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Mining for Drama

House of Hancock, Gina Rinehart and the Law


It began with Peta Sergeant as Rose Hancock (nee Lacson), bursting through white double doors into the entertaining area of Prix d’Amour, belting out Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a Battlefield’, to the evident distaste of her stepdaughter, Gina Rinehart, played by Mandy McElhinney. House of Hancock, a two-part miniseries about the lives of mining magnate, Lang Hancock, his daughter, Gina Rine hart, and his housekeeper-turned-wife, Rose Hancock, was one of the highest-rating dramas on Australian television in 2015. It was also one of the most controversial, with legal action almost delaying or stopping the second episode from being screened. The substantial audience for House of Hancock demonstrates again the appetite Australians have for dramas based on real people and events – a well-established genre in television here, dating back at least to landmark 1980s miniseries, such as The Dismissal and Bodyline. Despite the popularity of this genre, docudramas such as House of Hancock pose real legal risks to their makers and broadcasters, with defamation being the most prominent. Fictionalising aspects of a true story, whilst purporting to represent that true story, creates not only legal challenges but also challenges notions of journalistic and historical accuracy. Rather than focusing on the aesthetic merits of House of Hancock, this chapter will focus on the legal travails of the production. In particular, it will focus on the risks defamation action can pose to docudrama producers, particularly those trying to create entertaining and high-rating television from the lives of living (and litigious) people such as Gina Rinehart.

Production History

Aspects of Gina Rinehart’s life have attracted media attention over several decades. Her family background and her wealth, as the only daughter of mining magnate Lang Hancock, meant that she was the subject of reporting from an early age. Through her own business activities, Rinehart became the richest person in Australia and, in 2012, with the price of iron ore high, she was named the richest woman in the world. In recent years, Rinehart has herself developed a public profile, intervening in public debates in support of conservative causes, such as opposing the mineral resources rent tax, the carbon pollution reduction scheme and its successor, the emissions trading scheme; advocating the development of northern Australia, particularly the creation of a special economic zone, and deregulation; and buying stakes in media companies Fairfax Media Ltd and Ten Network Holdings Ltd. However, it is her involvement in two long-running family legal battles which has made her of special interest to television screenwriters.

The level of interest in Gina Rinehart as a subject for a television programme is demonstrated by the fact that, in February 2013, not one but two separate projects based on her life were announced. The first was a six-hour miniseries, to be produced by Screentime Australia and based on the biography Gina Rinehart: The Untold Story of the Richest Woman in the World, by Fairfax journalist Adele Ferguson. The other was a four-hour miniseries, to be produced by Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, for Channel Nine, with the working title Mother Monster Magnate. This production also had significant journalistic input behind it, with investigative journalist Steve Pennells being attached to the project. In 2012, Steve Pennells, then working for The West Australian newspaper, won the Gold Walkley Award for his coverage of Gina Rinehart’s feud with her children over the multi-billion dollar family trust.1 Initially, the Screentime production was not attached to a television network but eventually it became associated with Foxtel. Interestingly, its working title was House of Hancock.2 Notwithstanding that it was announced first, the Screentime production appears to have gone into abeyance, with the Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder production proceeding and assuming the House of Hancock title.

A number of high-profile names were reported as being considered for the role of Gina Rinehart: Jacki Weaver, Gina Riley, Magda Szubanski.3 Ultimately, however, Mandy McElhinney was cast.4 McElhinney had an established relationship with Channel Nine, being the star of its 1960s hospital drama Love Child. Although initially famous for her recurring role as Rhonda in a series of advertisements for motor vehicle insurer AAMI, McElhinney had developed a substantial profile in Australian docudrama. She won the AACTA Award for Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for her portrayal of Kerry Packer’s loyal, long-suffering secretary Rose, in Channel Nine’s miniseries Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War. Staying with the Packer publishing empire, she was nominated for the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Actress for her starring role as the colourful editor of Woman’s Day magazine, Nene King, in the ABC’s series Paper Giants: Magazine Wars. Subsequently, it was announced that Peta Sergeant would play Rose Hancock and Sam Neill would play Lang Hancock.5

