Rinehart in Supreme Court seeking access to House of Hancock

Rinehart-234x297Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has taken legal action against the Nine Network this morning seeking access to the second episode of the House of Hancock miniseries .

The Rinehart camp is seeking access to the final episode, which portrays the relationship between Rinehart, her father Lang Hancock and his second wife Rose Porteous, to see if there a “defamatory imputations”.

The case is in Sydney’s Supreme Court this morning before Justice Peter Garling, who has today heard evidence that the Rinehart camp believes parts of the show are fictionalised with comparisons being made to the soap opera Dynasty.

A spokeswoman for Nine declined to comment on the case, but it comes just days after senior executives at Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting took aim at Nine Entertainment Co CEO David Gyngell saying they had repeatedly told him of “glaring errors” in some scenes of the mini-series House of Hancock.

Sources have told Mumbrella that Rinehart’s camp wants access to the second episode of the series, which is scheduled to screen next Sunday and will feature the death of Hancock and subsequent legal dispute between Rinehart and Porteous, before fast forwarding to a later dispute between Rinehart and her children.

Rinehart is being represented by Tom Blackburn SC who has asked the court to grant an application for urgent preliminary discovery against Nine.

Blackburn is arguing malicious falsehood and defamation as the main causes of the action, under which Rinehart is seeking access to the episode.

The Rinehart camp is also using the Section 18 of Australian consumer law to argue that the actors breached rules on misleading or deceptive conduct by pretending to be someone else.

In a letter from Rinehart’s lawyer to Nine’s legal counsel Mark O’Brien, tendered to the court, the mining magnate complains that parts of the miniseries have been fictionalised, citing statements by the producers in a recent episode of A Current Affair. 

Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Mark Wilks wrote: “Yesterday your client broadcast an item on ‘A Current Affair’ about the second instalment of ‘House of Hancock’. In answer to a question ‘Did you make this stuff up?’, one of the producers, Mr Cordell, replies evasively ‘We’re making a drama, we’re not making a documentary.’ The item then quotes with approval a  (TV) critic, Mr (Peter) Ford, who describes it as a ‘ripping yarn’ and adds ‘you could not make this stuff up, it’s straight out of Dynasty’, which indicates in fact that it is made up.”

In a statement made earlier in the week Tad Watroba, executive director of Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting said: “Channel 9 has seemingly gone out of its way to cause undue damage and upset to those currently living and the memory of those no longer with us.”

“Despite repeatedly bringing it to Nine CEO David Gyngell’s attention, many scenes broadcast last night were fictitious, unfounded or grossly distorted, and some simply never occurred.”

The case continues.

Nic Christensen

Rinehart’s legal team’s letter  in full:

“Dear Mr O’Brien

We refer to your letter of 2 February 2015 and our letters of 8 February and 11 February.

The first instalment of “House of Hancock” contained a number of entirely fictitious matters concerning our client. It includes, inter alia, a conversation with our client’s father which did not occur (and which your client has just made up) in which Mr Hancock tells our client that her then future husband did not love her and that no one could love her, implying something seriously wrong with our client.  The show depicts a vulgar and garish wedding, which style of wedding did not occur, between Mrs Rinehart and her late husband Mr Frank Rinehart, demeaning both Mr and Mrs Rinehart. It further depicts a phone call when Mrs Rinehart was holidaying in USA, which did not occur, but implies she was so callous that she was not with her mother when she needed her only daughter most.  This was despite both the dates of the wedding and the date of her devoted mothers passing being available and clearly indicating such scene was incorrect. The show depicts a scene between father and daughter that did not happen as we wrote to you shortly prior to the program, wherein Mr Hancock said some grossly defamatory things about his daughter.

Yesterday your client broadcast an item on “A Current Affair” about the second instalment of “House of Hancock”. In answer to a question “Did you make this stuff up?”, one of the producers, Mr Cordell, replies evasively “We’re making a drama, we’re not making a documentary.” The item then quotes with approval a critic, Mr Ford, who describes it as a “ripping yarn” and adds “you could not make this stuff up, it’s straight out of Dynasty”, which indicates in fact that it is made up.

Mr Cordell then says “This is a big explosive Dallas type drama and a lot of it we didn’t have to make up, a lot of it is on the public record” (Emphasis added).

These exchanges are a clear admission not only that the miniseries contains matters that are untrue, but that your client knew that they were untrue when it broadcast the program.

Mr Ford is further quoted as saying via other media after viewing the show that the second show contains “an even more explosive conclusion this Sunday”, and adds that it is “must-see televisionon Sunday night, except for Mrs Rinehart, she should definitely make plans to go out to dinner next Sunday night.”

Given your client’s admissions that the programs contain untruths, and Peter Ford’s boast after seeing the film on “A Current Affair” that the second program is “even more explosive”, and that our client should “make plans to go out to dinner”, we have reason to think that the second program may be defamatory of our client, contain injurious falsehoods about her, and involve your client in an accessorial breach the Australian Consumer Law.

We also refer to the following comments made by Mr Ford this morning on the 3AW Breakfast show:

·         “…if Mrs Rinehart was unhappy with what she saw last Sunday night, she definitely should go out for dinner next Sunday night, because it’s like 20 times worse about her.”

·         “They make her look like an obsessed, vindictive shrew. I felt very sorry for her. I actually – I don’t know the woman at all, I’ve never met her – but I can’t believe that somebody could truly be that sour about life, but that’s the picture they have painted of her”; and

·         “There’s a very final scene in The House of Hancock, if you stick around to watch it, I reckon your jaw will drop”.

As noted, Mr Ford is put forward by your client itself as a reliable commentator in the “A Current Affair” segment.

Please let us have a copy of Sunday’s second episode to inspect by no later than 3.00 PM today, failing which our client may approach the Court for such other relief as may be advised. You can provide the program to us electronically and by delivery of a disk.

Our client reserves all her rights.

Mark Wilks


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