Rinehart bid for sources fails

Gina Rinehart

Gina Rinehart has lost her bid to force The West Australian to hand over information that could reveal a journalist's confidential sources.

Supreme Court Justice Janine Pritchard made final orders yesterday to set aside a subpoena relating to Mrs Rinehart's bitter multibillion-dollar legal battle with two of her children.

Another subpoena on journalist Steve Pennells, who won a Gold Walkley for reports about Mrs Rinehart's stoush with three of her children over a family trust, was withdrawn.

Tony McCarthy, general counsel for _The West _and Pennells, said the decision was an important recognition of the public interest in protecting journalists' sources under WA shield laws.

Justice Pritchard ordered Hancock Prospecting to pay half the costs of _The West' _s and Pennells' application to set aside the subpoenas.

The newspaper has agreed to provide documents with information already published in Pennells' articles to an arbitrator but opposed Hancock Prospecting's attempt to force it to hand over documents which would reveal confidential sources.

The subpoenas, served in March last year, sought copies of confidential letters, faxes, emails, legal advice, memorandums, text messages, recordings and other communications between Pennells and Mrs Rinehart's son John Hancock.

Mrs Rinehart's company Hancock Prospecting argued the items were relevant to closed arbitration proceedings, which allege breaches of confidentiality clauses.

The final orders yesterday came after Justice Pritchard's decision last month that making _The West _comply with the subpoena would undermine State shield laws.

She ruled, in part, that the subpoena was oppressive and an abuse of process having regard to the shield laws.

The court was told a resolution of Mrs Rinehart's case against Fairfax journalist Adele Ferguson was possible after yesterday's decision.

Fairfax Media and Ferguson, who wrote an unauthorised biography of Mrs Rinehart, are fighting similar subpoenas.

Yesterday, David Studdy, for Hancock Prospecting, requested the Ferguson matter be stood aside for two weeks to see if it could be resolved.

It will return to court on September 24.