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New South Wales
Rinehart v Rinehart (No 2)
Medium Neutral Citation:
 NSWSC 235
On the papers
23 March 2020
Ward CJ in Eq
In proceedings 2017/86718
1. Subject to further order, pursuant to s 8(1)(a) and (e) of the Court Suppression and Non-publication Orders Act 2010 (NSW), order that paragraphs 14 to 17 of the affidavit sworn 28 February 2020 by Timothy Ignatius L’Estrange be kept confidential and not be made available nor disclosed to any person other than the legal representatives of the parties in connection with this proceeding anywhere in the Commonwealth for a period of five years.
2. Pursuant to s 26 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW), order the parties to mediation, such mediation to take place within three months of the making of these orders.
3. Order that the costs of the mediation (namely, the fees and disbursements of the mediator or mediators and any venue, equipment, or related service costs) are to be dealt with in accordance with order 2 of the orders made today in proceedings 2011/285907.
4. Direct the parties to seek to agree on (and jointly to appoint) a mediator or mediators for the purposes of the said mediation within one month of the making of these orders and direct the parties to notify the associate to Ward CJ in Eq by 17 April 2020 of the agreed identity of the said mediator(s) or, failing agreement, their proposed choice of mediator(s) (in which case Ward CJ in Eq will nominate the mediator(s) to be appointed).
5. Direct the parties, within seven days of the conclusion of the mediation, the parties are to inform the associate to Ward CJ in Eq as to whether settlement has been reached at the mediation and of any orders sought to be made in relation to the proceedings in that regard.
6. Liberty to the parties to apply to the associate to Ward CJ in Eq on three days’ notice.
7. Order Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, to pay the costs of the defendants of, and incidental to, the second defendant’s amended notice of motion dated 15 July 2019 and filed on 16 July 2019, and the first defendant’s amended notice of motion dated 26 June 2019 (including the hearings of 23 May 2017, 27-28 August 2018, and 15-19, 23 and 25 July 2019), such costs to be paid on an indemnity basis and to be payable forthwith.
8. Order Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, to pay the costs of the first defendant (on the ordinary basis and payable forthwith) of the hearings to set aside subpoenas issued by Bianca Hope Rinehart in these proceedings to the Institute of Public Affairs, CEF Pty Ltd and the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 1102).
9. Order that the existing costs orders made in favour of the second defendant in respect of its application to set aside a notice to produce issued to it by Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 759) be varied such that the costs be payable forthwith.
In proceedings 2011/285907
1. Pursuant to s 26 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW), order the parties to mediation, such mediation to take place within three months of the making of these orders.
2. Order that the costs of the mediation (namely, the fees and disbursements of the mediator or mediators and any venue, equipment or related service costs) be borne (subject to any agreement between all the relevant parties to the contrary) in equal one-sixth shares by each of the Rinehart family members (i.e., Bianca (in her personal capacity), John, Hope, Ginia and Gina) and Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd.
3. Direct the parties to seek to agree on (and jointly to appoint) a mediator or mediators for the purposes of the said mediation within one month of the making of these orders and direct the parties to notify the associate to Ward CJ in Eq by 17 April 2020 of the agreed identity of the said mediator(s) or, failing agreement, their proposed choice of mediator(s) (in which case Ward CJ in Eq will nominate the mediator(s) to be appointed).
4. Direct the parties within seven days of the conclusion of the mediation to inform the associate to Ward CJ in Eq as to whether a settlement has been reached at the mediation and of any orders sought to be made in relation to the proceedings in that regard.
5. Liberty to the parties to apply to the associate to Ward CJ in Eq on three days’ notice.
COSTS — Party/Party or indemnity basis — General rule that costs follow the event — Whether costs should be ordered on an indemnity basis — Whether costs should be paid forthwith
- HER HONOUR: On 14 February 2020 (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 68, to which I will refer as the February Judgment), I ruled on a number of interlocutory motions in an ongoing dispute involving members of the Rinehart family. As in earlier decisions involving these parties, I refer to the Rinehart family members by their first names.
- Relevantly, in 2017, after obtaining judicial advice to the effect that she would be justified in so doing (see Bianca Hope Rinehart trading as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust  NSWSC 282), Bianca commenced proceedings in this Court, in her capacity as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust (HMH Trust), against her mother (Gina) and others, seeking declaratory and other relief in relation to alleged oppressive conduct, breach of directors’ duties, and breach of contract in relation to matters occurring with respect to, among other things, the payment (or non-payment) of dividends by Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL) (this being proceeding no 2017/00086718, to which I will refer as the Oppression Proceeding).
- In an earlier proceeding, still not finally disposed of, to which I will refer as the Trustee Proceeding (proceeding no 2011/00285907), Bianca and her brother, John, had sought the removal of Gina as trustee of the HMH Trust; and, after Gina’s resignation as trustee and the appointment of Bianca as the replacement trustee, there were (and continue to be) disputes as to the documents required to be produced to Bianca by Gina as the outgoing trustee of the HMH Trust (or the process by which they are to be produced).
- By the time of the hearing before me in July last year, which culminated in the February Judgment, a number of interlocutory motions had been filed (some in the Trustee Proceeding and some in the Oppression Proceeding). The underlying substantive dispute by then was as to the claims made in the Oppression Proceeding, Bianca’s stated central aim in which proceeding being the recovery and protection of trust assets.
- For the reasons set out in the February Judgment, I referred the parties to arbitration in respect of all matters other than Bianca’s application for relief pursuant to s 247A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (the s 247A application), and I stayed the balance of the Oppression Proceeding pending the determination of that arbitration. I made various orders as to the disposal or stay of the then extant interlocutory motions and I directed the parties to file brief written submissions on two issues: first, as to the costs orders that should be made consequent upon the determination of the said motions and, second, as to my stated intention (of the Court’s own motion) to refer the parties to mediation (i.e., without having heard and determined on its merits the motion filed by Gina on 14 August 2018 in the Oppression Proceeding seeking that very relief).
- The parties filed brief submissions pursuant to the directions so made. Bianca then filed reply submissions on the costs issues and the defendants filed further submissions in response to Bianca’s reply submissions. Included among the initial round of submissions were brief submissions filed by the solicitor acting for Hope Rinehart Welker (the third defendant in the Trustee Proceeding), she being a respondent to Gina’s 14 August 2018 mediation motion, and one of the beneficiaries of the HMH Trust. Hope did not appear at the hearing of the stay applications before me in July last year but does wish to participate in any mediation that is ordered in respect of the underlying disputes (see her submissions below).
- When the Rinehart document production dispute was before me for directions on 19 March 2020, I made orders in relation to the referral of the matter for mediation indicating that I would shortly publish my reasons for that decision together with my reasons for the orders then yet to be made in relation to costs. These are those reasons.
