Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Screen Australia's legal department refuses to communicate with me!

Dear Ms Supit

I never did receive from you a response to my letter of 12th April 2016.  (See below) In it I requested copies of whatever document Ruth Harley submitted to the Australian Government Solicitor in support of the proposition that Screen Australia’s “Terms of Trade” be altered in order to ban one filmmaker – myself.

Ms Louise Vardanega,  has informed me that she cannot, as Australian Government Solicitor (acting), provide me with the relevant document(s) without the approval of her ‘client’- Screen Australia. Graeme Mason refused to give his approval and has, as you will be aware, declared that Screen Australia will not, on the most spurious of gronds, accede to any Freedom of Information requests made by myself.

Before making a formal complaint to the Australian Information Commissioner I would like to ask you, as Head of SA Legal, to let me know on what legal basis Graeme Mason is able to breach both the spirit and the word of The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)? I asked this question of Graeme on 4th July but perhaps you best equipped, from a legal point of view, to answer it.

My 4th July letter to Graeme can be found at:

best wishes

James Ricketson

Jane Supit
Head of Legal
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                              

12th April 2016

Dear Ms Supit

re Supreme Court Statement of Claim  # 2012/220477

In late 2012 I appeared in the Supreme Court (Division: Common Law; List: Defamation) with legal representatives of Screen Australia. I was representing myself.
The presiding judge declined to hear the matter, claiming that I needed, in my ‘Statement of Claim’ (drawn up by myself) to more clearly articulate my case and suggesting that I seek the services of a lawyer. I could not afford to do so - hence my representing myself.
I have now retired as an Australian filmmaker and am in a position to pursue the matter, which I intend to do. The last four years of my professional life have been destroyed by Screen Australia’s banning of me and, whilst there is nothing that can be done to bring these years back, there is something that can be done to undo the damage done to my reputation by the ban.
You will, of course, be able to look at the file and acquaint yourself with the case. In the meantime I am seeking one particular document from Screen Australia
 In order to impose a ban on me on 10th May 2012, Screen Australia had to amend its ‘Terms of Trade’.
As Nick Coyle, Governance Manager wrote under ‘Proposed Resolution’ 0n 9th May 2012: 
3. The Board approves the amendment of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade by addition of a statement in the following terms:
“In addition to the requirement in our eligibility conditions that applicants for funding act in good faith, Screen Australia expects that communications between its staff and funding applicants will be courteous and respectful. Screen Australia reserves the right to not accept applications for funding from any person who Screen Australia forms the view persistently treats our staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion; not will Screen Australia enter into correspondence with any such person.”

The Screen Australia board, without meeting to discuss the matter, amended its Terms of Trade with the intention of banning one filmmaker – myself. Then, the following day, convicted me of being in breach of a segment of SA’s ‘Terms of Trade’ that had not existed 24 hours earlier! An extraordinary state of affairs!

I have never, despite four years of asking,  been provided with any evidence that I “persistently treat(ed Screen Australia) staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion.” This is unsurprising as there is no evidence. I am not guilty as charged. The banning of me was an abuse of power by Ruth Harley; a ham-fisted attempt to silence a critic and to provide herself and Fiona Cameron with a seemingly valid reason to refuse to answer questions relating to Fiona’s having placed on file statements that Ruth knew to be untrue.

I initiated my Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court in 2012, seeking only $1 in damages, with the sole intention of proving that I had intimidated no-one; that I had placed no-one at risk. I had no interest in financial gain; only in having my name cleared.  Four years later, I still wish to have my name cleared.

In order for the Australian Government Solicitor to have been able to give Screen Australia advice regarding the proposed ban on me (9th May 2012), Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron must have provided him with documented evidence that I had breached the ‘eligibility conditions’ that were retrospectively applied to me. Whilst the Australian Government Solicitor’s letter of 9th May 2012 is, according to Nick Coyle’s memo to Screen Australia board members on 9th May 2012, confidential, the same does not apply to Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron’s letter(s) to him. It is in these documents that will be found (or should be found) evidence that my correspondence placed SA staff members at risk and that Screen Australia had a duty of care, to use Ruth Harley’s words, to “protect out staff from harassment and intimidation.”

If Screen Australia does not wish to provide me with copies of Ruth and Fiona’s correspondence with the Australian Government Solicitor I am, here, making a formal request to be provided with a copy through Freedom of Information legislation.

yours sincerely

James Ricketson

cc Senator Mitch Fifield
    Mr Colin Neave, Commonwealth Ombudsman
    Australian Director’s Guild

I have received no acknowledgment from Ms Supit of receipt of this email. Perhaps this is because Screen Australia staff have been banned from communicating with me!

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