At a relatively early stage of the production, it was decided that the miniseries should not deal with Gina Rinehart’s current litigation with her children, which focuses on control over the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust. Instead, the focus of House of Hancock was to be on the relationship between Lang Hancock and Gina Rinehart from the 1960s onwards; Rinehart’s two marriages; her emergence as a businesswoman in her own right; her hiring of Rose Lacson as a housekeeper for her father in 1983 after her mother’s death; Lacson’s marriage to Lang Hancock two years later; the acrimonious break down of the relationship between Lang Hancock and Gina Rinehart over his marriage to Rose; Gina Rinehart’s contact with her Indigenous half-sister; and the fourteen-year legal feud between Gina Rinehart and Rose Hancock, after Lang Hancock’s death, over his fortune.

Given the high profiles of the personalities and the events depicted, there was significant media anticipation about this series. In late August 2014 The Daily Mail published photographs taken by paparazzi of the actors arriving or leaving the set and of some of the stars in their characters’ costumes. There was particular interest in McElhinney’s physical transformation into the “noticeably fuller figured” Gina Rinehart. The Daily Mail suggested that producers were concerned to maintain secrecy about the production for fear of litigation from the Rinehart family.6 However, the initial threat of litigation relating to House of Hancock was made on behalf of Rose Hancock. In January 2015 the trailer for House of Hancock was released.7 Willie Porteous, the man Rose married following Lang Hancock’s death, stated that he had sought legal advice after he had viewed the trailer, which he described as “highly defamatory and a work of fiction”. He thought it “unfairly portrayed Rose as a seductress”, particularly objecting to her being depicted doing a strip tease. Porteous indicated that he and Rose had offered to co-operate in the production to avoid any legal problems but Channel Nine refused. Rose and Willie Porteous did not act on their pre-publication threat but this was not the last one to be made in relation to House of Hancock. Channel Nine’s concern about an injunction was such that it did not adopt its usual course of sending out preview DVDs for critics, instead inviting journalists to a screening at its premises.8 As subsequent events would show, concern about litigation arising from House of Hancock was not misplaced.

The Broadcast of the First Episode and the Reaction

The first two-hour episode of House of Hancock was broadcast on Sunday 8 February 2015. It was a ratings success, being the second most watched program on the evening, beaten only by Channel Seven’s reality television show, My Kitchen Rules. In the five metropolitan markets House of Hancock drew an overnight audience of 1.383 million viewers. Significantly, it rated higher than either of the two competing interviews with survivors of the Lindt Café siege, broadcast on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes and Channel Seven’s news special, Inside the Siege: The Untold Story.9 Taking into account time-shifting over seven days, House of Hancock had a five-city audience of 1.563 million viewers. It was also the most time-shifted program of the evening.10

The critical reception to the first episode was mixed. Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Lallo praised Mandy McElhinney’s performance as Gina Rinehart, saying: “She has clinched Gina’s boarding school accent; her repertoire of curt expressions; and her school-marmish, pull-up-your-socks attitude”.11 The dissonance between the advertisements, which seemed to promise a campy 1980s-style soap opera, and the program itself was also noted by critics. Influential television blogger David Knox wrote on his TV Tonight website that:

[f]or a minute there I thought Nine had cancelled its reboot of Return to Eden, but when I spied the promos for House of Hancock, my faith was restored in over the top television. Big hair, big fashion, big histrionics and even a big bloody outback mine. It was the 1980s after all.

