An outback mega-mine owned by Gina Rinehart and run by a notorious climate denier has been spruiking Covid-19 misinformation – but Australia’s richest person has moved to ensure she doesn’t pay a cent if people actually follow the potentially dangerous advice.
Rinehart’s Roy Hill, one of Australia’s biggest mining operations, has published Sky News Australia content spruiking a Covid-19 hydroxychloroquine “cure”, including a video deleted by the media group after it was banned by Google’s You Tube for spreading misinformation.
Presented as “news releases”, the $10 billion Roy Hill has published videos of Sky News commentators Andrew Bolt and Rowan Dean advocating the unproven remedy and attacking medical authorities for blocking it.
“Yet Rinehart appears to have little desire to put her money where her mouth is”
In one of the videos, Bolt calls for an alleged Covid-19 treatment “hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin plus zinc”, attacks Australian health authorities for “patronisingly dismissing potential treatments” and interviews a Sydney gastroenterologist, Professor Thomas Borody, who has been heavily spruiking an ivermectin “remedy”.
Last month Guardian Australiarevealed Borody had filed a US patent for the same treatment, allowing him to profit from it, but had failed to disclose that information.
In another video – one of 30-odd since deleted by Sky News owner News Corporation after it received a temporary You Tube ban in August – Dean declares hydroxychloroquine “saves lives”.
“The jury is in and the jury says categorically hydroxychloroquine saves lives and Australians must be given access to this drug,” Dean says.
Gina Rinehart visits the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Source: Roy Hill
One of the two Roy Hill media releases. published under the “News and Media Releases” section of its website, contains a link to a video from a fringe US group called the “Alliance for Human Research Protection”.
It alleges, among other things, that a “false Covid-19 narrative” had been created and that US government officials engaged in “collusion to demonise an effective medicine”.
Yet Rinehart, Australia’s richest person with an estimated wealth of $31 billion (US$22.2 billion) – and who has a history of peddling potentially dangerous conspiracy theories – appears to have little desire to put her money where her mouth is.
Each of media releases contains a highly unusual, 330-word, “disclaimer”, purporting to absolve Rinehart of any responsibility should members of the public follow the advice.
“Mrs Gina Rinehart, Hancock prospecting Pty Ltd, its directors, officers, its subsidiaries and related entities take no responsibility for the veracity of the information shown above and to the fullest extent possible disclaim all and any liability,” the disclaimer says.
“Any direct, indirect, special, exemplary or other damages or negative health effects that may arise” from “utilising any of the above information” should any “individual choose to follow any part of the above information”, it says.
“Mrs Gina Rinehart, Hancock prospecting Pty Ltd, its directors, officers, its subsidiaries and related entities take no responsibility for the veracity of the information shown above” — Roy Hill
The Roy Hill homepage. Source: Roy Hill
Rinehart and her related companies are more likely to be successfully sued for spreading misinformation that causes death or injury than Bolt, Dean or Sky News, who have greater legal defences on grounds of being “media”.
Roy Hill and Rinehart did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Klaxon over several months.
The Covid-19 Roy Hill “news releases” were posted on August 31 and September 9 last year.
Both remain on the company’s site, although the link to one of the Sky News videos is inactive.
That video was one of the 30-odd deleted by Sky News and its parent company, News Corporation Australia, after the You Tube ban.
You Tube, owned by Google, banned Sky News Australia in August for breaching its medical misinformation rules by posting multiple videos which encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin, or which denied the existence of Covid-19 entirely.
Last month it emerged Rinehart had given a speech to high school students where she attacked climate change “propaganda” and boasted that she had previously helped convince students that climate change was not human induced.
Last year Rinehart wrote to Roy Hill employees and recommended they drink hot water twice daily “with fresh lemon pieces or juice and honey to taste” because “Covid-19 does not like heat”.
Roy Hill’s directors include Ian Plimer, a notorious climate change denier.
Last year News Corporation’s The Australian newspaper was forced to run a lengthy public notice after publishing an article by Plimer which claimed there “are no carbon emissions”.
The media releases on the Roy Hill website. Source: Roy Hill
Plimer also made reference to “unsubstantiated claims polar ice is melting” and “fraudulent changing of past weather records”.
The Australian Press Council found the newspaper breached two of the “general principles of reporting” including “ensuring factual material is accurate, (principle 1)” and ensuring facts are presented with reasonable fairness and balance and that opinion is based on fact.
Climate scientists described the Plimer article as “blatantly false”.
Plimer also declined to comment.
The Roy Hill homepage. Source: Roy Hill
The disclaimers on the two Roy Hill media releases state: “Do not use the above information to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, sickness or ailment, for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for the advice of a health professional”.
“Individuals using the above information do so at their sole risk and they together with their family, agents, executors and assigns fully release and hold harmless Mrs Gina Rinehart, Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd, its directors, officers, subsidiaries and related entities from any claims, damages, distress or otherwise that may be suffered, arise or be caused in any way whatsoever from following, relying on, or in anyway whatsoever reading or using the information above,” they state.
Sky News Australia has 1.85 million You Tube subscribers.
News of its You Tube ban emerged the same day that Sky News launched a new free-to-air channel across regional Australia, called Sky News Regional.
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull are pushing for a Royal Commission into media diversity, largely due to highly-unethical practices allegedly engaged in by News Corporation Australia.
A petition by Rudd for a Royal Commission attracted more than 500,000 supporters, more than any other in the nation’s history.
Australia has one of the most highly-concentrated media sectors in the democratic world and along with Sky News, News Corporation controls about 70% of the newspaper market – including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun and The Courier Mail.
News Corporation Australia is owned by US-based parent News Corporation, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Sky News Australia is seeking to replicate Fox News in the US, which is also owned by News Corporation.
Fox News runs highly-partisan “right-wing” content.
Experts say Fox News programming is one of the biggest factors behind extreme political polarisation in the US.
That extreme polarisation has contributed substantially to the country’s diminishing authority on the global stage.
Fox News has been sued in the US over broadcasts that claimed Covid-19 was a “hoax” in editorial decisions plaintiffs allege “potentially undermined efforts to slow the spread of the disease”.
The US has seen 48 million cases of Covid-19 and recorded 777,000 Covid-19 deaths.
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