Thursday, May 26, 2016

Still waiting for evidence of the crime for which I have been banned for yet another two years!

Senator Mitch Fifield
Minister for Communications and the Arts
Level 2
4 National Circuit
Barton, ACT 2600                                                                                         

25th May 2016

Dear Senator Fifield

Receipt of my letter to you of 19th April remains unacknowledged.  The same applies to all of my letters.

Since 19th April Screen Australia has seen fit to ban me again. Until 2018!

I realize that it is probably an exercise in futility to point this out to you but it is a basic premise of Australia’s justice system that a person accused of a crime must be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In order for this to occur the evidence in support of the accused’s guilt must be tested in court.  Or, in my case, tested by my being presented with an opportunity to defend myself against the charges laid against me. In order for me to do so I would need to be provided with evidence of my guilt. No such evidence has ever been provided to me – despite more than four years of asking.

I have been found guilty three times now by Screen Australia without ever having been presented with evidence in support of the charges laid against me – namely intimidation, harassment and placing at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence and now, defamation.

If I am guilty as charged I should be very easy for Graeme Mason to cut and paste examples from my correspondence that bear witness to my alleged crimes. He will not and cannot, any more than Ruth Harley could before him. The reason is simple. I am not guilty as charged.

The key document in this matter is the one Ruth Harley presented to Mr Ian Govey, priot to 9th May 2012, as evidence of the need to ban me, along with her request that Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade be amended to make the ban legal. Graeme Mason has refused to provide me with a copy of this document, citing FOI legislation as a reason:

“Screen Australia is not required to give you access to these documents under section 11A(4) of the FOI Act. This is because they are exempt from disclosure under section 42(1) of the FOI Act because they are subject to legal professional privilege.”

Really, Senator Fifield! A filmmaker accused of a crime sufficiently heinous to warrant the effective termination of his career as an Australian filmmaker is not entitled to be provided with evidence of his crime because the evidence is “subject to legal professional privilege!”

Do you support this clear breach of natural justice?

Why do you think Mr Mason wishes to keep these documents secret? If Ruth Harley’s submission to Mr Govey outlines the times, dates and nature of my offences it will provide definitive evidence that banning me for six years was the appropriate punishment for the offenses I had committed. I will be publically, and appropriately, humiliated by the contents of this document.

On the other hand, if the document contains no evidence of my crimes, the whole Fiona Cameron/Ruth Harley/Graeme Mason house of cards collapses and the ban on me will be seen for what I believe it to be - Ruth Harley’s malicious attempt to not only silence a critic but to destroy his (my) career.

In 2018 I will still be asking for evidence that I intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff so Graeme Mason and the board will have ample reason to ban me yet again until 2020 since they will present to me the proposition that my attempts to defend myself against false allegations are defamatory.

In you have any commitment at all, Minister, to the basic tenets of natural justice and the basic tenets of Australian law, request of Graeme Mason, today, that he make public the document sent to the Australian Commonwealth Solicitor in which either my guilt beyond reasonable doubt is clear or which reveals that no ban should ever have been imposed in the first place.

yours sincerely

James Ricketson
cc Graeme Mason, Chief Executive, Screen Australia
Kent Purvis, Investigation Officer |Operations Commonwealth Ombudsman
Louise Vardanega, Australian Government Solicitor (acting)

Australian Director’s Guild

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Will the Commonwealth Ombudsman, this time around, ask for evidence that, in my correspondence, I intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia's staff.

Kent Purvis
Investigation Officer |Operations
Commonwealth Ombudsman

24th May 2016

Dear Kent

Graeme Mason’s repeat of Fiona Cameron’s lie from 2011 (that I complained about my documentary “Chanti’s World” not being funded has taken us back to square one! Groundhog Day:

“Your substantive complaints about Screen Australia’s decision not to fund your production Chanti’s World have been exhaustively addressed, including by external review and investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.”
Does Mr Mason think that he can commit this lie to writing, yet again (!) because he knows that no-one, including the office of the Ombudsman, is going to ask him for evidence to back it up?

It is a great pity (to say the least!) that Elisa Harris never bothered to ask, back in 2010, for evidence from Screen Australia, that Fiona’s statement about m alleged complaint was true. If she had, Ms Harris would have discovered that it was not true. Screen Australia could have apologized to me and Fiona’s ‘mistake’ would, by late 2010, have been history. And, hopefully, Fiona Cameron would not make the same ‘mistake’ again!

I contend, and have done since 2010, that Fiona Cameron’s original statements about my having complained that “Chanti’s World” was not funded is a lie. I contend also that her statement, committed to the Screen Australia file, that I had left a meeting with Julia Overton, Ross Mathews and Liz Crosby believing that “Chanti’s World’ had been funded is a lie.

It was these lies of Fiona Cameron’s, lies that I sought to have expunged from the record fir five and a half years, that set in motion the sequence of events that led to my being banned this past 4 years by Screen Australia.

My first question for you, Kent, is this:

“Will the Office of the Ombudsman ask Graeme Mason to produce evidence  in support of the statement quoted above?”

