Monday, April 10, 2017

A request to Screen Australia board member Claudia Karvan for evidence of the alleged offences that have led to my being banned from making films in Australia

Dear Claudia

I have sent you a letter in the post. It speaks for itself. I trust that Graeme Mason will forward it to you.

The final paragraph will, I hope, bring home to you in a personal way the damage, both professional and personal, that your ban (and that of other fellow filmmakers - Rachel Perkins and Al Clarke) have inflicted on me.

"Put yourself in my shoes and imagine what it would have been like to have not been able to pursue your career as a filmmaker this past five years? Would you have accepted this state of affairs without protest? And if you were, year after year, denied evidence in support of the ban placed on you, how would you have felt? How would you have responded?"

As the 5th anniversary of the ban on me approaches (next month) I believe it is way past the point where you and your fellow board members should provide evidence in support of the rolling 2 year bans on me or do what is needed to be done to extricate yourselves from the mess of your own creation.



Claudia Karvan
Screen Australia board member
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                   3rd April 2017

Dear Claudia

Twice now, in May 2014 and May 2016, you have, along with your fellow Screen Australia board members, banned me from making any form of application to Screen Australia; from talking or meeting with any member of staff at Screen Australia. As you have been aware all along, your ban effectively makes it impossible for me to make films in Australia for three reasons:

(1)  I and my creative collaborators (producers, directors and screenwriters) cannot make any form of application for development funding to SA. Any producer, director or screenwriter who wished to work with me would have to do so in the full knowledge that they would not, could not, be paid for their work.

(2)  A creative team that includes myself cannot access the Producer Offset as this would require meeting with SA staff and placing these same staff at risk; SA having a duty of care to provide staff with a safe working environment. This allegation is defamatory, hurtful and nonsense (as you know full well) but most importantly prevents me and my collaborators from taking advantage of ‘tax breaks’ intended to encourage the production of quality Australian film and TV projects.

(3)  Potential creative collaborators, knowing that there can be no development funding, knowing that there can be no access to the Producer Offset, are reticent to work with me – even if they would like to. This is quite understandable.

Screen Australia’s decision to effectively ban and and all James Ricketson projects reveals a  pettiness, a smallness of mind, that should be of concern to all filmmakers.

The reason for the ban on me changes over the years (at least the words used to justify it) but in essence the original reasons pertain – namely that I intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff with my correspondence. No evidence has ever been presented to me in support of this proposition and you have never seen such evidence. Have you ever even asked for it, Claudia? Has the board ever asked for it? If so, was such evidence ever provided? If so, why have I never been provided with the evidence the board is privy to? Why is it that you and your fellow board allow Graeme Mason to refuse to accede to my FOI requests for documentary evidence of my alleged ‘crimes’ on the grounds that it is not in the public interest that I be appraised of such evidence?

Given that Graeme Mason refuses to accede to my FOI requests I will put this one to the yourself and the board:

I wish, under FOI legislation, to be provided with all correspondence that occurred within Screen Australia pertaining to the May  2014 ban on me. This includes, perhaps most importantly, the document (or documents) provided by Graeme Mason to the board prior to May 2014 outlining (1) The reasons for the second two year ban and (2) The evidence in support of the ban.

The Information Commissioner is now reviewing Screen Australia’s decision not to accede to my most recent FOI request on the grounds that it is not in the public interest. In the event you and the the board also feel that it is not in the public interest to provide me with evidence in support of the 2014 ban, could you please have the professional courtesy to explain to a fellow filmmaker why the provision of such evidence is not in the public interest?

My second FOI request pertains to my second arrest in the Screen Australia foyer on 9th Nov 2012 Some context is required here:

As I was sitting in the Screen Australia foyer on 15th Oct 2012., waiting to be provided with evidence of my alleged ‘crimes’, I wrote a letter to Rachel Perkins (a member of the board) that can be found at:

Shortly afterwards, Fiona Cameron asked the Security Manager to call the police and have me removed from foyer – at 4pm on a work day! I was arrested and charged with trespassing.

On 9th Nov 2012, whilst the Screen Australia board was meeting upstairs, I again came to the Screen Australia foyer and sat quietly in it writing the following blog entry:

Shortly after finishing this blog entry the police arrived in the foyer and arrested me for the second time. I was charged again with trespassing and spent the weekend in jail.

My FOI request is as follows:

I wish to be provided with any and all documents relating to who it was within Screen Australia that instructed the Security Manager to call the police again to have me removed from the building on 9th Nov 2012? Given that the Screen Australia board was meeting at the time of my arrest I would like to be provided with any and all documents relating to the board’s involvement (or lack of involvement) in the decision to call the police?

I would appreciate a response from the SA board to this FOI request or, at the very least, an acknowledgment from you and the board that you have received this letter.

In order to refresh your memory I have included, below, two letters I wrote relating to the May 2014 ban on me.