Referral to mediation
- I will deal first with the issue as to whether (and in what time frame) the parties should be referred to mediation because, as it transpires, that is the least contentious of the two issues on which I sought submissions; and, as noted above, I made orders last week when the matter was before me for directions to put this in place.
- As I indicated in the February Judgment (at ), I consider it to be overwhelmingly in the interests of the administration of justice (and, in particular, of the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in dispute) to force the parties to focus sooner rather than later on whether a sensible and acceptable resolution of their long-running disputes can be achieved. Since argument on Gina’s motion seeking referral to mediation had been deferred when the other interlocutory motions were before me, as a matter of procedural fairness (particularly given that Bianca had not been prepared to consent to a referral to mediation at that stage) I gave the parties an opportunity to make submissions as to the making of such a referral of the Court’s own motion. The position of the parties in relation to the proposed referral for mediation, as gleaned from those submissions, can be summarised as follows.
- Bianca does not now object to a referral to mediation. Her stated concern (as has been raised consistently both when the motions were before me and in her latest submissions) was to ensure that she has relevant documentation prior to any mediation in order to be able to participate meaningfully in such a mediation; her position being that the mediation is more likely to be successful if the current “informational disparity” between the parties is remedied (or at least remedied to an extent). In written submissions, Bianca’s Counsel has adverted to negotiations taking place between the parties as to document production which it is hoped will address or ameliorate that concern. (Unsurprisingly, I am not privy to those negotiations or discussions; and I understand that they are not the subject of the communications between solicitors that were put before me on a different issue at the directions hearing last week.) Nevertheless, Bianca submits that, in any event, any mediation should occur as soon as practicable and by no later than 15 April 2020. I am not aware of the significance of that particular time frame (but it would seem by now to be optimistic, being less than a month away).
- Hope actively supports the referral to mediation (and has indicated that she would wish to participate in any such mediation, as a party to the Trustee Proceeding, and as a beneficiary of the HMH Trust). Hope does not wish to be heard as to the time frame for any such mediation other than to note (as is apparent from the material on the court file) that there are a number of parties to, and a number of legal representatives involved in, the present proceeding; and (which is not so readily apparent at least from a quick perusal of the court file) that the location of the parties and their legal representatives is geographically disparate. That said, Hope’s position is that she will take all reasonable steps to accommodate a time frame convenient to the other parties to the proceeding and their respective legal representatives.
- Gina consents to the referral to mediation of the parties in both the Oppression Proceeding and the Trustee Proceeding, submitting that it is appropriate that the referral be made in each of those proceedings because the judgment was given in each of those proceedings (given that there had been motions filed in each of those proceedings) and that this will ensure that all parties interested in the “interconnected” disputes will be referred to mediation (which Gina says will be necessary if there is to be any resolution of those disputes). It is noted that not all the beneficiaries of the HMH Trust are parties to the Oppression Proceeding but that they are all parties to the Trustee Proceeding.
- As to the timing of the foreshadowed mediation, Gina submits that any mediation should not take place until the respondents to the arbitration presently before the Honourable Wayne Martin QC AC, the Honourable Kevin Lindgren QC AO, and Mr Michael Hwang SC (the Martin Arbitration) (that arbitration being the culmination of the referral/stay applications that were the subject of the Full Court Decision and High Court Decision referred to in the February Judgment) have put on their defences (or such later date as any party may seek). It is said that this will permit the parties properly to define the issues between them in the Martin Arbitration and will therefore increase the chances of a resolution of the “interconnected” disputes. The likely timing of such defences is addressed in a confidential affidavit sworn 28 February 2020 by Gina’s solicitor (for portions of which a suppression order is sought, and will be granted, to maintain the confidentiality of the arbitration process presently on foot). Suffice it to say that the timing of steps in relation to the Martin Arbitration seems presently to be undetermined (and, as such, the timing proposed by Gina for the scheduling of the arbitration would not meet the expectation expressed at  of the February Judgment that the referral to mediation take place within the near future and not be postponed to some indeterminate future time).
- Gina has also made submissions as to the costs of any such mediation. She notes that she, her four children and HPPL are the central parties to the disputes to be referred to mediation and says that, on one view, the appropriate course would be to have each of those parties bear one-sixth of the costs. However, for simplicity, she has proposed that the costs of the mediation be borne as to half by her and HPPL and as to the other half by her children.
- Finally, HPPL consents to the referral of this matter to mediation (and, indeed, suggests that there would be utility in the parties mediating all the extant disputes, including those now the subject of the proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, and/or the issues referred to what has been referred to as the French Arbitration and the Martin Arbitration, respectively).
- HPPL’s reasons for supporting the proposal for mediation are, in essence, that it is a party to numerous disputes involving the parties to the present proceedings; that all of its shareholders are parties to at least one of the disputes involving the parties and a number of the disputes concern some of its most valuable assets; and that, for HPPL, the disputes “are a diversion of management time and commercial focus away from its day-to-day commercial activities and operations the ultimate object of which is to create wealth for the company and its shareholders”.
- As to timing, HPPL submits that any mediation should occur on a date convenient for all parties to the proceeding and confirms that it will generally make itself available to participate in any mediation.
- As is apparent from the above, there is now no opposition from any of the parties to the referral of the parties to mediation and I therefore made such an order when the matter was before me last week. While I consider that there is considerable force to the observation of HPPL that there would be utility in a mediation of all of the extant disputes involving the Rinehart family members and HPPL’s assets, it is not within my remit to order other parties to proceedings in other courts or arbitral tribunals to participate in a mediation of those other disputes. I do, however, note that there is nothing to stop the parties that are here being referred to mediation from seeking to have other parties join consensually in the mediation, or from including in the scope of the mediation matters the subject of disputes that are presently before other courts and arbitral tribunals (with a view to trying to reach a commercial resolution of those disputes, perhaps including other entities in any such settlement).
- As to the timing of the mediation, I was not prepared to leave it to an indeterminate future time (particularly when the timing of steps to be taken in the Martin Arbitration, at least at the time of the submissions made in the present proceedings, is unknown). Bearing in mind: the number of parties and their representatives; any practical difficulties arising out of disparate geographical locations of the parties and their representatives; the uncertainty as to the status of the document production process which should currently be underway in relation to the documents of the trust; and the differing views of the parties as to the proposed timing of the mediation, I considered that it was appropriate to make orders that provide for a mediation to take place within three months. It seemed to me that this would be ample time for the parties (well-resourced as they must be in order to be in a position to fund all this ongoing litigation and arbitral proceedings) to put themselves in a position to be able productively to participate in a mediation (and, if there is a difficulty with that timing or an acceptable reason to defer the mediation once commenced, it is open to the parties by consent to put forward a proposed varied timeframe for the mediation).