However, Knox went on to observe that House of Hancock was “actually more measured than the promos suggest” but ultimately concluded that: “Not taken too seriously, its 90 minutes is perfectly entertaining. If one looks for insight, however, it is harder to detect”.12

The broadcast of the first episode prompted a strong response on behalf of Gina Rinehart. Even before it was broadcast, conservative columnist Miranda Devine slammed the series as a “trashy biopic”. She said it “will dredge up painfully personal family feuds, to do with [Gina’s] late father Lang Hancock’s geriatric marriage to his Filipina maid”.13 Another controversial conservative columnist, Andrew Bolt, defended Rinehart on his blog:

How many other women in this country have been subjected to the savage cruelty that Channel 9 has heaped on Gina Rinehart?

Yes, I know she is very rich. Yes, I know she is conservative – a crime in polite circles.

But she is also a human being. A woman.

Prefiguring the literal-mindedness of other complaints which would be made about House of Hancock, Bolt asked: “Was Channel Nine there? Does it know the truth of the savage claims it portrays as true?”14

Hancock Prospecting executive director, Tad Watroba, stated that he had written on three occasions to Channel Nine’s chief executive officer, David Gyngell, about Rinehart’s concerns over House of Hancock. Watroba was not satisfied that Channel Nine had undertaken proper fact-checking prior to the broadcast. He claimed that “many scenes broadcast were fictitious, unfounded or grossly distorted, and some simply never occurred”. He characterised the program as “a tacky, disgraceful grab for ratings”. A number of aspects of the first episode of House of Hancock were of particular concern to Rinehart. First, she rejected the portrayal of her being on her honeymoon and having to be recalled home while her mother was dying. Secondly, she objected that she never supported or condoned deals with the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and did not “use a nuclear device for anti-environmental intent”. Finally, she rejected the suggestion that her father had ever told her that no one could ever love her and that her husband had never loved her. In addition, to counter the allegation that Lang Hancock had made disparaging remarks about her weight, Rinehart released to the media a photograph of herself taken in the early 1990s, showing her then-slender figure.15

Rinehart’s response provoked a defence. Interviewed on A Current Affair, one of the producers, Michael Cordell, described the source material as “an explosive Dallas-style drama”. He claimed that “a lot of it we didn’t have to make up, a lot of it is on the public record”. Nevertheless, Cordell stated: “We’re making a drama, we’re not making a documentary”.16 This was a line echoed by Channel Nine’s executive and legal teams in their correspondence with Rinehart’s representatives, disclosed when Rinehart commenced legal proceedings.17

The Litigation Begins

Before the second episode of House of Hancock could be broadcast as scheduled on Sunday 15 February 2015, Rinehart commenced legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales against Channel Nine. She sought an order for preliminary discovery; specifically access to a preview copy of the second episode, in order to determine whether she should seek an injunction to restrain the broad cast. The matter was given an urgent hearing before Garling J only two days before the second episode of the miniseries was to be aired. The principal causes of action Rinehart relied upon were defamation and injurious falsehood. A cause of action for misleading or deceptive conduct was faintly raised in argument. When counsel for Rinehart suggested in court that a professional paid actor could be engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, Garling J described the submission as “a novel proposal”, one which “would shut down all of Shakespeare’s plays”.18 Dealing with the application for preliminary discovery based principally on defamation, Garling J found that there was a real issue as to whether the second episode contained inaccurate materials, given the evidence in relation to the miniseries as a whole, and therefore there was a real issue as to whether the second episode conveyed defamatory imputations about Rinehart.19 Ordinarily, it is extremely difficult to get an injunction to stop a de famatory publication.20 Courts in Australia, as in other common law countries, have long been averse to prior restraint.21 People usually can exercise freedom of speech though, in so doing, must accept the legal consequences. His Honour took into account the principle of free speech but noted that it was not absolute.22 Balancing all these discretionary considerations, Garling J held that Rinehart should be granted access to a preview copy of the second episode of House of Hancock.23 Given the short period of time between the hearing and the proposed broadcast, his Honour ordered Rinehart to notify the Court and Channel Nine by the evening of its intention to seek a pre-publication injunction.24

