Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Letter to Louise Vardanega, Australian Government Solicitor (acting) re AGS' argument that I am not entitled to be appraised of the evidence presented to AGS that led to my being banned!

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

27th June 2016

Dear Ms Vardanega

On 2nd June Iain Anderson, Deputy Secretary, Civil Law Division, explained to me why my request for evidence of my guilt, as presented by Ruth Harley to the Australian Government Solicitor in 2012, has been refused for the second time. Mr Anderson writes:

“Though you may have cogent reasons for requesting access to the documents the subject of your request, the documents remain outside the scope of the FOI Act, and therefore cannot be disclosed by means of a freedom of information request.

I am satisfied that any document in the possession of the department relating to the terms of your FOI request falls under this exemption and it therefore not subject to the FOI Act. Accordingly I refuse your request on the basis that the department does not hold any documents relevant to your request to which the FOI Act applies.”

It is something of an understatement on Mr Anderson’s part to state that I “may have cogent reasons for requesting access to documents…” I have been defamed by Ruth Harley, by Fiona Cameron and now by Graeme Mason’s lies. The ban placed on me as a direct consequence of the documents presented to Mr Govey in 2012 has rendered it impossible for me to make films in Australia this past four years. The Australian Government Solicitor essentially approved Screen Australia’s right to destroy the career as an Australian filmmaker.

The document that I seek access to is responsible not just for the destruction of my career but to a significant loss of reputation amongst professional colleagues who have no reason, other than my word, to believe that I am not guilty as charged. “Why,” they quite legitimately ask, “would the Australian Government Solicitor approve of such a ban if there were not cogent evidence that James has intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.”

It is evidence of my guilt (or innocence) that Screen Australia has fought hard to suppress this past four years. Now, in June 2016, in your role as Australian Government Solicitor (acting), you are aiding and abetting in the suppression of this evidence. And for what reason? Simply because FOI legislation says you can?

It may not be your intention, but by using the letter of the FOI Act to conceal the truth, as you are, you are not just impeding a resolution to this dispute based on facts, on evidence; you are also providing much needed cover to Graeme Mason to continue with his disingenuous attempt to make it seem as though due process has been adhered to vis a vis my Freedom of Information requests for evidence of my guilt.

Last week I received the following email from, Graeme Mason:

Dear Mr Ricketson

Freedom of information requests

I refer to your recent emails and letters to Screen Australia dated 18 and 23 May 2016, with requests for access to information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

You have asked for us to give you examples of your correspondence prior to 9 May 2012 in which you intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff.

This request covers the same information that you requested under the FOI Act on 18 June 2012. Screen Australia provided you with a response at that time, on 18 July 2012, enclosing the relevant information. I have enclosed a copy of that response with the enclosed information again for your reference (Attachment A).

You have requested evidence that Screen Australia has that you complained about Chanti’s World not being funded.

This request covers the same information that you requested under the FOI Act on 16 March 2012 and 9 August 2012. Screen Australia provided you with a response at that time, on 30 August 2012, enclosing the relevant information. I have enclosed a copy of the response with the enclosed information again for your reference (Attachment B).

These recent requests for information all relate to matters that have been comprehensively dealt with by Screen Australia and that the information has already been requested and provided to you on other occasions, other than information that is exempt from disclosure. Accordingly Screen Australia will not respond to repeated FOI requests that you may make in the future in relation to the same information.

Yours sincerely

Graeme Mason
Screen Australia

The assertions Mr Mason is making here are just plain nonsense. And he knows it. I will address the contents of his letter separately when time prevails. (I currently have a filmic deadline to meet and time is precious!)

In the meantime, Ms Vardanega, you are in possession of the document Ruth Harley presented to the then Australian Government Solicitor, Mr Ian Govey in 2102. You will have read it. Your response to it as a lawyer (as I presume you to be) will be a variation of one of the following:

(1) On the basis of the evidence provided by Ruth Harley, Mr Govey’s providing Screen Australia with his approval of the two year banning of Mr Ricketson was an appropriate response to intimidating correspondence and to his placing at risk members of Screen Australia staff.

(2) Whilst Mr Govey’s approval of the initial two year ban on Mr Ricketson was appropriate, the extension of it to six years (and, in reality, in perpetuity) represents a more severe punishment than Mr Govey had in mind and is unfair.

(3) The evidence provided by Ruth Harley, upon which Mr Govey relied in giving the imprimatur of his approval to Screen Australia to ban Mr Ricketson, should have been presented to him prior to the ban being imposed. Mr Ricketson should have been given an opportunity to respond to the charges; to argue in defense of his innocence of the charges laid.

(4) There is little evidence that I can find either in Ruth Harley’s submission or in the voluminous correspondence supplied by Fiona Cameron (and now by Graeme Mason) that Mr Ricketson intimidated or placed at risk any member of staff at Screen Australia.

All of these responses have one thing in common – evidence. There is either evidence of my guilt or there is not. Which is it, Ms Vardanega? This is not a rhetorical question.

What reason do you have for withholding evidence of my guilt? Or my innocence? Yes, the letter of the FOI Act enables you to do so, but what is your actual reason for doing so? There are clearly no national security issues involved here. If Ruth Harley presented Mr Govey with a truthful account of my offences (and evidence to back up her allegations) the contents of her submission to him will make it abundantly clear that I deserved to be banned; that I have been lying this past four years of insisting that I was not guilty as charged.

Why on earth would Screen Australia wish to keep secret evidence of my guilt? There is no good or valid reason, and you know it. On the other hand, there is a very good reason why Screen Australia does not wish for the truth to come out. And you know this also. Screen Australia would look very foolish, to say the least, if it became public knowledge that Ruth Harley played fast and loose with the truth in her submission to the Australian Government Solicitor; that her allegations were demonstrably false.

Mr Govey would, similarly, look very foolish for providing Ruth Harley with his seal of approval in the absence of evidence that had been tested in any way or allegations that could have easily been proven to be false prior to May 2012 if evidence had played any role in this matter. And the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman would look similarly foolish for not even bothering to ask for evidence – despite my four years of multiple requests that it do so.

It may well be that this far down the track in what amounts to Kafkaesque farce the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Government Solicitor have as vested an interest as Screen Australia is guaranteeing that evidence of my guilt or innocence never sees the light of day. As will be apparent to you by now I have no intention, much as Graeme Mason might wish it, of letting this matter drop.

You are in a position, Ms Vardanega, to provide me with a copy of Ruth Harley’s submission, regardless of the fact that FOI legislation gives you the legal right to avoid doing so. Common sense, a desire to to see this matter resolved once and for all and legal precedent all suggest that the best (indeed the only) path for you to go down is to make Ruth Harley’s document available to me and others with an interest in this matter. I request that you do so or provide an explanation for not doing so.

Yours sincerely

James Ricketson
Graeme Mason, CEO, Screen Australia
Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Kent Purvis, office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Kingston Anderson, Australian Director’s Guild

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