Sunday, January 15, 2017

Graeme Mason, a Chief Executive with no commitment to the precepts of transparency and accountability

Graeme Mason
Chief Executive Officer
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                              

16th Dec  Sept. 2016

Dear Graeme

You have not acknowledged receipt of my letter of 29th Sept regarding my NEST OF VIPERS application.  Likewise, the Screen Australia board has not acknowledged receipt of my letter of 9th Nov in which I asked that the board overturn the ban you have placed on my making FOI requests in order to be provided with evidence of what once referred to as intimidating correspondence that placed SA staff at risk and which is now referred to as ‘unreasonable’ correspondence.

Please find attached a copy of the letter I received from the Office of the Ombudsman dated 2nd Dec. In it  Kent Purvis explains why it is that the the Ombudsman approves Screen Australia’s decision to terminate my career as an Australian filmmaker.

Given Screen Australia’s propensity to play fast and loose with the meaning of words (‘intimidation’ replaced with ‘unreasonable’!) let me be very clear about my understanding of the meaning of the word ‘termination’. From a legal point of view it is important.

Kent Purvis writes:

“SA’s response indicated that should you be successful in your application for funding, SA staff would be required to meet with you on multiple occasions in order to engage in close analysis of the script, feedback, and coaching. SA believes that, given the frequent unreasonably behaviour  you displayed over the past six years in contacting SA, it is not appropriate to require its staff to deal with your funding application.

SA, like all government agencies, has a legal obligation to provide a safe working  environment for its staff. If customers behave in a manner that compromises this obligation, then it may be reasonable to restrict the way it will do business with those customers.”

If Kent is representing Screen Australia’s position accurately, you, as Chief Executive, and the Screen Australia board, believe that for SA staff to meet with me, discuss a film or TV project with me, be in the same room with me, would place them in an unsafe work environment!

Do Kent’s words accurately reflect Screen Australia’s position as regards staff meeting with me?

If Kent Purvis’ letter accurately reflects Screen Australia’s position,  it follows that I cannot meet and talk with members of Screen Australia’s staff about any of the 14 TV, feature film and documentary projects I am developing in my role as producer, director and screenwriter! Is this so?

If so, does this prohibition apply to projects in which I am part of a collaborative creative team? If I am a co-producer, one of a collective of directors working on a TV series or one of a team of screenwriters developing a TV series, are my collaborators allowed to talk with members of Screen Australia staff is I am in the room?

The following comments to be found on the Screen Australia website make clear the role played by SA in the administration of the Producer Offset – without which no Australian film (documentary or drama) can be produced.

 “To qualify for the (Producer’s) Offset, a project must be assessed and certified by Screen Australia.”

“Screen Australia administers the Producer Offset.”

“We’re here to help! Contact us, ideally during pre-production. This will help clarify any issues, particularly related to tracking expenditure, and make the eventual application process smoother.”

Is it fair, accurate, for me to state the following as a fact?

In order for any filmmaker to qualify for the Producer Offset s/he must communicate with, meet with, members of Screen Australia’s staff.

If so, it follows, given that my communicating with members of Screen Australia staff is forbidden (such communication would place them in an unsafe working environment!) that I am unable to apply for the Producer’s Offset; that my fellow filmmakers can likewise not apply for the Producer’s Offset if my name appears on an application and if my presence in discussions with Screen Australia staff is essential?

If this is not the case, could you please clarify just how it is that a banned filmmaker such as myself and those with whom I am collaborating) can take advantage of the Producer’s Offset?

If I/we cannot, Screen Australia’s fatwa has not only terminated my career as an Australian filmmaker but provided a significant obstacle in the way of fellow filmmakers with whom I am collaborating. It has also provided filmmakers with whom I wish to collaborate and who wish to collaborate with me with a disincentive to do so. I cannot understate how damaging this is to myself in both economic and creative terms. And all as a result of a 3rd ban placed by yourself and the Screen Australia board in May this year, based on the proposition that I am ‘unreasonable’ – without any evidence of my ‘unreasonableness’ being provided to me.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter, Graeme, and answer the questions contained in it.

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Mr Colin Neave, Commonwealth Ombudsman
Ms Louise Vardanega, Australian Government Solicitor (acting)
The Screen Australia Board
The Australian Director’s Guild Board

Graeme Mason did not acknowledge 
receipt of this letter

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