Having viewed the second episode of House of Hancock, Rinehart decided to apply for an injunction. The hearing of the application occurred at midday on Saturday 14 February 2015, the day before the scheduled broadcast. Weekend sittings of the Supreme Court are extremely rare. The parties appeared at the hearing but had already been involved in talks with a view to reaching a settlement. After two hours and two adjournments by Garling J to allow the talks to continue, the parties reached a confidential settlement. The broad outline of the settlement was revealed but not the details. Under the terms of settlement, Channel Nine agreed to excise certain parts of the second episode of House of Hancock and to place a disclaimer at the beginning of the broadcast, emphasising that what followed was a drama, not a documentary, and that certain events had been fictionalised. Rinehart reserved her right to pursue a claim for damages for defamation and injurious falsehood.25

Channel Nine made the agreed changes and added the disclaimer so that the broadcast of the second episode was able to go ahead as scheduled. One of the most fascinating aspects of the second episode of House of Hancock was not dramatised but real. Towards the end of the episode, footage was included of Jana Wendt’s 1985 60 Minutes interview with Lang and Rose Hancock. This gave viewers an insight into the real Lang and Rose Hancock and a comparator by which to assess at least some of the performances in House of Hancock. The footage reinforced how truly bizarre the source material actually was.

Unsurprisingly, Rinehart’s legal proceedings against Channel Nine generated considerable publicity. This ensured that the second episode of House of Hancock was as successful as the first in terms of ratings. It attracted 1.38 million viewers across the five major cities based on overnight figures. On this measure, it was the second highest rating program on that night, again beaten only by My Kitchen Rules.26 It attracted 1.64 million viewers when the seven-day time-shifted figures were factored in, making it the most watched program on the night.27

Because the terms of the settlement were confidential, it is not definitely known what all the changes to the second episode were. As Linda Morris observed in The Canberra Times: “At what cost to dramatic integrity only the producers and possibly a handful of critics will know”. The Courier-Mail reported that Rinehart objected to the closing scene in which “a present-day Rinehart (played by Mandy McElhinney) lumbers slowly across the red dirt of the Pilbara. Behind her, explosions rock the landscape”. It also reported that Rinehart objected to the inclusion of reference to a sexual harassment case brought against her by a former security guard, which was settled out of court, and a scene in which she berates her daughter for reading a magazine with Rinehart on the cover.28 The Australian reported that Rinehart also objected to the suggestion that she confronted Rose Hancock over her relationship with Lang, given that they rarely spoke; the suggestion that Lang Hancock intended Gina’s son, John Hancock, to take over the family’s mining business; and the depiction of her talking to her deceased father, which she claimed made her appear to be of questionable sanity. Rinehart was not the only one who was aggrieved by their depiction in the second episode of House of Hancock. John Hancock told The Australian that he was portrayed as Lurch, the butler from The Addams Family, and denied that he was sent to the Philippines by his mother, having never visited that country.29 Others, like Rose Porteous, may also have had reason to be upset by the way in which they were presented. However, it was only Rinehart who took legal action.

From what can be gleaned from the media reporting, Rinehart’s objections were to the way in which people were depicted, not that the program was defamatory per se. Many stressed that aspects of the program were fictitious and therefore untrue; that aspects of the program did not happen in the way they were depicted; conversations were not had as shown, words were not said or exchanged, people did not act in the way they were portrayed. These objections overlooked or refused to accept the nature of the program: that House of Hancock was a docudrama, not a documentary, and that, as a consequence, aspects of the program were fictionalised for dramatic effect. This highlights then a fundamental tension in docudrama as a genre. On the one hand, docudrama necessarily takes licence with the given facts – it seeks to dramatise events. On the other hand, the authenticity of docudrama requires that it is still sufficiently grounded in fact.

