Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart has launched a flank attack on her wilful children, threatening to cut off their insurance against ransom if they do not agree to keep family disputes secret.
Rinehart, daughter of pioneering mining magnate Lang Hancock, is the nation's richest person and is increasing her potential influence even further with significant stakes in the Ten Network and the Fairfax group.
She is now fighting efforts by media organisations - including Fairfax - to allow reporting of the bid by her three eldest children to remove her as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock trust.
The trust, established by Hancock for Rinehart's four children, holds about 25 per cent of the family company. Hope Rinehart Welker, John Langley Hancock and Bianca Hope Rinehart have taken their mother to court. Ginia Rinehart, 25, the youngest daughter, opposes her siblings' action.
Last week Rinehart asked the NSW Supreme Court to suppress reporting of documents related to the case on the grounds that the safety of the family would be put at risk.
Lawyers produced a security risk assessment warning that Rinehart and her children would be placed at risk from "criminals and deranged persons" if case details were published.
The court found suppression of the documents was not necessary to protect their safety, allowing international publication of correspondence including emails begging money to pay for bodyguards and household staff.
The order will be argued again in the High Court on March 9.
Yesterday Fairfax newspapers reported that Rinehart had threatened to withdraw the ransom insurance policy taken out to protect her three oldest children if their lawyers did not reverse their opposition to the suppression order before a NSW Supreme Court duty judge.
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted a letter from Rinehart's lawyer to their counsel, concluding that the children's failure to support her application for suppression indicated they were no longer worried about their security.
"We can only presume that your clients' previously stated concerns for the personal safety of their families and themselves have now completely and entirely disappeared," Paul McCann, a partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, said in the letter cited by the SMH. "Under these circumstances, it seems your clients would place no value in the continuation of 'ransom insurance' that is currently provided to them and/or their young children.
"Our client has been reluctant to discontinue the relevant insurance policies [but] given your clients' about-turn ... our client is now exposed to attack by your clients if she continues this insurance for them."