Nobody wants their dirty laundry aired on telly, least
of all Gina Rinehart. So it wasn't surprising that she took
issue with Nine's TV miniseries House of Hancock.
A couple of weeks back she sought an urgent injunction to get
hold of the second episode before it aired, on the grounds that it
was likely to defame her. Nine eventually agreed to edit some
scenes and include a disclaimer saying that some events were
That's not the end of it though. Rinehart is continuing
action against Nine to seek damages based on a number of alleged
falsities in the miniseries.
Mixing fact and fiction is a dangerous game, defamation-wise.
And disclaimers won't necessarily get you off the hook. Here is
Claiming that a publication is obviously false or fictitious
(and therefore not defamatory) is not a great defence. It might
work for the most literal imputations but probably not for the
broader ones. E.g. when the Chaser guys published a fake picture of
a journalist getting it on with a dog, the Court accepted that
nobody would actually think the journalist got it on with dogs, but
said it was arguable that people would think he was a generally
A disclaimer saying that a publication is fictitious won't
necessarily improve your position. Whether a defamatory meaning
remains is ultimately a question of balance, looking at the whole
publication. E.g. Triple J couldn't avoid an injunction to stop
it playing 'Backdoor Man' by Pauline Pantsdown (a satirical
song about Pauline Hanson) by warning listeners that the song was
satirical and not meant to be taken seriously.
Nine might have a tough time with this claim. Whatever the
outcome, if it gets to a judgment it will be an important precedent
for publishers. We'll keep you posted.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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