Further Litigation

The legal action did not end with the broadcast of the second episode. Rinehart commenced proceedings against Channel Nine in the Supreme Court of New South Wales for defamation and injurious false hood. In addition to damages, Rinehart was concerned to prevent the material edited out of the broadcast being included on the DVD release.30 In mid-June 2015, however, Rinehart signalled her intention to discontinue her proceedings against Channel Nine. In stead, she is now suing the production company, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder.31 She is reportedly suing for misleading or deceptive conduct, injurious falsehood and invasion of privacy.32 Pursuing claims for misleading or deceptive conduct and injurious falsehood, but not defamation, against a media outlet, is unusual because defamation is much easier for a plaintiff to establish than the other causes of action. All a plaintiff has to establish in order to sue for defamation is that the defendant published material which disparaged his or her reputation and that the plaintiff was indirectly identified by the material. Damage to the plaintiff’s reputation is then presumed and the defendant has to establish a defence. In order to obtain a remedy for injurious falsehood and misleading or deceptive conduct, a plaintiff would need to prove actual damage.

The other cause of action – invasion of privacy – is particularly interesting. Although there may be a widespread perception that invading another person’s privacy is against the law, there is no direct, general protection of privacy under Australian law. Over the last thirty years, other common law legal systems, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have begun to develop legal means of protecting privacy. In 2001, in Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd, the High Court of Australia tantalisingly hinted it was receptive to arguments seeking to develop Australian law on privacy protection.33 It is fifteen years since that decision, yet there have been only two judgements by inferior courts recognising a cause of action for invasion of privacy under Australian law.34 Both cases were brought by private individuals. A significant reason that English privacy law has developed so rapidly over the same period is that celebrities have been willing to litigate in that country. Naomi Campbell, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Prince Charles, Max Mosley, J.K. Rowling, Boris Johnson and sundry English Premier League footballers, to name but a few, have all sued for misuse of private information, the form of direct privacy protection being developed by English law.35 No high-profile Australian has thus far sued to final judgement for invasion of privacy in Australian courts. Rinehart’s litigation against Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder may prove to be the test case for which Australian lawyers have been waiting. The outcome of the proceedings will not be known until at least 2016. Rinehart has to file her affidavit evidence by early 2016.36 The legal consequences of House of Hancock may yet extend by the year of its broadcast.

Litigation is not the only way to seek to manage reputation. Indeed, it is a peculiarly ineffective means of doing this.37 Although notoriously media-shy, Gina Rinehart agreed to appear on a two-part episode of the ABC’s Australian Story program in July 2015. The episodes, collectively called ‘Iron, Iron, Iron: The Hancock Dynasty’, allowed Rinehart to tell her story from her perspective. Broadcast on 6 and 13 July, they were unlikely to have occurred without the impetus of House of Hancock.38

Australian Docudramas: Legal, Historical and Journalistic Issues

Television drama is expensive to produce. Its expense makes it an unappealing investment for commercial Australian television networks, required by the Australian Content Standard to screen minimum levels of new Australian drama each year. According to Screen Australia’s most recent report on drama, in 2014–15, there were forty-seven Australian dramas on television, spanning 517 hours and reflecting an investment of $299 million. This represented a decrease from 2013–14, when television networks broadcast fifty-one Australian dramas across 603 hours, reflecting an investment of $343 million.39 Given the expense and risk involved in Australian television drama it is understandable that Australian television networks and producers are drawn to docudrama. The genre has the advantage that the people and events are usually known to at least a substantial proportion of the audience.

House of Hancock was not the only high-rating Australian docudrama screened in 2015. In May of that year Channel Seven broadcast Catching Milat, about the notorious ‘Backpacker Murderer’, Ivan Milat. In September the same network broadcast Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, and in November Channel Ten broadcast Mary: The Making of a Princess, a telemovie about how Mary Donaldson from Tasmania met and married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Over the past eight years, commercial networks and public broadcasters alike, free-to-air and pay television, have released a substantial number of docudramas, including: Hawke (2010); Killing Time (2011); Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo (2011); Beaconsfield (2012); Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War (2012); Underground: The Julian Assange Story (2012); Paper Giants: Magazine Wars (2013); Carlotta (2014); INXS: Never Tear Us Apart (2014); Schapelle (2014); and seven years of Underbelly, from 2008 onwards. The programs’ and producers’ interest in docudramas shows no sign of abating, with Channel Seven already promoting its next fact-based miniseries, based on the life and times of Countdown presenter and Australian music legend, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. Biopics based on Paul Hogan, Olivia Newton-John and Peter Brock are also in development for 2016. It seems that no celebrity life story will not be considered for screening to audiences.