I have attached Mr Mason’s full letter of 16th May so that this assertion of his can be read in context.

I have also pasted below the letter I wrote to Elisa Harris in Dec 2010 in which I asked this same question.

Mr Mason’s repeat of Fiona Cameron’s original lie leaves me with no choice but to drag Julie Overton, Ross Mathews and Liz Crosby back into this bureaucratic farce; a farce that has led to the destruction of my career as an Australian filmmaker.

There is something seriously wrong with an administrative process which cannot, in the space of more than five years, yield answers to the  simple questions that lie at the heart of my being banned. Will the Office of the Ombudsman now request of Screen Australia:

Evidence that Graeme Mason’s statement (above) is true.

Evidence that I intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff is true.

Evidence that I have defamed members of Screen Australia’s staff.

These constitute my 2nd, 3rd and 4th questions.

If you are not going to ask for this evidence, Kent, your investigation, as with Elisa Harris’ back in 2010, will be a waste of time and will result in little more than a lot of bureaucratic jargon the purpose of which is to make a sow’s ear appear to be a silk purse.

In the world that I inhabit (or which I like to think I do) someone involved in this bureaucratic cock-up (Senator Mitch Fifield, the Ombudsman!?)  would simply pick up the phone and say to Graeme Mason, "Evidence, please of Mr Ricketson’s intimidation and placing at risk. In my inbox by 5 this afternoon.”

It is because no-one in a position to do so will do so that Graeme Mason can write whatever nonsense he likes in a letter to me. He knows that neither Senator Mitch Fifield or or the Ombudsman is going to ask him for evidence.

From the outset this matter has been but a phone call away from a solution, but no-one was ever prepared to make the phone call. And so it has grown, cancer-like, to the point where there are so many people who will have egg on their faces if the truth were to come out that the truth cannot be allowed to come out. Any and every tactic (including a further ban) must be employed to keep the truth secret. Screen Australia’s latest ploy is to use the letter of FOI legislation as a reason not to provide me with evidence, in the form of Ruth Harley’s correspondence with Mr Ian Govey, of my guilt. This is nonsense, Kent, and you must know it. If there is solid evidence in this correspondence that points to my guilt why does Screen Australia not release it and put this matter to rest?

I wonder if the Office of the Ombudsman is able to ask both Graeme Mason and and Louise Vardanega for copies of Ruth Harley’s correspondence? Or can they both refuse to hand it over to you, citing FOI legislation? And if they are obliged to supply your office with copies of this correspondence, would you be able to share its contents with me?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the new ‘discovery’ process I have embarked on (despite Graeme Mason’s pre-emptive new ban) will result in a lot of weasel words being written but no answer to the questions that lie at the heart of this matter.

Please prove me wrong, Kent, by picking up the phone and asking Graeme Mason the questions that Elisa Harris should have asked back in 2010 and which your office should have asked at any point in the past five and a half years.

If you are not going to conduct a proper investigation, I would prefer that you did not conduct one at all. If the Office of the Ombudsman does not believe that Screen Australia is under any obligation to provide evidence in support of its various assertions (intimidation, placing at risk, defamation), it is best that you back out of this matter now. Without answers to these questions an Ombudsman’s investigation
Will provide Graeme Mason the opportunity to declare, yet again, that this matter has been investigated by the office of the Ombudsman and we will, yet again, be back to square one.

Groundhog Day!

best wishes

James Ricketson

Cc Senator Mitch Fifield
Graeme Mason
Louise Vardanega
Australian Director’s Guild

Elisa Harris
Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442

13th. Dec 2010

Dear Elisa Harris

Further to my letter to Professor McMillan of 6th. Dec and in response to your letter to me of 8th. Dec.

I note that you have copied your 8th Dec. letter to Nick Coyle, FOI officer at Screen Australia. I am not sure why you have done so but it may be of interest to you that I am still waiting to obtain from Nick, through FOI, answers to questions I asked of Julia Overton months ago and which she quite simply refused to answer. How can the Ombudsman’s office complete its investigation into my complaint when the answers to my FOI questions, pertinent to my complaint, have not yet been provided to me? One of my FOI requests relates to the notes Julia Overton took during our 25th August meeting – the only contemporaneous written record of who said what in this meeting.

The more important question arising from your letter of 8th. Dec. Is: How can the Ombudsman’s office complete its investigation without asking the most important question of all and the one around which my complaint turns? Did the conversation between myself, Ross Mathews and Julia Overton on 25th.August occur as I have described it many times now. Or did it not? You observe, quite correctly, that “what was said at this meeting appears now to form the main issue of complaint.” Later in your letter you write, “Clearly Ms Cameron has reviewed what occurred at that meeting and is satisfied that no further action is required by the agency regarding this."  If it is ‘clear’ that Fiona has ‘reviewed’ what occurred in the meeting, what did she discover? That I was telling the truth? That I have been lying? That Ross and Julia refuse to answer the question? Did Fiona look at Julia’s notes? If she did, and if Julia’s written account is different from my own, why has Fiona not availed herself of the opportunity to point this out to me? Did the Ombudsman’s office even put the question to Fiona: “What is your understanding of what was said in the meeting of 25th. August?”

