, could you please provide me with a reason why.
Queen of Hearts: Now... are you ready for your sentence?
Alice: Sentence? But there has to be a verdict first...
Queen of Hearts: Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.
Alice: But that just isn't the way...
Queen of Hearts: [shouting] All ways are...!
Alice: ...your ways, your Majesty.
I was informed of the verdict of the Screen Australia Kangaroo Court set up by Ruth Harley on 10th May 2012, and of the sentence, but four years down the track have yet to be presented with evidence of my crime.
Evidence please, Graeme.
cc Senator Mitch Fifield
Mr Colin Neave, Commonwealth Ombudsman
Australian Director’s Guild