THE editor of the Kerry Stokes-controlled West Australian newspaper says he will "do everything possible" to protect his journalists' confidential sources in reporting Gina Rinehart's legal battle with her children over the family's $17 billion fortune.
Lawyers for Mrs Rinehart's company, Hancock Prospecting, have demanded that The West Australian reveal correspondence between its reporters and Mrs Rinehart's children in the days before legal action was launched in September last year.
The Supreme Court of Western Australia has issued a subpoena ordering the newspaper to hand over "a copy of all recordings . . . or notes of conversations, made on or after 4 September 2011, between Steve Pennells or any journalist employed or contracted by West Australian Newspapers Limited".
Yesterday, editor Brett McCarthy said the newspaper would fight to ensure its sources remained private.
"We will do everything we can . . . to protect any confidential source the newspaper has used in relation to the Rinehart matter," he said.
In 2006 Mrs Rinehart and her four children signed an agreement, the Hope Downs Deed, which bound the children to secrecy. John Hancock, Bianca Rinehart, Hope Rinehart Welker and Ginia Rinehart were to have begun receiving millions of dollars in distributions in January, provided they kept details confidential.
Details became public after a suppression order was lifted. Mrs Rinehart is seeking to discover if any correspondence occurred before the dispute came to court. This would be considered a breach of the deed and would trigger a clause forcing the parties into confidential arbitration. The children want the fight over control of the trust to be litigated in open court.
Meanwhile, Mrs Rinehart is reportedly considering backing a move by Macquarie Radio Network to buy Fairfax Media's radio assets.
Mrs Rinehart, who has a 12.6 per cent stake in Fairfax, is believed to have requested two board seats at the company, it was reported in The Australian yesterday.
It is believed she aims to use the seats to influence the board into accepting an offer from John Singleton's Macquarie Radio Network to acquire Fairfax's radio interests.
But a spokesman for Fairfax, owner of The Saturday Age, told the newspaper the stations were no longer for sale and the network had been integrated into the rest of the business.
A Fairfax insider also rebuffed claims that company chairman Roger Corbett had offered Mrs Rinehart a board seat.
News Ltd reported that Mrs Rinehart discussed taking a 15 per cent share in Macquarie last year in order to help Mr Singleton expand his network, which includes 2GB and 2CH.
An unnamed source at Macquarie reportedly said Mr Singleton had bought the Smart Radio Group in regional Queensland in September to keep Mrs Rinehart happy in advance of a push for Fairfax's radio network.