Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff still kept under lock and key

Louise Vardanega
Australian Government Solicitor (acting)                                                                                                    

9th August 2016

Dear Ms Vardanega

Further to my recent correspondence regarding Screen Australia’s ban on myself.

On 9th may 2012 the Australian Government Solicitor provided Screen Australia with confidential legal advice regarding myself. Quoting from a document obtained through FOI, under the heading, Proposed Resolution:

“The Board notes the advice of the Australian Government Solicitor, dated 9 May 2012 in relation to Mr Ricketson.”

It is clear from what occurred that same day, and which was communicated to me by Ruth Harley, that the Australian Government Solicitor had advised Screen Australia that it was within the organization’s legal rights to change its Terms of Trade in order to ban me.

It follows that Screen Australia must have provided the Australian Government Solicitor with evidence that I had persistently treated Screen Australia staff in a discourteous, hurtful and intimidating fashion.” (I am quoting from the amended Terms of Trade)

Ruth Harley expressed my offence thus:

“…Your correspondence places our staff at risk. We are under a legal obligation to protect our staff from harassment and intimidation.”

For more than four years I have been asking to be provided with the evidence of my guilt – the same evidence that must have been provided to the Australian Government Solicitor.

Screen Australia has refused to provide me with even one instance in which I intimidated or placed at risk members of staff.

The Australian film and TV industry is relatively small. Most members of it are known to each other – at least by name and reputation. It was not necessary for Screen Australia to actually publish any statement to the effect that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of staff for this to become widely known – especially given the presence on the Screen Australia board over the years of half a dozen or so filmmakers.

Given the role that Screen Australia plays in the development of film and TV projects and in the provision of production funding, any fellow filmmaker wishing to work with me, to collaborate with me, has had to weigh up the question this past four years:

“Does it make sense to align myself with someone who, it is alleged, intimidates and places at risk members of SA staff? What chance does any project I am involved with have of going into production with James Ricketson attached to it?”

On two more occasions since May 2012 (in May 2014 and May 2016) Screen Australia has banned me. On each occasion I have asked to be provided with evidence in support of the proposition that I am guilty as charged. On each occasion I have been provided with reasons as vague as those provided today, to the lawyer representing me, by Jane Supit:

“Ricketson should stop writing offensive correspondence to and about Screen Australia Board Members and staff, and to remove offensive correspondence from his blogpost.”

My requests to have such “offensive correspondence” pointed out to me, quoted to me, are always met with silence.

I am not a lawyer but surely the imposition of a penalty as serious as the banning of a filmmaker requires more, by way of evidence, than simply a reference to  “offensive correspondence”. Would such an assertion stand up in any court of law if it were not backed up by example of such “offensive correspondence”? No.

Natural justice demands that an accused person be appraised of the evidence in support of the allegations made against him (or her) and be in a position to defend him/herself. This opportunity has been denied me – not only by Screen Australia but also by the Australian Government Solicitor.

Screen Australia claims that there is no impediment to my accessing the Producer’s Offset; that a company in which I am a director can communicate with Screen Australia? Yes, in theory, but what filmmaker is going to want to form a company with a fellow filmmaker who is banned and who, it has been alleged, intimidates and places at risk members of staff?

I do appreciate that you, as Australian Government Solicitor (acting) cannot reveal to me the evidence that Ruth Harley presented to your office in 2012 without the permission of Graeme Mason, who has made it clear that he will not provide such permission. Please rest assured that whatever evidence was provided to the Australian Government Solicitor was untrue. I did not, prior to May 2012, intimidate or place at risk any member of SA staff.

I am placing this on record because it seems, now that almost all avenues have been explored, to no avail,  that I will be left with no alternative, if I wish to obtain evidence of my alleged guilt, but to do so through the courts. As I have stated often: this will be an experience and time-consuming process for all involved. It should not be necessary. And would not be necessary if you were to release, make public, the evidence upon which the Australian Government Solicitor agreed to my being banned – even if this means defying your client, Graeme Mason.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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