Like House of Hancock, many of these docudramas have occasioned legal controversy. The first series of Underbelly, depicting the Melbourne gangland wars, in which thirty-six underworld figures were killed between 1998 and 2010, was suppressed by court order in Victoria so as not to prejudice Evangelos Goussis’s trial for the murder of Lewis Moran.40 Even after the conviction of Goussis for this crime, the arrest and extradition of Tony Mokbel back to Victoria meant that the uncut version of Underbelly could only be broadcast and released on DVD in Victoria three years after it had been aired throughout the rest of Australia. Killing Time also encountered legal difficulties due to its potential prejudice of a criminal trial. The series dealt with the spectacular fall from grace of high-profile criminal defence lawyer Andrew Fraser, played by David Wenham. The initial airing on pay television channel TV1, was delayed due to a concern that it would prejudice the trial of Peter Dupas for the 1997 murder of Mersina Halvagis.41 The subsequent rebroadcast of Killing Time on free-to-air network Channel Seven was the subject of an application for an injunction. Dupas unsuccessfully tried to have the rebroadcast stopped on the basis that he had an appeal against his conviction and sentence pending and, if the appeal were allowed, there would be a retrial which might be prejudiced.42

The legal risk most frequently posed by docudramas, though, is defamation. The second entry in the Underbelly franchise, The Golden Mile, raised a similar issue to that in the House of Hancock litigation. Former Kings Cross police officer, Wendy Hatfield, suspected that a character based on her in the series defamed her. She sought access to the episodes prior to screening. (The character, ‘Wendy Jones’, was shown having a sexual relationship with colourful Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim, whilst she was a serving political officer.) She was refused access to the tapes and had to wait until the episodes were broadcast.43 Hatfield then sued for defamation. The claim against Channel Nine was eventually settled.44 She also sued separately the publisher of the tie-in book, for defamation, and reportedly settled those proceedings on equally favourable terms.45 Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo also encountered defamation problems, again due to thinly veiled fictionalisation of a character. Alasdair Macdonald, Ita Buttrose’s ex-husband, sued the ABC for defamation over the way in which he was portrayed in the series and, specifically, their marriage breakdown. In the series, his character was simply referred to as ‘Mac’, but this did not stop him from being identifiable. The ABC settled the proceedings on confidential terms, also apologising unreservedly to Macdonald in open court.46

House of Hancock spurred a debate about the ethics of docudrama. The former host of Media Watch, Jonathan Holmes, writing in The Age, asked “what, exactly, are these series? Are they fact or fiction?” He complained that there is no way for the viewer to distinguish between the two. Consequently, Holmes had no sympathy for the legal travails the network and the producers found themselves in. In Holmes’ view, House of Hancock “broke one of the fundamental ethical rules of real-life drama: it was made without the consent of its principal characters”. He argued that, although the public may be interested in the lives of Lang Hancock, Gina Rinehart and Rose Porteous, there was no legitimate public interest in their story. In his view, people portrayed thus had only one option, which was to sue for defamation, and they were entitled to do so.47 Television critic for The Age, Debi Enker, writing in ‘The Green Guide’, responded that Holmes’ view was “an ill-considered position, one that would never be applied to newsgathering, current affairs coverage, or unauthorised biographies”. However, none of the genres Enker cites claims to have a dramatised or fictionalised element to them. More convincingly, Enker pointed to the long cinematic tradition of the biopic, of which The Queen, The Social Network, Chopper and The Iron Lady were the most recent examples.48

Television biopics are likely to be a mainstay of programming well into the future. Australian audiences have demonstrated their appetite for seeing such stories. Inevitably, though, the legal issues and ethical debates which accompany real-life dramas are also bound to continue.