Finally, on a personal note, Claudia. This past five years you have received a substantial amount of money from Screen Australia that has enabled you to pursue your career as a filmmaker. You have been able to access the Producer Offset. Put yourself in my shoes and imagine what it would have been like to have not been able to pursue your career as a filmmaker this past five years? Would you have accepted this state of affairs without protest? And if you were, year after year, denied evidence in support of the ban placed on you, how would you have felt? How would you have responded?

best wishes

James Ricketson

cc Graeme Mason, Chief Executive, Screen Australia
Jane Supit, Head of Legal
Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Mr Colin Neave, Commonwealth Ombudsman
Ms Louise Vardanega, Australian Government Solicitor (acting)
The Australian Director’s Guild Board
The Information Commissioner

The Hon George Brandis MP
Minister for the Arts
Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Level 361 Eagle St
Brisbane QLD 4000                                                                                       

13th May 2014

Dear Senator Brandis

On 7th May, Glen Boreham, Chair, Screen Australia board, wrote to tell me that the Screen Australia board had decided to extend the ban on me for another two years – to May 2016. The ostensible reason:

“That your deliberate, repeated and inappropriate personal attacks on Screen Australia staff through letters and internet publications appear intended to humiliate and damage the reputation of Screen Australia staff in a way that is unacceptable to Screen Australia.”

On the same day, 7th May, I a letter to you that begins:

“You champion the right of bigots to express their opinions in public, but do you champion the right of  members of the public to express their less-than-complimentary opinions about public servants in public?” 

Consider the dispute between myself and Screen Australia in relation to many of the public statements you have made about ‘freedom of speech’. Here is one:

“If you are going to defend freedom of speech, you have to defend the right of people to say things you would devote your political life to opposing. Your good faith is tested by whether or not you would defend the right to free speech of people with whom you profoundly disagree. That’s the test.’”

Do you believe that I have a right to refer to various members of senior management at Screen Australia as ‘playing fast and loose with the truth’, as being ‘parsimonious with the truth’  or, on occasion, ‘liars’? This is as offensive as my language has ever been in any of my correspondence with Screen Australia this past six years.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was called a liar in many public fora (including parliament) but no-one was banned by a government department for using the ‘l’ word. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is now being referred to regularly as a ‘liar’. Has anyone been banned by a government body for doing so? No. If it is OK to call our Prime Ministers liars, why not senior public servants – especially when the facts (if anyone bothered to look at them) bear out the truth of the epithet? (It is worth pointing out that the specific ‘crimes’ Glen Boreham refers to, humiliating and damaging the reputation of others, is a sport much practiced in Federal parliament! Indeed, some politicians are regularly praised for their ability to humiliate members of the opposing team and inflict as much reputational damage as possible.)

There will, inevitably, be limits to the freedom of speech you champion. And there should be. Standing up in a crowded cinema and screaming ‘there’s bomb’ under my seat, for instance.

If I have exceeded the limits of what is acceptable in terms of free speech in any way, perhaps being banned for four years is an appropriate punishment. However, such draconian sentence cannot, in accordance with the dictates of natural justice, be imposed without (a) the accused being provided with evidence of his crimes, (b) the accused being given the right of respond to that evidence and (c) the accused being given the right of appeal.  

Despite two years of asking for it, no evidence has ever been given to me that I intimidated of placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff in my correspondence prior to 9th May 2012 – the ostensible reason for the first 2 year ban. Now, in May 2014, I am again being banned without being provided with any evidence, the right to respond to it or the right to appeal the decision made by the board.

The other assertions Glen Boreham makes in his letter of 7th May, in support of the new ban are as follows:

“That you are ineligible for funding under Screen Australia’s  Terms of Trade (paragraph 1.1.1) because you and/or related entities have an outstanding debt of $32, 629.19 owing to Screen Australia.”

Is it appropriate to ban a filmmaker for two years because he has a debt to Screen Australia?

The other is:

“That your substantive complaints about Screen Australia’s decision not to fund your production Chanti’s World have been exhaustively addressed including by external review by the Commonwealth ombudsman.”

This statement is demonstrably untrue in every respect. I never, at any point, made a complaint to Screen Australia about not receiving funding for CHANTI’S WORLD. Glen knows this to be the case. So does the board. Glen is lying. And the board is going along with the lie because its members must clutch at whatever straw they can to justify both the first ban on me and now this second one. Even if I had complained about not receiving funding, is this a reason to ban someone for four years? No, of course not.

So we are left with my having ‘humiliated’ Screen Australia staff; with having damaged their reputations. If I have a right to the free speech that you espouse, your should overturn the board’s ban.

In any event, natural justice demands that I be provided with evidence of crimes so drastic as to lead to my being banned for four years. If this evidence is not forthcoming, the Screen Australia board has denied me natural justice and should, I believe, be sacked – not for the damage its members have done to my career but because they clearly do not have the kind of commitment to transparency, accountability and natural justice we have a right to expect from Australia’s peak film funding body.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Claudia Karvan
Board Member
Screen Australia Board
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007   

15th May 2014                                                                                    

Dear Claudia

Evidence, please, that I have ever once intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff – the ostensible reason for the ban you, Rachel Perkins, Rosemary Blight, Richard Keddie and your fellow board members placed on me two years ago.

