Reinhart reportedly bringing privacy related action against Channel Nine

July 21, 2015 |

The Australian Financial Review in Gina Rinehart mounts privacy claim against Channel Nine that Ms Rinehart is seeking to bring a privacy related action against the television network.

The article provides:

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart’s law suit against Channel Nine could become a test case for the establishment of a privacy tort in Australia, privacy experts say.

Mrs Rinehart is suing Channel Nine and production company Cordell Jigsaw over the broadcast of hit TV mini-series House of Hancock, claiming injurious falsehood, misleading and deceptive conduct, and now a new claim for invasion of privacy.

The mining magnate claims the two-part series, which ran on February 7 and 14, published private information. Mrs Rinehart is seeking damages and a permanent injunction to prevent the program and unedited cuts being broadcast again.

Representing Cordell Jigsaw, which was joined to the proceedings on Friday, barrister Sandy Dawson told the NSW Supreme Court some of Mrs Rinehart’s claims were “novel” but her own barrister Sue Chrysanthou? shot back that they might want to see what their position is after receiving particulars of the claims.

The matter will return to court on 18 September.

The programs focused on the epic feud between the late Lang Hancock (played by Sam Neill), his wife Rose Lacson (Peta Sergeant) and Mrs Rinehart between (Mandy McElhinney) 1980 and 2002. Mrs Rinehart sought and won an advance viewing of the final part of the program before it aired and a confidential settlement was negotiated that enabled the episode to air with a raft of scenes edited out.

If Mrs Rinehart’s privacy claim was successful it could lead to the development of a common law tort of privacy in Australia, giving an avenue for the rich and famous to sue media organisations for the publication of salacious details about their lives.

University of Sydney media law expert, associate professor David Rolph said while there had been lots of activity around reform to privacy laws in the past 10 years, there remained gaps. Dr Rolph said a high-profile litigant such as Mrs Rinehart could be just the case to help develop the law.

“British law developed because of celebrities and high-profile litigants brought cases that developed the principles and defined boundaries,” Dr Rolph said.

“Because it is such a novel and underdeveloped area it is entirely unclear how a court would deal with it. Going on past cases, courts have been relatively reluctant but maybe that’s just because they’ve been waiting for the right vehicle.”

Co-convenor of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community David Vaile agreed that Mrs Rinehart could be the one to take action further, saying however it was established, a privacy tort would bring Australia into line with laws already established in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Mr Vaile said major political parties had sat on their hands on the issue despite two reviews by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2008 and most recently last year that recommended in favour of a statutory right to sue for a serious invasion of privacy.

He said if the ALRC recommendations were in force, it could boil down to what public interest there was in the publication.

“Although she’s a pubic figure not everything she does could fall within media exception proposed by the ALRC, including things that people have said to each other in private that might be scandalous and entertaining.”

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