- As to the costs of the mediation (other than the parties’ own costs, of course), I considered that they should be borne in equal one-sixth shares by each of Gina, HPPL and the four children (and that Bianca should bear her share of the costs in her personal capacity since, although Bianca brings the Oppression Proceeding in her capacity as trustee, the underlying disputes are also disputes in which she has an obvious personal interest, and otherwise the beneficiaries of the HMH Trust would bear an increased proportion of the costs of the mediation). I made orders accordingly.
- Where there is more dispute between the parties is as to the costs orders now to be made.
- Bianca, with one qualification, accepts that (on the basis of the general rule that costs follow the event) she should pay the costs of the applications that resulted in the making on 14 February 2020 of orders 1, 2, and 3 (i.e., the orders referring the parties to arbitration, staying the proceedings, and staying various of the extant interlocutory motions). Bianca, in her further submissions in reply to the defendants’ costs submissions, opposes any order for those costs to be on an indemnity basis; opposes the making of any forthwith costs order; and opposes any order as to the reserved costs of earlier applications to set aside compulsory processes (subpoenas and a notice to produce). I will deal with those reply submissions in due course.
- The qualification to Bianca’s acceptance that there should be costs orders made against her, is that Bianca submits that the costs relating to the stay of the s 247A application should be costs in the cause of that application. Bianca makes that submission for the following reasons.
- First, it is noted (as is certainly the case) that the s 247A application remains undetermined (pending the arbitration). Bianca says that the parties have twice prepared for a “full hearing” on the s 247A application: once, in mid-2018 (in the course of which hearing the application was adjourned), and again in mid-2019. Bianca says that the costs of the preparation for that application are not necessarily wasted; and that the application remains ready to be determined as and when the stay ceases to operate.
- Pausing here, the procedural history of Bianca’s attempts to have the merits of the s 247A application heard (in advance of or separately from the other interlocutory motions if necessary) has been dealt with in previous judgments. I simply here note that it has consistently been the defendants’ position that it was not appropriate for me to embark upon such a hearing (and, indeed, that it was not open to me to do so, on the basis that the s 247A application fell within the scope of the parties’ arbitration agreement). It is not useful here to restate the arguments that were put on that issue; other than to note that costs incurred in preparation for the “full hearing” of that application must be taken to have been incurred in the knowledge that, if the defendants’ arguments were accepted (albeit against my preliminary view as expressed in the course of those arguments), then those costs might either be wasted or, at the very least, might end up being duplicated at a later time.
- Second, Bianca notes that HPPL’s notice of motion as originally filed on 21 April 2017 in the Oppression Proceeding did not seek an order temporarily staying the s 247A application; rather, HPPL’s case then was that the application was covered by the arbitration agreement (and, if not, that the application should be dismissed or permanently stayed), which Bianca notes was something that was ultimately rejected by me. It is noted that it was not until 15 July 2019 (the first day of the hearing of the stay applications that were determined in February this year) that HPPL sought to amend its motion to seek a temporary stay of the s 247A application pending determination of an arbitration.
- Third, and to similar effect to the above submission, Bianca says that Gina’s 26 June 2019 notice of motion sought as its primary relief a referral of the whole of the matter (including the s 247A application) to arbitration and that Gina’s position as to any part of the proceedings not so referred was that there should be a permanent or temporary stay. Again, it is noted that the application for referral or, alternatively, a permanent stay, of the s 247A application was rejected.
- Thus, Bianca submits that the costs relating to the s 247A application should be carved out of any other costs order.
- It is convenient next to turn to HPPL’s position in relation to costs.
- HPPL seeks an order that Bianca pay its costs of and incidental to the amended notice of motion filed by it on 16 July 2019 (the HPPL Stay Application) on an indemnity basis and payable forthwith, including the costs of and incidental to the hearings on 23 May 2017, 27-28 August 2018, and 15-19, 23, and 25 July 2019. HPPL also seeks orders in relation to the costs of two further applications in the proceeding.
- First, of the hearings to set aside the subpoenas issued by Bianca to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), CEF Pty Ltd (CEF) and Senator Barnaby Joyce MP, those subpoenas (the Subpoenas) having been set aside (in whole or in part) with an order made at that time reserving costs (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 1102, to which I will refer as the 2018 Subpoena Judgment). HPPL seeks an order that Bianca pay its costs (on an indemnity basis and payable forthwith) of those hearings.
- Second, of HPPL’s successful application to set aside a notice to produce issued to it (the HPPL Notice to Produce) (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 759, to which I will refer as the 2019 Notice to Produce Judgment). Bianca was ordered to pay the costs of that application on the ordinary basis. HPPL now seeks an order that those costs be paid forthwith (but does not seek to vary the basis on which those costs are to be assessed).
General order as to costs
- Generally, as to the costs of the HPPL Stay Application, the orders are sought by HPPL under s 98(1) of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW) (Civil Procedure Act) and rr 42.1 and 42.7 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (NSW) (UCPR), on the basis of the general rule that costs follow the event. As indicated above, Bianca does not contest this (other than that she seeks to carve out of any such costs order the costs of the yet to be determined s 247A application); and hence it is not necessary to consider the authorities relied upon by HPPL in its submissions in support of the proposition that costs are ordinarily awarded in favour of a party who successfully obtains a stay of proceedings in favour of arbitration (HPPL citing Ansett v Malaysian Airline System (No 2)  VSC 156 at  per Hollingworth J; Amcor Packaging (Australia) Pty Ltd v Baulderstone Pty Ltd  FCA 253 at ,  per Marshall J; Pipeline Services WA Pty Ltd v ATCO Gas Australia Pty Ltd  WASC 10(S) at - ,  per Martin CJ; In the matter of Ikon Group Limited (No 2)  NSWSC 981 at  per Brereton J as his Honour then was; Novawest Contracting Pty Ltd v Brimbank City Council  VSC 679 at  per Vickery J).
- HPPL presses for the whole of its costs of the Stay Application, including the costs of and incidental to each of the hearings referred to above, without any carve-out for the costs of the s 247A application, for the following reasons.
- First, HPPL says that it succeeded on all issues on the HPPL Stay Application: namely, that, over Bianca’s opposition, the primary relief HPPL sought was granted (the parties were referred to arbitration on all matters except the s 247A application and there was a stay of the whole of the proceedings). HPPL further points to the fact that I had indicated in the February Judgment that, had the primary relief not been granted, the alternative relief sought would have been granted and the proceeding stayed on case management grounds or on the basis that its continuation was an abuse of process (see at - of the February Judgment).