In the absence of a clear answer to this question (am I telling the truth or not) it would be a waste of my time in the writing and yours in the reading if I were to respond more fully to your 8th. Dec. letter. Please, Elisa, obtain from Ross, Julia and Fiona an answer to this question and lets proceed from there. And you could ask Liz Crosby also. She was present at the end of the meeting of 25th. August and will, I think, be familiar with the meeting’s outcome.
On 17th. Nov. I wrote the following to Zachary in your office:

Dear Zachary

I am in need of some advice…I do want to proceed with my complaint but I want to do so in the right way or, to put it another way, in a way that makes it simple for your office to deal with. In essence this is a very simple matter and I would like to keep it that way.…Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated - by either email or on the phone.

cheers, James

The ‘simple matter’ I was referring to was getting an answer to my one question – proving to be as difficult as getting blood from a stone!

I did not hear back from Zachary. This did not concern me since it has been made clear to me on a few occasions that the Ombudsman’s office has quite a backlog of complaints to investigate and that it could take months before my complaint was looked at. I certainly expected your office to get back to me in response to my 17th. Nov. email when my complaint was being considered. This has not occurred. The investigation has been completed before all the evidence is in and, it seems, without the key question being asked.

I am copying this letter to Glen Boreham, Chair of the Screen Australia Board. He has made it clear that he wants to have nothing to do with this matter. I can understand this. What an extraordinary waste of so many people’s time! However, I think that Glen and the Board should be aware of how difficult it is to get a straightforward answer to a simple question from senior Screen Australia Management.

I am copying it to Fiona Cameron in hopes that she might, if she hasn’t already, put the question to Ross and Julia and get an answer that she can hand on to you and to me. And  I am copying it to Ross Mathews, Julia Overton and Liz Crosby also in hopes that one of them might, at this late stage, see fit to answer my question – even if Fiona refuses to ask it. And I am copying this to Nick Coyle because you have copied your letter to him.

If no-one at Screen Australia will answer this ne key question could you please, Elisa, ask it and see if you have more joy than I have had.

best wishes

James Ricketson
Cc Glen Boreham, Chair, Screen Australia Board

Ross Mathews, Fiona Cameron, Julia Overton, Liz Crosby

16 May 2016
James Ricketson
316 Whale Beach Road PALM BEACH NSW 2108

By email:
Dear Mr Ricketson,
I refer to Screen Australia’s letter to you, dated 7 May 2014, informing you that Screen Australia would not accept funding applications from you or correspond with you in relation to funding applications for a period of two years.
Now that the two years have elapsed, Screen Australia has reviewed the decision. In doing so we have taken into account the following:
  • Since 7 May 2014 you have continued to write offensive, harassing and defamatory letters and emails to Screen Australia board members and staff and to publish these letters and emails on the internet.
  • These letters and internet publications seem intended to humiliate and damage the reputation of Screen Australia staff.
  • The manner and frequency of your letters has made some staff feel upset, distressed and personally attacked. This is unacceptable to Screen Australia, particularly as staff have been directed by the board not to correspond with you due to the ban.
  • The eligibility requirements to access Screen Australia funding, set out in paragraph 1.1.1 (Applicant Eligibility) of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade, state that:
    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, nor will Screen Australia enter into correspondence with any such person.
  • Even though you were notified that the reason that the 2012 and 2014 bans were put in place was to protect our staff from your personal attacks on them through your offensive, harassing and defamatory correspondence, you have continued to persist with this same harassing behaviour over the last two years.
  • Your substantive complaints about Screen Australia’s decision not to fund your production Chanti’s World have been exhaustively addressed, including by external review and investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s review made no criticism of Screen Australia’s handling of your funding application. There is therefore no benefit to you or Screen Australia in communicating on this matter further.
Based on this review, Screen Australia has determined as follows.
  • You are ineligible for our funding under paragraph 1.1.1 of the Terms of Trade due to your persistent discourteous, hurtful and intimidating correspondence with staff and internet publication of the correspondence.
  • Screen Australia will not accept or read your applications for funding, or correspond with you regarding funding, for a period of two years commencing 7 May, 2016.
  • This decision will be reviewed in May 2018.
  • Staff have been directed not to communicate with you in relation to funding as long as you
    remain ineligible for funding under our Terms of Trade.
    Screen Australia’s good faith requirements
    In order for an applicant to be eligible for Screen Australia funding under the Terms of Trade an applicant must act ‘in good faith’ in all dealings with Screen Australia staff.
    This requires courteous and respectful communication with staff (paragraph 1.2 of the Terms of Trade). When Screen Australia reviews this decision in May 2018, in order for you to meet this eligibility requirement, you will need at the very least:
  • to stop sending any further offensive, harassing and defamatory correspondence to and about Screen Australia staff and/or publishing such correspondence on the internet, and
  • to remove existing offensive, harassing or defamatory statements about Screen Australia staff and Board members, both past and present, from your internet publication.
    Yours sincerely
    Graeme Mason
    Screen Australia