1Holly Byrnes, ‘Mother, monster, magnate Gina Rinehart’s bitter battle with children will air in mini-series’, The Daily Telegraph, 11 February 2013, p.5; Michael Idato, ‘Race to televise Gina’s story’, The Age, 11 February 2013, p.3.

2Michael Idato, ‘Hancock-Rinehart drama to hit the small screen’, The Canberra Times, 19 August 2013, p. 3; Holly Richards, ‘Filming the Birth of a WA Business Dynasty’, The West Australian, 20 August 2013, p. 2.

3Michael Idato, ‘Hancock-Rinehart drama to hit the small screen’; Holly Richards, ‘Filming the Birth of a WA Business Dynasty’, The West Australian, 20 August 2013, p.2.

4Colin Vickery, ‘Mandy turns mining magnate’, The Herald-Sun, 14 August 2014, p.2.

5Colin Vickery, ‘Family millions and forbidden love’, The Sunday Times (Perth), 17 August 2014, p.20.

6Amy Croffey, ‘From Rhonda to Rinehart! First look at a fuller figured Mandy McElhinney as Australia’s richest woman Gina for telemovie The House of Hancock’, The Daily Mail (Australia), 28 August 2014.

7Marni Dixit, ‘Channel Nine debuts new dramatic House of Hancock trailer featuring Mandy McElhinney as mining heiress Gina Rinehart and Sam Neill as her father Lang Hancock’, The Daily Mail (Australia), 17 January 2015.

8Siobhan Duck, ‘Bid to stop Rose show’, The Herald-Sun, 27 January 2015, p.12; Adele Ferguson, ‘What’s next for House of Hancock?’, The Australian Financial Review, 9 February 2015, p.40.

9David Knox, ‘Sunday 8 February 2015: Ratings’,

10David Knox, ‘Timeshifted: Sunday 8 February 2015’,

11Michael Lallo, ‘First look at House of Hancock, the epic story of Gina Rinehart, Lang Hancock and Rose Lacson’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 2015.

12David Knox, ‘House of Hancock’,

13Miranda Devine, ‘Trashy biopic slur to Gina’, Sunday Telegraph, 8 February 2015, p.17.

14Andrew Bolt, ‘How can Channel 9 punch a woman like this?’, 9 February 2015,

15Sharri Markson and Darren Davidson, ‘The Diary’, The Australian, 9 February 2015, p.24; Amanda Meade, ‘Gina Rinehart aide slams Nine’s “tacky” dramatisation of Hancock dynasty’, The Guardian (Australia), 10 February 2015; Richard Noone, ‘House of Hogwash’, The Daily Telegraph, 10 February 2015, p.11.

16Danielle Gusmaroli, ‘“It’s an explosive Dallas-type drama grounded in truth”: House of Hancock director Michael Cordell hits back at Gina Rinehart’s claims hit TV show is “tacky”’, The Daily Mail (Australia), 11 February 2015; Amanda Meade, ‘Gina Rinehart wins permission to watch The House of Hancock early’, The Guardian (Australia), 13 February 2015.

17Rinehart v Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd [2015] NSWSC 239, [12]-[13] (Garling J).

18Louise Hall, Jenna Clarke and Michael Lallo, ‘Rinehart threatens to block biopic’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 2015, p.3; Amanda Meade, ‘Gina Rinehart wins permission to watch The House of Hancock early’.

19Rinehart v Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd [2015] NSWSC 239, [56] (Garling J). See also ibid, [26]-[28].

20David Rolph, ‘Showing Restraint: Interlocutory injunctions in defamation cases’ (2009) 14 Media and Arts Law Review 255 at 275.

21Australian Broadcasting Corporation v O’Neill (2006) 227 CLR 57 at 86-87 per Gummow and Hayne JJ; [2006] HCA 46.

22Ibid, [57].