- Second, HPPL says that the overwhelming focus of the hearing in July 2019 was the respective stay applications; that the time spent dealing with the remaining motions (other than the unconscionability application) was negligible; and that the time spent on the unconscionability application arose in the context of whether it should be heard before the stay applications (and, therefore, HHPL says that the costs of that application are costs of or incidental to the HPPL Stay Application; but in any event, it is said that HPPL was in all material respects the successful party in respect of the unconscionability application – it being ultimately stayed pending the outcome of the arbitration).
- Third, HPPL submits that the costs of the 23 May 2017 hearing (as to the timetabling of the various interlocutory applications then before me) which were reserved (see - of Rinehart atf The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust v Rinehart  NSWSC 803) and the costs of the 27 and 28 August 2018 hearings (which were also largely also reserved – see ;  of the 2018 Subpoena Judgment) are costs of and incidental to the HPPL Stay Application (it being said that HPPL was successful in persuading me not to hear the s 247A application in advance of the Full Court or the High Court decisions and that HPPL’s submissions on sequencing were ultimately accepted). (HPPL says that the question of costs was not dealt with at the hearing on 27/28 August 2018 beyond a submission on 28 August 2018, referring to the course of debate at T 80, T 81, T 86.)
- Fourth, it is submitted that no other order is appropriate in the circumstances. HPPL says that it has not engaged in any disentitling conduct that would cause the costs discretion not to be exercised in its favour; that no issues were improperly or unreasonably raised; that HPPL did not engage in conduct, raise any issues or engage in any argument that unnecessarily increased the length of the hearing (but, rather, acted consistently and reasonably in its position as to sequencing and relief, which position was ultimately vindicated).
Application for costs on indemnity basis
- As to HPPL’s submission that costs should be paid on an indemnity basis (invoking s 98(1)(c) of the Civil Procedure Act and r 42.5 of the UCPR), HPPL makes the following submissions.
- First, HPPL relies on a letter sent by its solicitors on 13 April 2017, shortly after the commencement of the Oppression Proceeding, to Bianca’s solicitors (a copy of which was in evidence at the hearing of the stay applications) in which HPPL proposed that there be a temporary stay of the proceedings until the determination or other resolution of the Federal Court proceeding (and that questions as to whether the proceedings should be further stayed, including as to whether they should be stayed in favour of arbitration or as an abuse of process, be deferred).
- HPPL submits that this was an open and genuine offer of compromise and notes that the principles applicable to Calderbank offers (see Calderbank v Calderbank  3 All ER 333; 3 WLR 586, at 596-597, per Lord Cairns with whom Scarman LJ and Sir Willmer agreed) have been said to apply to open offers (citing Curtis v Harden Shire Council (No 2)  NSWCA 45 (Curtis v Harden) at  (per Bathurst CJ, Beazley P, as Her Excellency then was, and Basten JA). It is submitted that, had HPPL’s proposal been accepted, then none of the costs in question would have been incurred.
- HPPL submits that Bianca’s failure to accept that offer was unreasonable. It says that the letter set out in detail why the proceeding was an abuse of process and needed to be stayed in light of the inconsistent claims Bianca had made in other proceedings and the applicable arbitration agreement; and that the letter made clear that Bianca “was in an obvious and intractable position of conflict” if she did not accept HPPL’s proposal. HPPL says that it had repeatedly made clear to Bianca that its directors could not responsibly approve the payment of further dividends (the primary relief sought against HPPL) under s 254T of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) given the existence of Bianca’s claims in other proceedings for ownership of the Hope Downs tenements, other tenements, and other HPPL assets. HPPL’s position is that Bianca’s conduct in suing HPPL in other proceedings was in fact the cause of the very conduct claimed in the Oppression Proceeding to be oppressive.
- Second, it is said that Bianca’s conduct in opposing the stay sought by HPPL was unreasonable conduct, or “relevant delinquency”, concerning the conduct of the case (in the sense considered in Oshlack v Richmond River Council (1998) 193 CLR 72;  HCA 11 (Oshlack) at 89 per Gaudron and Gummow JJ). Reference is made to my observations in the February Judgment as to the continuation of these proceedings being an abuse of process in light of the overlapping issues and inconsistent claims for relief made by her in proceedings in other fora (see ,  of the February Judgment); and it is noted that such an abuse of process may justify an indemnity costs order (citing Australian Beverage Distributors Pty Ltd v Evans & Tate Premium Wines Pty Ltd (2007) 69 NSWLR 374;  NSWCA 57 (Australian Beverage Distributors) at  per Beazley JA, as Her Excellency then was; Hodgson and Santow JJA agreeing).
- Third, it is said that Bianca engaged in unreasonable conduct or “relevant delinquency” by failing to obtain judicial advice about continuing the proceedings. It is submitted that Bianca’s failure to obtain judicial advice was sufficiently unreasonable so as to justify an indemnity costs award because it involved the breach of an undertaking to the Court that she not “commence or continue proceedings on behalf of the Trust in a court … without the advice of the court” (see Hancock v Rinehart  NSWSC 646 at , Order (d) per Brereton J, as his Honour was then). It is submitted that the failure to obtain advice to continue the proceeding (noting my observations at - of the February Judgment) was acute given the serious position of conflict in which Bianca placed herself by continuing the proceedings at the same time as pursuing inconsistent claims in the Federal Court and in Western Australia.
- Fourth, HPPL points out that Bianca’s resistance to the HPPL Stay Application was not something about which she had “no choice”, and nor did she obtain judicial advice to resist the HPPL Stay Application. Both of these matters are said further to compound the unreasonableness of Bianca’s opposition to the HPPL Stay Application and to militate in favour of an award of costs on an indemnity basis.
- Finally, HPPL says that Bianca’s conduct in seeking to agitate the unconscionability application was unreasonable (noting again in this context that there is no suggestion that Bianca obtained judicial advice to do so). It is said that doing so was directly contrary to the High Court’s determination that “[i]t could not have been understood by the parties to these Deeds had any challenge to the efficacy of the Deeds was to be determined in the public spotlight” (Rinehart v Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd  HCA 13; (2019) 93 ALJR 582 (Rinehart v Hancock) at , per Kiefel CJ, Gageler, Nettle and Gordon JJ); and it was also directly contrary to the approach taken by Le Miere J in the Supreme Court of Western Australia (Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd v Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (No 10)  WASC 407 (Le Miere (No 10) Decision) at -). HPPL maintains that seeking to have the unconscionability application heard in open court had no reasonable prospects of success.
Application for a forthwith costs order
- As to the application that HPPL’s costs should be paid forthwith, HPPL refers to Fiduciary Ltd v Morningstar Research Pty Ltd (2002) 55 NSWLR 1;  NSWSC 432 (Morningstar) at -, where Barrett J, as his Honour then was, summarised three principal grounds on which such an order may be made, namely where: the costs order is relevant to a discrete, separately identifiable aspect of the proceedings; there is some unreasonable conduct by the party against whom the costs have been ordered; or it is likely to be a long time before the final disposal of the proceedings.
