‘House of Hancock’ Could Face Gina Rinehart Legal Action

Nine Network set to face a Rinehart defamation action.

Robert Whiteby Robert White

They’re the lawyers every illegal supplement using football team in Australia needs. The hard-hitting legal representation of mining heiress Gina Rinehart reportedly plans to sue the Nine Network over drama series House of Hancock.

According to a report from The Sydney Morning Herald, Rinehart will take legal action against the network despite gaining early access to House of Hancock and successfully forcing four minutes of unflattering edits, claiming scenes in a “twisted” Part 2 were “entirely false”.

“[The scenes are] offensive and endeavour to question Mrs Rinehart’s sanity, soundness of mind or acumen,” solicitor Mark Wilks told SMH.

Last week’s last minute Supreme Court hearing helped House of Hancock attract 1.38 million viewers, however could still raise a defamation action despite the network claiming the Mandy McElhinney and Sam Neill-led series is a “drama, not a documentary”.

“It’s a very difficult area to work in because, while copyright has a defence of satire, defamation has no such defence,” journalism academic Mark Pearson told mUmBRELLA. “So a fair comment or honest opinion defence is required which is where such shows (as House of Hancock) may find it hard.”

“Most matters have to be defended in defamation hearings on the basis of either truth as a defence or honest opinion and fair comment.

“I am loath to see any threats to free expression, particularly from the very wealthy who normally are the only ones who can afford such exercises, (but) unfortunately the law does not support docu-drama miniseries and semi-fictionalised material.”

Producer Michael Cordell defended his series earlier in the week, describing Rinehart as “an extraordinary Australian”.

“We set out to better understand an iconic and important Australian story,” he said. “It was made with a genuine sense of empathy for all the characters we depicted. It was inevitable there would be difficult and painful scenes, but we made this series with no sense of malice. No one takes on the Hancock story lightly and we drew very heavily from the public record.

“Many comments from viewers last night indicate they now have a much more sympathetic understanding of all the characters, including Gina. She’s an extraordinary Australian who has achieved remarkable things. I think we all have a much deeper appreciation of her journey.”

The former husband of magazine editor Ita Buttrose, Alasdair Macdonald, settled a defamation case with the ABC outside of court in 2012 for an undisclosed amount following his portrayal in the mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo.

Photo: Nine Network.