23Ibid, [62].

24Ibid, [66].

25Brenden Hills, ‘Gina made Nine fix Hancock TV biopic’, The Sunday Telegraph, 15 February 2015, p.19; Linda Morris, ‘Rinehart reaches settlement with Nine over TV mini-series’, The Canberra Times, 15 February 2015, p.3; Jamelle Wells and Claire Aird, ‘Gina Rinehart and Channel Nine reached confidential agreement on House of Hancock TV series’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation News (online), 14 February 2015.

26David Knox, ‘Sunday 15 February 2015: Ratings’,

27David Knox, ‘Timeshifted: Sunday 15 February 2015’,

28‘Not scene or heard’, The Courier-Mail, 16 February 2015, p.15.

29Leo Shanahan, ‘Gina’s cuts “not for accuracy”, The Australian, 17 February 2015, p.3.

30Michael Bodey, ‘Rinehart to sue Nine over series’, The Australian, 2 March 2015, p.23; Louise Hall, ‘Rinehart to sue Nine for defamation over TV series’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2015, p.2; Amanda Meade, ‘Gina Rinehart moves to stop release of uncut House of Hancock DVD’, The Guardian (Australia), 2 March 2015.

31Louise Hall, ‘Rinehart to sue House of Hancock producers’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 June 2015, p.15; Marianna Papadakis, ‘Rinehart mounts claim against Nine’, The Australian Financial Review, 18 July 2015, p.6.

32Marianna Papadakis, ‘Rinehart mounts claim against Nine’, The Australian Financial Review, 18 July 2015, p.6.

33(2001) 208 CLR 199 at 225-26 per Gleeson CJ, at 250 per Gummow and Hayne JJ; [2001] HCA 63.

34Grosse v Purvis (2003) Aust Torts Reports 81-706; [2003] QDC 151; Doe v Australian Broadcasting Corporation [2007] VCC 281.

35See, for example, Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457; Douglas v Hello! Ltd [2006] QB 125; HRH Prince of Wales v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2008] Ch 57; Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2008] EWHC 1777 (QB); Murray v Express Newspapers plc [2009] Ch 481; AAA v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 554. The cases involving footballers are too numerous to mention.

36Marianna Papadakis, ‘Setback for Rinehart’s case against Channel Nine’, The Australian Financial Review, 19 September 2015, p.10.

37David Rolph, Reputation, Celebrity and Defamation Law, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2008, p.184.


39Screen Australia, Drama Report: Production of feature films and TV drama in Australia 2014/15, p.10,

40See X v General Television Corporation Pty Ltd (2008) 187 A Crim R 33 at 541 per Vickery J; General Television Corporation v Director of Public Prosecutions (2008) 19 VR 68 at 88 per curiam. See also David Rolph and Jacqueline Mowbray, ‘“It’s A Jungle Out There”: The Legal Implications of Underbelly’ (2009) 18(1) Communications Law Bulletin 10 at 13.

41Karl Quinn, ‘True crime drama pulled from schedule over legal fears’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 August 2010.

42Dupas v Channel Seven Melbourne Pty Ltd [2012] VSC 486 at 24 per Kyrou J.

43Hatfield v TCN Channel Nine Pty Ltd (2010) 77 NSWLR 506 at 531 per McColl JA.

44Lisa Davies, ‘Former police officer Wendy Hatfield claims court victory over Underbelly’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 15 November 2011.

45Lisa Davies, ‘Ex-cop Wendy Hatfield wins Underbelly cash payout’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 22 December 2010.

46Louise Hall, ‘ABC apology to Buttrose’s ex-husband read in court’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 2012.

47Jonathan Holmes, ‘Real-life TV stories need to get the facts right’, The Age, 25 February 2015, p.45.

48Debi Enker, ‘Real-life TV a risky business’, The Age, ‘Green Guide’, 19 March 2015, p.6.

Small Screens

   by Michelle Arrow, Jeannine Baker and Clare Monagle