- HPPL maintains that each of those factors is here applicable and that, both separately and collectively, they justify a forthwith costs order.
- As to the first of the three principal grounds identified in Morningstar, HPPL submits that the issues raised on its stay application are “generally distinct and separately identifiable” from substantive aspects of the case and (though, having regard to the history of this matter, I am unable to share this optimistic view of the world) unlikely again to arise. It is said that the arbitration questions are discrete questions and that, although the inconsistency in Bianca’s positions is an issue not limited to the present application, the consequence of that inconsistency (namely, a stay) is in substance directed to the HPPL Stay Application. Thus it is submitted that this interlocutory hearing ought relevantly be characterised as a distinct and complete part of the proceeding.
- As to the second, HPPL reiterates its position that Bianca’s conduct in maintaining these proceedings, while simultaneously advancing inconsistent positions in other proceedings, was an abuse of process and unreasonable (referring to the February Judgment at ). Further, it says that other aspects of Bianca’s conduct of the proceeding were unreasonable and led to an unnecessary increase in hearing time and resources (in particular, service of substantive submissions on the unconscionability application when it was listed only for directions); and the service of “voluminous” material, the vast bulk of which is said not to have been referred to at the hearing (citing Morningstar at ).
- As to the third, HPPL says that a significant period of time (“most likely several years”) is likely to pass before final disposal of the proceedings, which will only occur after the conclusion of the arbitration.
- Reliance is again placed in this context on the 13 April 2017 letter, which sets out what HPPL maintains was the appropriate course to have been taken (and which would have avoided these costs). Hence the application for a forthwith costs order.
Additional costs orders
- As to the additional costs orders sought (the costs of the setting aside of the Subpoenas, to which reference has been made above, and the HPPL Notice to Produce), HPPL says the following.
- As to the Subpoenas, it is noted that (other than an order in favour of CEF for its costs) costs were reserved. HPPL accepts that it did not apply to set aside the subpoenas. It says that its concern (as summarised in the 2018 Subpoena Judgment at -) was that the subpoenas ought not prejudice or interfere with HPPL’s asserted right to have the dispute (and the production of documents) dealt with in arbitration; and hence it sought to have the subpoenas dealt with after the determination of the HPPL Stay Application or for production only on a confidential basis. It is noted that the subpoenas were in fact set aside, so that it was not necessary to consider HPPL’s arguments. HPPL argues that its position was advanced consistently with, and in support of, the HPPL Stay Application and, therefore, HPPL submits that, as with the costs of that application, Bianca should pay HPPL’s costs of the subpoena hearing on an indemnity basis and forthwith for the same reasons.
- As to the notice to produce (the subject of the 2019 Notice to Produce Judgment), the further order that HPPL now seeks is that the costs (which have been ordered already to be paid to it) be payable forthwith, for the reasons set out already in relation to the forthwith costs order that is more generally sought.
- Gina similarly submits that Bianca should pay the defendants’ costs of the proceedings to date on an indemnity basis and forthwith.
- The basis on which the costs order is sought in respect of the whole of the proceedings to date (as opposed to the costs of and incidental to the motions that were determined) is that Gina argues that the relevant “event” (for the purposes of r 42.1 of the UCPR, namely the obtaining of a stay of the proceedings) in effect disposed of the other interlocutory motions that were then before the Court (as itemised at  of the February Judgment), and also practically disposed of or dealt with all other issues in the proceedings to date. (It appears here to be contemplated that such an order would include the costs of motions that were stayed or not otherwise dealt with on their merits at the time.)
- Gina says that, in the alternative, she should have her costs of each of the motions identified at  of the February Judgment (save for motions (v) and (vi) which have already been dismissed with no order as to costs – see at  of the February Judgment), because, in respect of these motions, to the extent that costs have been incurred they were incurred only because Bianca did not consent to staying these proceedings or to having the motions seeking to stay the proceedings heard first (referring to , - of the February Judgment). It is said that if that position had not been taken costs would not have been so incurred.
- In respect of Gina’s notice of motion filed 14 August 2018 (seeking an order to refer the disputes between the parties to mediation), it is submitted that it is appropriate to make that order given that I am minded (of my own motion) to make such a referral.
- Gina also seeks her costs of the amended notice of motion filed 14 June 2018, seeking orders setting aside the three subpoenas to which reference has been made above (in respect of which costs were reserved until after the hearing of Bianca’s s 247A application, other than in respect of CEF’s costs – see the 2018 Subpoena Judgment at ). Gina notes that she was successful in setting aside the bulk of the subpoena served on CEF and in setting aside the bulk of the subpoena served on the IPA (and was wholly successful in setting aside the subpoena to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP).
- As does HPPL, Gina seeks her costs on an indemnity basis (pursuant to s 98(1)(c) of the Civil Procedure Act and r 42.5 of the UCPR). That application is made for much the same reasons as those put forward by HPPL, namely that, by opposing the stay sought by Gina, Bianca engaged in unreasonable conduct or “relevant delinquency” concerning the conduct of the case (Gina citing not only the authorities referred to above but also Coshott v Prentice (2014) 221 FCR 450;  FCAFC 88 (Coshott v Prentice) at  (per Siopis, Katzmann and Perry JJ) and Johnson v Denwest Nominees Pty Ltd  WASCA 200 (Johnson v Denwest Nominees) at - (per Murphy, Mitchell JJA and Pritchard J)). Gina also argues that Bianca engaged in “relevant delinquency” by failing to obtain judicial advice to continue the proceedings in light of the applications to stay the proceedings (it being said that the continuation of the proceedings, and the opposition to the applications to stay the proceedings, involved contentions which would (or at least could) adversely impact on the value of the Trust), and by deciding to disavow the Hope Downs Deed (and to adopt a “no choice but to litigate mentality”) without the advice of the court.
- Gina similarly argues that pressing for the determination of the “unconscionability motion” before the determination of the respective stay applications was hopeless (on the basis that that position plainly offended the separability principles and was squarely covered by the judicial determinations to which HPPL has referred). It is submitted that Bianca “ought to have known better, given it was not the first time she had engaged in such conduct unsuccessfully”. Gina also argues, in similar vein, that it should have been obvious to Bianca that the proceedings would be stayed given the conflicting positions she was adopting in different fora (submitting that a procedural stay of the proceedings was inevitable, by reference to the matters referred to in the February Judgment at ).
