IPA and Gina Rinehart

In an ideal world, IPA would stand for India Pale Ale.

Unfortunately, in Australia it also stands for the right-wing “think-tank” the Institute of Public Affairs.

Like Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute, the IPA is coy about its funding sources. The cat is now a little more out of the bag as a by-product of the Rinehart litigation, the subject of my running post (because it just keeps growing) Deep Pockets.

I updated that post on 17/18 July to take account of the latest interlocutory skirmish. It is worth repeating what I wrote:

 

As trustee for The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust (the HMH Trust), pursuant to s 247A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) Bianca is applying for access to the books of HPPL. That is part of (2) in Justice Ward’s list of applications above. This is an information-gathering prelude to her application for leave to bring proceedings on behalf of HPPL against Gina and others for breach of their duties to HPPL.  One claim is that Gina has been getting HPPL to make substantial donations which are for her own purposes and not for the purposes of HPPL.  Bianca already has obtained information (supposing that to be true) from the HPPL camp about donations which have been made, though not about their purposes.

Bianca applied to the court to issue subpoenas, duly issued, to recipients of such donations – a mysterious foundation called the CEF trust, which looks very much like a vehicle for making donations opaque, the IPA and (joker in the pack) Barnaby Joyce.  Joyce, you may recall, made unwelcome (to John, Bianca and Hope) interventions on Gina’s behalf at the outset of this dispute, and has shown signs of being very much in Gina’s pocket from time to time (even if he realised he had to return that $40K “prize”).

CEF applied to have the subpoena set aside.  HPPL took a more complicated path: obtained first access to the documents produced by IPA and without actually applying for the subpoena to be set aside, applied for access to be withheld from other parties (chiefly, Bianca).  Barnaby Joyce produced one document which the judge inspected and said didn’t ven respond to the subpoena.

In the end her Honour set aside the subpoenas as too broad and speculative.  What in the trade is called “a fishing expedition.”  That is:

51      Rinehart v Rinehart [2018] NSWSC 1102

Thinking of Ward J’s decisions in the Dungowan Manly case, I can’t say that the winds seem favourable for any kind of derivative action – Ward J is not one to jump readily from dark suspicion (even if the plaintiff says it sticks out like dog’s balls) to  dark conclusions against those in control of a company.

However, the judgment does contain this little nugget of information about Gina and the IPA:

  1. Again, by way of background, IPA was founded in 1943 (see its 2017 Annual Report, Exhibit C p 52). It was described in the course of submissions on the present application as a “conservative think tank”. The objective of the Institute is said, in its 2017 annual report, to be to further the individual, social, political and economic freedom of the Australian people. Its 2017 annual report discloses that:

The Institute of Public Affairs relies entirely on the voluntary financial contributions that are freely donated by the members and supporters of the Institute.

86 per cent of the IPA’s revenue is donated by individuals, 12 per cent is received from foundations, 1 per cent from businesses, and 1 per cent from other sources such as interest. The IPA neither seeks nor receives any funding from government. In addition to the membership fees contributed by IPA members, the IPA received 2,913 separate donations during 2016-17.

At the end of 2017 the IPA had over 4,500 members, including more than 1,000 IPA Young Members.

  1. The 2017 Annual Report also discloses that in November 2016 the Board of Directors of IPA bestowed Honorary Life Membership of IPA on three individuals, one of whom was Mrs Gina Rinehart, “in recognition of the commitment these three great Australians have made to the work of the Institute of Public Affairs over many years” (see Exhibit C p 62).
  2. In the schedule of HPPL donations and sponsorships provided to Bianca’s solicitors, it is disclosed that HPPL paid or provided amounts to IPA in a total of $2.3 million for the 2016 financial year and $2.2 million in the 2017 financial year. The annual reports of IPA for those years do not mention HPPL as a donor and the figures set out in the reports record that the vast majority of donations were received from individuals. Bianca submits that the inference to be drawn therefrom is that Gina herself has been credited by IPA for HPPL’s donations.

Just think of who is writing those cheques (or at least at whose direction they are written) the next time an IPA person pops up (as they so often do) on “our” ABC.

However, the mainstream press coverage, I think nearly all sourced from AAP, concentrated entirely on the “Barnaby Joyce” aspect of the subpoena, as per this example from the Guardian on 17 July.  It wasn’t until 20 July that The Guardian twigged to the IPA funding disclosure, followed by The Saturday Paper on its front page last weekend.  Now everyone knows and Ellen Fanning used it as a line of questioning to which Georgina Downer did not entirely satisfactorily respond on The Drum last night.

I guess this just shows how journalism resources are stretched, as well as a ball well and truly dropped at AAP.

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