Thursday, June 23, 2016

Graeme Mason, Screen Australia's CEO, determined to withhold evidence Ruth Harley presented to Australian Government Solicitor of my guilt of offences warranting my being banned.

Kent Purvis
Investigation Officer; Operations
Commonwealth Ombudsman

14th June 2016

Dear Kent

Why has Screen Australia gone to so much trouble, for four years now, to keep secret the evidence upon which the ban on me was placed?

Is this question of any interest to the Office of the Ombudsman, in June 2016?

Ruth Harley’s ‘evidence’, sufficient for the Australian Government Solicitor (Mr Ian Govey) to provide his seal of approval to changing Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade to make the ban on me legal, is clearly the most important document of all in this matter.

Have you read this document, Kent? Has anyone in the Ombudsman’s office read this document during the past four years?

If the Ombudsman is aware of its contents, does s/he believe that it contains evidence sufficient to warrant the banning of an Australian filmmaker?

If the Ombudsman was aware of the contents of Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Govey, did it ever occur to him to present me with the evidence and give me an opportunity to respond to it? Or did he find the ‘evidence’ of my guilt so overwhelming that he felt there to be no need to give me an opportunity to present a case in my own defence?

These are not rhetorical questions. I would like answers and do not see how this matter can be resolved in the absence of answers.

If the Office of the Ombudsman is, in June 2016, unaware of the contents of Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Ian Govey, more questions arise:

Did your office, back in 2012, ask to be provided with a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission?

If not, why not?

Will you, in June 2016, request of Screen Australia that your office be provided with a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission?

If not, why not?

If no-one within the office of the Ombudsman has read Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Govey, how can you know if it is factually correct or a compilation of baseless allegations?

Can you not see, Kent, that common sense and natural justice demand that a person accused of a serious offence is entitled to be provided with evidence of his or her guilt; that this evidence must be tested either in court or by some independent party that has no no vested interest in the outcome of its investigations?

In my case I have neither been provided with evidence nor an opportunity to have this evidence tested by an impartial independent body such as the Office of the Ombudsman. This is wrong and your office, by refusing to take the most important evidence into account, relying only on Ruth Harley’s untested allegations, has effectively given Screen Australia, for four years now, its seal of approval; made it possible, in April 2016, for Graeme Mason to place the following statement on file.

“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.”
This is a lie. Graeme Mason knows it to be a lie. He has placed it on file as though it were an accepted fact. It joins a growing list of lies about myself that have been placed on file at Screen Australia and which will become accepted wisdom, the agreed upon ‘facts’, if I cease to advocate on my own behalf.

I will not cease advocating my right to be appraised of the evidence against me.

I will ask again, Kent: As a result of the Ombudsman’s 2012  ‘investigation’ did the investigating officer come upon any evidence of my guilt? If so, why do you not simply outline it; provide me with a few examples? Or will your office fall back on its standard ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card:

“You have also been specifically informed that, given your insistent correspondence on this matter, this office may choose to file but not respond to further correspondence on this topic.”

This is the same response as I received from Screen Australia when, in my ‘insistent correspondence’ I requested evidence of the initial lies that set this dispute in motion. It could be paraphrased thus:

“As a result of your insistent correspondence on this matter, your repeated demands for evidence of your guilt, Screen Australia staff feel intimidated, harassed and that they have been placed at risk. As a result we have decided to ban you again. If you will simply stop asking for this evidence we might just stop banning you!”

By acting as though the original reason for the ban is no longer of any relevance your office is aiding and abetting Screen Australia in its determination to keep the evidence against me secret.

It was Fiona Cameron’s initial lie (that Graeme Mason is repeating here) that I objected to and that I wished to have corrected. It was the efforts I went to, in my correspondence, to have the record set straight that led to Ruth Harley’s lie that I had intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence. And now Screen Australia has banned me again for having spent the last two years advocating my right to be appraised of evidence in support of the ban on me. In the Orwellian world of Screen Australia advocacy is seen as harassment and thinly veiled threats are made that I may be sued for defamation.

Really, Kent!

Graeme Mason’s recently announced 2 year ban is his response to my agreeing to his own suggestion that I follow a particular procedure to acquire a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Ian Govey! Mr Mason’s response could be paraphrased thus:

“Here is the correct procedure for you to follow and, oh, by the way, we have decided to ban you for another 2 years anyway – regardless of the outcome of pursuit of this correct procedure.”

Does the Ombudsman accept this as a fair and appropriate response from Graeme Mason to my request to be provided with a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Govey? Will the office of the Ombudsman provide its seal of approval to each and every breach, on the part of Screen Australia, to my legal right to be appraised of the evidence against me and given an opportunity to present a defence?