- Gina places weight on the fact that Bianca did not accede to the proposal put forward by HPPL in its solicitors’ letter dated 13 April 2017 (though it does not appear that Gina herself proffer any such proposal); noting that the proposal was for a stay of the proceedings and that they have now been stayed. As does HPPL, Gina invokes the principles applicable to Calderbank offers (citing not only Curtis v Harden but also ACN 074 971 109 Pty Ltd (as Trustee for the Argot Unit Trust) v The National Mutual Life Association of Australasia Ltd (No 2)  VSC 177 at  per Croft J). It is submitted that the 13 April 2017 letter was a genuine offer of compromise and it is said that the failure of Bianca to accept this offer was unreasonable, in light of the comprehensive explanation set out in the letter as to why the proceeding needed to be stayed.
- As to the making of an order that these costs be payable forthwith, Gina similarly relies on what was said in, inter alia, Morningstar and Pavlovic v Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd (No 2)  NSWCA 31 (Pavlovic) at  (per Bathurst CJ, Beazley P, as Her Excellency then was, and Meagher JA). It is submitted that, in practical terms, the stay of the proceedings is likely to be the end of the court proceedings, with the dispute to be resolved by arbitration; and that there is still “some considerable distance to go” before the parties’ dispute is finally determined such that it is “appropriate that the successful party obtain the fruits of its costs order now” (as was said in Pavlovic at ). It is said that the complaints brought by Bianca will not be stultified by her being required to pay costs forthwith (cf the costs judgment in the Full Court of the Federal Court in Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd v Rinehart (No 2)  FCAFC 208 at , per Allsop CJ, Besanko and O’Callaghan JJ), noting the evidence that Bianca has received substantial dividends over recent years of: $45 million (FY18), $75 million (FY17), $42 million (FY16) and $37 million (FY15). It is submitted that the matters relied on for the making of an indemnity costs order also support the making of a forthwith costs order (referring to Bevillesta Pty Ltd v D Tannous No 2 Pty Ltd  NSWCA 277 at - , per McColl JA, Allsop P (as his Honour then was) and Handley AJA agreeing).
- Gina additionally seeks an order that the costs which Bianca was ordered to pay in relation to Gina’s successful application to set aside a subpoena to the Commonwealth Bank (see the 2019 Notice to Produce Judgment) now be paid forthwith.
Bianca’s further submissions on costs (and defendants’ responses thereto)
- As to the defendants’ application for costs on an indemnity basis, Bianca contends that none of the matters relied upon by the defendants warrants the making of such an order. Bianca emphasises that the ordinary rule is for costs to be ordered on the party and party basis (citing Colgate-Palmolive Company v Cussons Pty Ltd  FCA 536; (1993) 46 FCR 225 at 232;  FCA 801 per Sheppard J); and says that the circumstances of the present case do not meet the test for a special costs order of the kind sought (referring, inter alia, to Sony Computer Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd v Dannoun (No 2)  FCA 1530 at , per Lindgren J). (The defendants do not cavil with the former proposition; simply with the latter; in particular that this does not take into account all circumstances where indemnity costs may be ordered.)
- As to the matters relied on by HPPL in support of an indemnity costs order (the 13 April 2017 letter; the observations as to an abuse of process; the failure to obtain judicial advice; and HPPL’s other complaints as to the alleged unreasonableness of her conduct), Bianca responds as follows.
- First, insofar as reliance is placed on the 13 April 2017 letter, Bianca points out that there is no presumption that, if an offer which is later vindicated in proceedings is rejected, there should be an award of indemnity costs (citing Tati v Stonewall Hotel Pty Ltd (No 2)  NSWCA 124 at , per Bathurst CJ; Allsop P, as his Honour then was, and Beazley JA, as Her Excellency then was, agreeing). Bianca also notes that simply because an offer is a “reasonable” one does not meant that its rejection warrants an award of indemnity costs (citing CGU Insurance Limited v Corrections Corporation of Australia Staff Superannuation Pty Ltd  FCAFC 173 at , per Moore, Finn and Jessup JJ).
- Bianca also notes that the offer was not made by Gina and says that, on its face, it was not sent (or made) to Gina. It is submitted that Bianca’s acceptance of the offer would not itself have achieved anything. In particular, it is said that there is no evidence that Gina was amenable to the proposed offer “despite the fact that she belatedly adopts it in her costs submissions”.
- Bianca emphasises that the primary relief proposed in the offer (a stay of the proceedings pending “the determination or other resolution of the Federal Court Proceeding”) is not the relief that was ultimately obtained. (That is hardly surprising, since by the time of the ultimate relief the Federal Court Proceeding had itself been referred to arbitration, the referral/stay motions in that proceeding being the subject of the Full Court Decision and that of the High Court in Rinehart v Hancock.) Bianca says that it was not unreasonable not to consent to a stay pending resolution of the Federal Court proceeding given that it was not known how long those proceedings would run, nor “whether a “temporary stay” was likely to be more in the nature of a “semi- permanent” stay”. Bianca points to the statement in the letter to the effect that HPPL intended “vigorously” to defend the Federal Court proceeding, as suggestive of the label of “temporary stay” being inapt.
- Insofar as the offer was predicated on the proposition that there was an inconsistency between the asset claims in the Federal Court proceedings and the complaint about failure to pay dividends in the Oppression Proceeding, Bianca maintains that the offer failed to explain why, even if Bianca’s position in the Federal Court proceedings were to be wholly vindicated, that would mean that HPPL could not pay (and could not have paid) dividends. Indeed, Bianca maintains that HPPL has still not explained why that is so (though to my recollection such an explanation was proffered in the course of submissions on the hearing of the stay applications – including by reference to s 254T of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth); and see HPPL’s reply submissions below). In any event, Bianca says that there can have been no inconsistency between the Federal Court proceedings and, for example, the s 247A application (and therefore there was no basis for a wholesale stay of the Oppression Proceeding as was proposed by HPPL in the 13 April 2017 letter).
- Bianca further maintains that, insofar as the offer proposed a stay in favour of arbitration, it was not unreasonable for her to reject that offer. Bianca notes that, at the time of the offer, the prevailing decision in this jurisdiction on the arbitration agreement was the Court of Appeal Decision (Rinehart v Welker  NSWCA 95; (2012) 95 NSWLR 221); the Full Court decision (Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd v Rinehart (2017) 257 FCR 442;  FCAFC 170) not having been handed down until 27 October 2017, more than 6 months after the offer; and the High Court decision (in Rinehart v Hancock) not until 8 May 2019, more than two years after the offer. Bianca says that it is not known how HPPL and Gina’s applications would have been determined had the prevailing position on the arbitration agreement remained as it was at the time of the offer.
