Barnaby Joyce intervention in Rinehart dispute ‘dangerous’, says John Hancock (UK)

Gina Rinehart’s estranged son John Hancock has lashed out at the agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce for weighing in on a family dispute, saying the intervention was “dangerous” and that the minister had been “manipulated” by the mining magnate.

A bitter four-year dispute between Rinehart and her children was resolved on Thursday, after the New South Wales supreme court ruled the billionaire’s oldest daughter Bianca take control of the family’s $4bn trust fund.

Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, whose wealth is valued at $14bn, was due to relinquish control of the trust when her youngest child, Ginia, turned 25. Just days before her birthday, Rinehart secretly changed the terms of the trust to have control for another 50 years.

Three of her four children had brought forward a case to gain access to the trust, but one daughter, Hope, pulled out after Rinehart gave her a loan worth $45m.

Thursday’s judgment noted that Gina Rinehart “has repeatedly, directly, or through her lawyers, or through other influential connections, sought to deter the plaintiffs from prosecuting [the case], by measures some of which closely approach intimidation”.

“These commenced shortly after the proceedings were commenced, and continued at least until the eve of Bianca giving evidence at the second hearing,” it continues. “On 11 September, Senator Barnaby Joyce sent Hope an email calculated to dissuade her from continuing the litigation. On 19 September, Mr Alby Schultz MP sent an email to Hope to similar effect.”

Joyce sent the email in 2011, before the Coalition was in power and before he was a minister.

Hancock told ABC Radio on Friday that the intervention by the now agriculture minister is “nothing short of dangerous”.

“Coming from his government email, I just think it’s extraordinary. This character sits three chairs down from the prime minister,” Hancock said. “It’s been incredible the people that have come out and these senior politicians commenting on things that they either knew nothing about or have been manipulated to write to my younger sister.”

He told the Australian newspaper that “Barnaby Joyce’s involvement in this has been extraordinary pressure on us”.

“[His involvement] is a dangerous example of a senior politician prepared to jump off a cliff without checking for rocks below. How he could endorse my mother’s conduct by writing from his government email pushing my little sister to drop the case is outrageous.”

A spokesman for Joyce said the email was designed to encourage the family to resolve the dispute “in-house and out of public view”.

“It would be a paradox now to comment publicly in the media about a family dispute which in his letter expressed then Senator Joyce’s advice that there should be no public comment,” the spokesman said.

The opposition leader Bill Shorten said Joyce should have stayed out. “Barnaby Joyce seems to have an opinion about everything but his day job. If it’s not Johnny Depp’s dogs, it’s interfering in an acrimonious fight. I would say to Barnaby Joyce: please focus on your day job,” Shorten told reporters on Friday.

Joyce is a long-time friend of the billionaire businesswoman. In 2011, Rinehart flew Joyce and other Coalition MPs to India to attend a business acquaintance’s wedding, and was in the chamber when Joyce gave his maiden speech in the House of Representatives in 2013.

It is likely that Rinehart will appeal the court’s decision, but family friend Alan Camp told ABC TV he is confident that the family can move past the dispute.

“They are all robust individuals and once resolved, everything will be resolved,” he said.

Attribution:

Barnaby Joyce intervention in Rinehart dispute ‘dangerous’, says John Hancock
Hancock, Gina Rinehart’s son, says minister’s email attempt to dissuade his sister from litigation was ‘outrageous’ and shows he was ‘manipulated’
Shalailah Medhora
May 28, 2015
The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/29/barnaby-joyce-intervention-in-rinehart-dispute-dangerous-says-john-hancock

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