Graeme Mason knows that there is no evidence to back up his April 2016 assertion that I complained about Screen Australia’s decision not to fund ‘Chanti’s World’. I made no such complaint. Mr Mason, as with Fiona Cameron before him, knows that he can place this lie on file secure in the knowledge that the Ombudsman’s office will not ask for any evidence of its veracity. He knows that you will say, “We have investigated this and do not intend to investigate it again,” knowing full well, that no evidence in support of the allegations made against me.

Given the lengths to which Screen Australia is going to keep Ruth Harley’s submission to the Australian Government Solicitor secret my guess is that its being made public would be Graeme Mason and the SA board’s worst nightmare.

We are now at a Groundhog Day moment; back precisely to where we were back in 2012.

Will you ask Mr Mason for evidence, in 2016, that I have defamed members of Screen Australia’s staff between 2014 and 2016? Will I be given an opportunity to respond to the evidence Mr Mason provides to you? Or will you, like your predecessors, use bureaucratic language to support Screen Australia’s right to ban me again and make it seem that an ‘investigation’ has taken place. If I am not to be appraised of the evidence against me in support of this latest ban, Kent, I would rather you did not conduct one and give the person sitting in Mr Mason’s seat in two years the opportunity to write:

“Your substantive complaints…have been exhaustively addressed, including by external review and investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.”
As I have made clear on a number of occasion now, I am not seeking to have the Screen Australia ban on me lifted. It is much too late for that now. It was the intention of Ruth Harley, Fiona Cameron and the then Screen Australia board, in 2102, to make it close to impossible for me to make films in Australia. In this they have succeeded. Graeme Mason and the current board are now doing all they can to prevent me from acquiring evidence of my innocence which, I believe, will be found in Ruth Harley’s 2012 submission to Mr Ian Govey. Or, to put it another way, I believe that Ruth Harley’s submission will contain within it allegations that are so demonstrably false that it will be clear to all and sundry that the original ban on me had nothing to do with the allegations made but to do with silencing a critic and punishing, in the most extreme manner, a filmmaker who had the temerity to challenge lies placed on file by senior members of Screen Australia staff. Having my name cleared of the false allegations made against by Fiona Cameron, Ruth Harley and now Graeme Mason is my primary objective.

I have no faith, based on my last four years of experience, in the office of the Ombudsman’s capacity (or even the will) to get to the truth of the matter by insisting that allegations be both presented to the accused (me) and tested independently. As I have made clear from the outset, on so many occasions, if Screen Australia can supply me with one paragraph, one sentence or even one word in support of the allegations I will accept my ban willingly. Screen Australia will not do so because there is no evidence.

Past experience suggests that you will merely go through the motions of investigating this latest ban. I would love to be proven wrong; to find that it is not the intention of the office of the Ombudsman to provide Screen Australia, as happened back in  2012, with its tacit approval of the ban on me in the absence of evidence.

Once all the options open to me to acquire evidence of my guilt have been exhausted (including the investigation you may or may not conduct) have been exhausted I will commence legal proceedings against Screen Australia to acquire a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Ian Govey – the first step in having my name cleared.

I am publishing all of this correspondence on my blog for a few reasons.

I believe in total transparency and accountability. If I have told any lies this past four years I cannot hide the fact. The evidence that I am a liar will be there for anyone who is interested to find and point out to me.

If Screen Australia tries to re-write history, as Graeme Mason has done in his most recent correspondence, it is more difficult for the organization to do so when all the correspondence is available for anyone who wishes to to look at. Including yourself.

The ban on me has not only taken an enormous toll on me professionally. It has also taken a toll on me personally.

Terrified as it is of offending or alienating Screen Australia, the Australian Director’s Guild (of which I was a founding member) will not even report in its newsletter that I have been banned again. I have become persona non grata not just with the ADG but with friends of 40 years standing as a result of this ban who believe that where there is smoke there must be fire; that I did, indeed ‘place at risk’ members of Screen Australia’s staff.

I remain hopeful, as this matter drags on inevitably to the Supreme Court, that my professional colleagues and friends will look at the facts; that they will see that I have asked on countless occasions to be provided with evidence of my guilt; that the hand that feeds the ADG (Screen Australia) deserves, in this instance, to be bitten; that there are times when it is important to fight against the kind of bureaucratic bullying that has been on display for four years now in the ban on me.

Evidence please, Kent!

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Graeme Mason Chief Executive, Screen Australia
Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Ms Louise Vardanega, Australian Government Solicitor (acting)

Australian Director’s Guild.

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