- Bianca also points to the time provided for acceptance of the offer, noting that the time for which an offer is open has been said to be a highly relevant factor to its reasonableness (and referring, by way of example, to Kiefel v State of Victoria  FCA 411 at , per Tracey J; and Keays v JP Morgan Administrative Services Australia Limited  FCAFC 100; (2012) 224 IR 406 at -  per Besanko J (Gray J agreeing at ; North J agreeing at ), where the offer was open for seven days, which was described as “a short period” (at )). It is noted that, in the present case, the offer was made at 6:16pm on 13 April 2017 (the day before Good Friday that year) and the offer closed at midday on 19 April 2017; i.e., it was effectively open for acceptance for less than 1½ business days. Bianca says that there was no manifest urgency (in the sense of a pending hearing date) and maintains that it “would be quite extraordinary to make an award of indemnity costs now on the basis of an offer that was open for 1½ days more than two years before the hearing”.
- Complaint is also made by Bianca that the offer lacked clarity (noting that in Dr Martens Australia Pty Ltd v Figgins Holdings Pty Ltd (No 2)  FCA 602 it was said (at , per Goldberg J) that an offer must be “couched in such terms as enable the offeree to make a carefully considered comparison between the offer made and the ultimate relief it is seeking in all its aspects”). It is noted that the offer did not attach proposed consent orders; that it proposed that questions as to whether there should be a stay pending arbitration be “deferred”, without identifying to when they were to be deferred; and that it did not explain what was to be done as to costs of HPPL’s proceedings to date (nor what was to be done as to Gina’s costs).
- Bianca also points to the response that was sent by her solicitors on 19 April 2017, explaining why the proposal was not accepted (a copy of which letter was in evidence on the hearing of the stay applications), and says that the defendants have not addressed that response in their submissions (let alone explained why it was unreasonable).
- I interpose here to note that, in reply submissions, while it is not suggested that the time for which an offer is open for acceptance is not relevant to the reasonableness of the offer (or its rejection), both defendants maintain that the complaints here made as to the insufficiency of the period in which the offer was open for acceptance and as to the clarity of its terms should be rejected. HPPL says that the timing of the offer was informed by the matters referred to explicitly or implicitly at paragraphs 41 and 42 of the offer, namely: the pending return date for the statement of claim, and the fact that any request for a stay in aid of a referral to arbitration must be made no later than when submitting the party’s first statement on the substance of the dispute. HPPL says that in these circumstances, the timeframe proposed was reasonable.
- In any event, the defendants both point out that Bianca was able to consider (and reject) HPPL’s proposal within the timeframe requested, without seeking any extension of time and with no complaint that the offer was unclear (nor, I might add, any request for its clarification). Gina notes that Bianca rejected the offer on 19 April 2017 (the day it closed), rather than seeking more time and submits that is obvious, from the way that Bianca has conducted herself, that even had the offer been open for more time Bianca would have rejected it and resisted the stay of the proceedings in the manner she did.
- As to Bianca’s submission that her acceptance of the offer would not itself have achieved anything (because Gina was not a party to it), HPPL says that this is irrelevant from HPPL’s perspective. Acceptance of the offer would have dealt with the future conduct of the proceedings insofar as they involved HPPL and thus is relevant to HPPL’s costs.
- HPPL further says that the fact that the primary relief proposed in the offer was not the relief ultimately obtained in this proceeding is not to the point, noting again that I had made clear (at  of the February Judgment) that the grounds for a case management stay were made out and that it would have been granted if a stay in aid of a referral to arbitration had not instead been granted. Thus, HPPL says that even if it was not unreasonable for Ms Rinehart to reject a stay in favour of arbitration, there were no reasonable grounds to oppose a stay of proceedings on case management grounds.
- HPPL cavils with the proposition that the offer failed to explain why HPPL could not pay dividends even if Bianca’s position in the Federal Court proceedings was vindicated (pointing to paragraphs 16 and 17 of the offer which HPPL says explained, in clear terms, why dividends could not be paid in light of the inconsistent proceedings). HPPL also points to the explanation it provided in submissions at the hearing of the stay application (as summarised at  and  of the February Judgment).
- HPPL says that Bianca’s response to the 13 April 2017 offer (tellingly) largely ignored the primary basis for HPPL’s proposal (the fundamental inconsistency in her positions) and simply suggested that HPPL could pay dividends in any event (referring to paragraph 7.6 of the 19 April 2017 response). HPPL says that Bianca’s failure to engage meaningfully with the inconsistency (or HPPL’s detailed explanation as to why the inconsistency warranted a stay), renders her response to the offer unreasonable.
- Finally, on the offer of compromise issue, Bianca reiterates her submission that there is no basis for an order that Bianca pay the costs of the whole of the proceeding to date (including the costs of the yet to be determined s 247A application) on any basis, let alone on the indemnity basis (see ff above).
- As to Bianca’s reply submissions concerning the s 247A application, Gina notes that that application has been stayed because, as put forward, it raised factual matters the subject of the disputes falling under the arbitration clause (referring to ,  of the February Judgment); and says that, therefore, the costs of the “presently formulated” s 247A application should properly be the subject of a costs order.
- Secondly, Bianca responds to the reliance placed by the defendants on the observations made by me in the February Judgment on the abuse of process issue. Bianca notes (and this is not and could not be disputed by the defendants) that I found that it was not an abuse of process for Bianca to commence this proceeding (see at  of the February Judgment). On that basis, Bianca argues that on no view can the “abuse of process” argument warrant an award of indemnity costs in relation to the whole of the proceedings. It is submitted by Bianca in this context that if (which she clearly does not accept) any abuse of process arose after commencement of the proceeding, it could only justify an award of indemnity costs from the time the abuse of process arose.
- Bianca says in this regard that neither Gina nor HPPL has identified any particular time from which they say they should have indemnity costs nor have they identified any step in the proceedings to date which has amounted to an abuse of process. Bianca says that there was no finding that any step in the proceedings to date has involved an abuse of process by Bianca. Rather, it is said that insofar as I concluded that a “continuation of the present proceedings … would amount to an abuse of process” (see at  of the February Judgment), this should be understood as the Court acting to prevent an abuse of process before it arises (and it is said that it is not open to seek indemnity costs on the basis that there has been an abuse of process which has never occurred). Emphasis is also placed on the lack of any finding (or suggestion by Gina or HPPL) that the continued maintenance of the present proceedings would be an abuse of process because it would be unjustifiably oppressive to Gina or HPPL.
- Bianca argues that the cases referred to in the defendants’ submissions are distinguishable or not analogous; or that they do not stand for any relevant proposition in favour of the defendants’ indemnity costs argument. Bianca distinguishes Australian Beverage Distributors on the basis that the Court of Appeal there hypothesised that costs orders had been made because the trial judge had found an abuse of process; Coshott v Prentice, because the indemnity costs order was made because the applications were “without any merit and represented an attempt to mislead the Court in serious ways” (at ); and Johnson v Denwest Nominees, because the indemnity costs were ordered where the proceedings were an abuse of process because they were an oppressive attempt to relitigate that which had been already decided.
