Thursday, March 16, 2017

As the 5th anniversary of the ban on an Australia filmmaker looms...

James Ricketson
Europe Guest House
# 51, Street 136 Phnom Penh
013 901 455

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

16th March 2017

Dear Graeme

The 5th anniversary of Screen Australia’s ban on me is but a couple of months away; five years during which I have been unable to work as an Australian filmmaker.

Whilst it was Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron’s placing demonstrably false statements on file that kick-started the ban, you and the current Screen Australia board are now the owners of it. You have either encouraged or allowed Head of Legal Jane Supit to place on file yet another untruth –namely that between  May 2014 and may 2016 I have been guilty of “highly offensive conduct.”

You refuse to provide me with evidence of this “highly offensive conduct”; refuse to allow me access to it through FOI – manipulating both the letter and the spirit of FOI legislation in order to hide from all and sundry that Jane Supit’s assertion is as nonsensical as were previous assertions that I had intimidated and placed at risk Screen Australia staff in my correspondence.

As you are aware, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is currently considering my IC review application; conducting inquiries with the Screen Australia as to why my FOI requests for documented evidence of my ‘highly offensive conduct’ have been knocked back by yourself.

The OAIC has provided you with three weeks to respond to its inquiries. The three week time limit expires on 20th March. Needless to say I am curious (to say the least!) what argument you employ to explain to the Information Commissioner why it is not in the pubic interest that I be in possession of evidence of my “highly offensive conduct”.

In order to provide relevant context I have informed the Information Commissioner that Screen Australia's refusal to abide by either the spirit or letter of the Freedom of Information Act has been going on since 2010. The reason for this is that there is no evidence from prior to May 2012 that I intimidated or placed anyone at risk. You and the current SA board members know this. And there is no evidence that between May 2014 and May 2016 I am guilty of the "highly offensive conduct" Jane Supit refers to. Jane Supit can play fast and loose with the truth (as can Ruth Harley, Fiona Cameron and yourself), can deny me access to documents under FOI, because there is no-one, no body, no Minister that will hold them (or you) accountable.

Your problem vis a vis ‘evidence’  is a significant one. You cannot produce documents that do not exist. Aware as you are that there is no documentary evidence of my ‘highly offensive conduct’ you could, if you choose, fall back on the Fiona Cameron "I felt intimidated" defense. This was articulated by Fiona in 2012 in the only conversation (5 minutes, maximum) I have had with anyone within Screen Australia this past five years.

As you know, I challenged the logic of Fiona’s "I felt intimidated" argument, presented to me in the foyer of Screen Australia in the middle of the afternoon on a work day: “Your feeling intimidated is not the same as me intimidating you,” I said. Fiona’s response was to instruct the manager of the building to call the police. The police duly arrived to find me sitting calmly on a couch reading a book. They were mystified as to what was going on but explained to me that Screen Australia believed I was trespassing. They duly arrested me.

In order to justify this mid-afternoon arrest, and another shortly after that resulted in my spending a weekend in jail, senior members of Screen Australia have had to perpetuate the myth (through word of mouth and by implication in various documents on file) that I pose a risk to SA staff. To this day I am not allowed to meet with staff because of the supposed risk I pose - despite Screen Australia never having provided any evidence at all that I pose a risk.  Amongst other things my not being able to meet with staff renders it impossible for me to access the Producer Offset.

That I pose no risk to SA staff would come to light if you actually produced the documents you believe are evidence of what you consider to be my highly offensive conduct; my intimidating of SA staff. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would look at such documents, if they were produced, and exclaim, “And this is the evidence upon which you have banned a filmmaker? Rendered it impossible for him to access the Producer Offset and hence effectively destroyed his career?”

It is my contention (and has been since Dec 2010) that no such documents exist. However, if the Fiona Cameron “I felt intimidated” test is applied to some of my correspondence it could be argued, I guess, by a clever lawyer that there was an implied threat. Fair enough. Produce the evidence, make it public, and run with that argument, Graeme.

You will not, of course – not even to the Information Commissioner. You know that in making what you consider to be evidence public would render yourself, Fiona Cameron and the Screen Australia board members (including fellow filmmakers Claudia Karvan and Al Clarke) laughing stocks in the eyes of the film and TV community. This you must avoid at all costs. And I am sure you will; in hopes of being able to bamboozle the Information Commissioner as you have the Commonwealth Ombudsman with the argument that it is not in the public interest that I be appraised of evidence in support of the ban on me.

I trust, when Jane’s Supit’s “highly offensive conduct” is exposed as a lie, when it becomes clear that I have neither intimidated SA staff or placed them at risk, that you will do the right thing and resign as Chief Executive; as should Jane Supit. The current board that has given its imprimatur of approval to this baseless ban should also resign or be asked to do so by the Minister.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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