If I am guilty as charged perhaps your ban is warranted. If I am not guilty your ban is an abuse of power and questions arise about the honesty and integrity of the Screen Australia board. My guilt or innocence can only be determined if Screen Australia releases evidence of my crimes – an easy task given that all the evidence is to be found in correspondence SA has on file. You, along with your fellow board members, have adamantly refused to provide any evidence in support of your ban for two years now. Why?

In extending the ban on me by two years the charges of ‘intimidation’ and ‘placing at risk’ have been replaced by ‘humiliating’ and ‘damaging’ the reputations of Screen Australia staff. What about the damage to my own reputation in being accused of intimidation and placing Screen Australia staff at risk – serious accusations that, in other contexts, could lead to AVOs being taken out against the person so charged?

Glen Boreham asserts that I complained, in correspondence, that I had not received funding for CHANTI’S WORLD. This is not true. It is a lie. Glen Boreham knows it to be a lie. If I call Glen a liar this is a statement of fact. If this is damaging to Glen’s reputation, the damage is well deserved. The Chair of the Screen Australia board should not lie when providing reasons for any decision reached by the board.

If Glen is telling the truth, of course, if I did complain that I had not received funding for CHANTI’S WORLD, it is quite inappropriate for me (and perhaps defamatory) for me to call him a liar.  Indeed, it is me who is the liar. It would be quite appropriate for me to be referred to as a liar in public, or online. This would be both  humiliating and damaging to myself but I would have only myself to blame.

It is three and a half years now since Fiona Cameron made this same assertion – namely that I had complained about not receiving funding for CHANTI’S WORLD. Fiona was playing fast and loose with the truth, being parsimonious with the truth. Or, to call a spade a spade, lying. This became apparent when, after 18 tortuous months of asking, she finally identified the letters in which, she insisted, I had complained about not receiving funding. Even the most perfunctory of glances at the letters reveals that Fiona was wrong (I am trying to be polite here!) but such facts were of no importance to the Screen Australia board. You decided, collectively, that if you said it often enough (“James complained about not receiving funding”) that the statement would eventually become accepted as the truth.

You, Claudia, know that both Glen and Fiona were lying about my having complained about not receiving funding.  So do your fellow board members. You have latched onto this lie, however, because it casts me in a bad light, as a sore loser – wingeing and complaining because I did not get the money I asked for. This tactic has worked because no-one within Screen Australia, no-one within the Ministry of the Arts and certainly not the office of the Ombudsman has been prepared to ask for the evidence.  

As the lie is repeated, endlessly, and as I ask for evidence, endlessly, the stakes get higher and higher. There is now no gracious and credible way for the board to extricate itself from not just from this lie but from those pertaining to intimidation and placing at risk. You must  keep repeating it and hope like hell that no-one within the media ever asks, quite forcefully, to be provided with evidence of my crimes. To date no-one has.

I wonder Claudia if you actually believe it to be appropriate to ban a filmmaker? Perhaps you do not. Perhaps you have, this past two years, consistently voted against the ban and been outvoted each and every time by your fellow board members? If this be the case, if you feel that an injustice has been perpetrated, you could register your protest at the obvious breach of natural justice involved here by resigning from the board in protest; as a matter of principle. If, on the other hand, you have, this past two years, consistently voted in favour of the ban, could you please explain to me, as a fellow filmmaker, why you have done so? Could you please have the professional and personal courtesy to provide me with the evidence you believe warrants my being banned for four years?

If any truly independent arbitrator/conciliator were to look at the correspondence now and declare “There is no evidence that Glen Boreham is correct in his assertion that James Ricketson complained that CHANTI’S WORLD was not funded or that he intimidated staff,” serious and quite justifiable questions would be raised about the honesty and integrity of the board.  This is why you have refused my many suggestions that the dispute be placed in the hands of someone with no vested interest in the outcome of an investigation and who relied on facts alone to arrive at a determination as to who was lying – myself or senior members of Screen Australia staff. I suggested this in Mary 2012:

It could be argued that my being banned is of no great consequence, other than to myself. The reason why it is important, in my mind at least, is that all of us working in film and television want and need a Screen Australia board that is transparent, that is accountable in its decision-making and does not lie about the reasons it gives for decisions it makes. My being banned in the absence of evidence makes it abundantly clear that we do not have such a board. And the recent ICAC investigations reveal that when there are large amounts of tax-payer dollars at stake, a lack of transparency and accountability leads to corruption. The blackballing of one filmmaker on the basis of lies (in this case me) is evidence of a minor act of corruption. The same could be argued about the $3,000 bottle of wine Barry O’Farrell accepted as a gift. The wine in itself was not the problem. His acceptance of the wine was symptomatic of deep seated problems about the way politics in NSW is carried out. I believe that there are lots of questions that should be asked about the way funding decisions are made by Screen Australia.

I imagine that you will ignore this letter, as you have the other letters I have written this past two years. So be it. In doing so please don’t be surprised if my posting of it online is damaging to your reputation. And please don’t try to blame this damage on me when all you have to do is provide evidence that I am guilty as charged and it will be me whose reputation is damaged; me who is humiliated in public. And quite rightly so.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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