- In reply submissions on the abuse of process issue, the defendants disavow any proposition that the commencement of the proceeding was an abuse of process but maintain their position that the continuation of the proceedings (i.e., the taking of any further steps in the proceedings while Bianca was prosecuting inconsistent claims in other jurisdictions) was an abuse of process. The defendants say that there was a finding that the continuation of the proceedings was an abuse of process (referring to  and  of the February Judgment) by way of the continuation of these proceedings.
- Gina’s position is that all costs incurred by her arose by reason of Bianca persisting to prosecute these proceedings (resisting the stay applications, insisting that her own motions be heard first or at the same time as those stay motions, pressing her own motions and issuing the Subpoenas (which were set aside on application by the defendants)), and that each and every such step taken by Bianca in continuation of the proceeding constituted an abuse of process. Alternatively, Gina says that the indemnity costs order could be limited to the particular motions identified in  of Gina’s costs submissions (filed on 28 February 2020) on the basis that costs in respect of those motions were only incurred because Bianca did not consent to staying these proceedings or to having the motions seeking to stay the proceedings heard first (i.e. they were incurred by the continued maintenance of this proceeding).
- Gina maintains that on a proper reading of  of the February Judgment, there was in fact a finding that Bianca’s conduct amounted to an abuse of process because of the overlapping issues and inconsistent claims for relief, premised on inconsistent positions raised in different capacities (referring also to the use of the present tense in the finding  of the February Judgment; and to the observations I made at  of the February Judgment), pointing out that the reference there to the “inconsistency argument” is a reference to the abuse of process which Gina says was ultimately found.
- As to the lack of an express finding that continued maintenance of the proceedings would be an abuse of process because it would be “unjustifiably oppressive to Gina or HPPL”, Gina says Bianca’s submission is premised on a mistaken view of the circumstances in which indemnity costs will be ordered. In any event, it ignores what was said at  of the February Judgment, and the recognition (at  of the February Judgment) of the prima facie vexation or oppression that arises from overlapping or inconsistent proceedings (see Henry v Henry  HCA 51; (1996) 185 CLR 571 at 591, per Dawson, Gaudron, McHugh, and Gummow JJ;  HCA 51); and the delay and increased costs which will arise if Bianca were permitted to continue with this proceeding (see  and - of the February Judgment).
- Insofar as Bianca seeks to distinguish them on the facts, Gina says she relies on the principle contained in Australian Beverage Distributors, Coshott v Prentice, and Johnson v Denwest Nominees that an abuse of process is sufficient to engage the broad discretion to order indemnity costs.
- Similarly, HPPL says that there was a finding of abuse of process (at  of the February Judgment) and that the taking of any step beyond the filing of the statement of claim (or requiring HPPL to take any step in response to the statement of claim) gave rise to the abuse of process.
- Turning then, thirdly, to the defendants’ contention that Bianca engaged in delinquency by failing to obtain judicial advice to continue the proceedings, Bianca takes issue with the suggestion (raised for the first time in costs submissions) that there has been a breach of the undertaking given to the Court and recorded in Hancock v Rinehart  NSWSC 646 at  (1(d)). Bianca says that such a finding would amount to a contempt of court (which would undeniably be a serious finding to make) and says that such a finding is not one that can fairly be made in the present circumstances.
- In this regard, Bianca says that there is no basis for any contention (express or oblique) that Rein J was not made aware of the potential applicability of the arbitration agreement and the potential for a referral/stay application to be made on that basis; and that to assert non-disclosure of material facts by experienced counsel and solicitors is a serious assertion, which should not be entertained. It is said that unless it is established that Rein J was not made aware of the risk that Gina or HPPL would seek to have the matter referred to arbitration, Bianca should not be criticised for not seeking further advice if and when that risk eventuated.
- Pausing here, there is to my mind a distinction between a suggestion that there was a non-disclosure of material facts to Rein J on the judicial advice application (which I emphasise is a suggestion that has neither been made in the present case nor supported on the evidence) and a submission that judicial advice should have been sought at a later stage when a decision was made by Bianca to resist an application for a referral to arbitration or stay of the proceedings. There was, and is, no suggestion that Rein J was misled as to any material facts on the judicial advice application. However, the fact remains that the advice that Bianca obtained that she was justified in commencing the proceeding did not in its terms include (not does it appear implicitly to encompass) advice that Bianca was or would be justified in resisting an application for the referral of the proceeding to arbitration (were such an application subsequently to be made).
- Returning to Bianca’s reply submissions on this issue, Bianca also submits that Gina’s construction of the undertaking given to the Brereton J is artificial. It is said that, read fairly and in context, Bianca’s undertaking that she would “not commence or continue proceedings on behalf of the Trust in a court” refers to the commencement of new proceedings and the continuation of proceedings brought by or against the HMH Trust that were in existence at the time of Bianca’s appointment as trustee. It is said that, if it were otherwise, the undertaking would be inherently ambiguous as it would be impracticable (if not impossible) to determine, upon pain of a finding of contempt, when a proceeding that had been commenced with judicial advice should be taken to be “continued” in a manner that required a further judicial advice application before a further step could be taken. It is submitted that the undertaking should not be construed in such a fashion in the absence of the clearest words.
- Further, Bianca submits that a focus by Gina and HPPL on questions of compliance with judicial advice is misdirected since costs are compensatory, not punitive (citing Northern Territory of Australia v Sangare  HCA 25; (2019) 93 ALJR 959 at  per Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane, and Nettle JJ). It is said that it is no part of the Court’s function to award indemnity costs in order to punish Bianca for an asserted breach of the undertaking, even if such a breach could be proved.
- Responding to Bianca’s reply submissions as to the delinquency said to have arisen from the failure to obtain judicial advice to continue the proceedings, Gina’s position is that her construction of the undertaking (that judicial advice would be received before commencing and maintaining proceedings on behalf of the HMH Trust), is consistent with the important differences between commencing proceedings and maintaining them (referring to ,  and  the February Judgment) and with the fact that Rein J approved the commencement of this proceeding but expressly reserved the question of where the proceedings should ultimately be maintained in light of the various other disputes (see Bianca Hope Rinehart as trustee of The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust  NSWSC 282 at ).
- Gina says that the relevant delinquency is the failure to obtain judicial advice, in light of the undertaking; and that this does not amount to a finding of contempt (which, it is noted, involves a finding of deliberate or contumacious defiance with Court orders, citing Witham v Holloway (1995) 183 CLR 525 at 530, per Brennan, Dean, Toohey, and Gaudron JJ;  HCA 3). Gina emphasises that any finding as to breach of the undertaking would be a finding on an interlocutory application for costs.
- In any event, regardless of the applicability of the terms of the undertaking Bianca provided, Gina’s complaint is that Bianca has failed to explain why she did not obtain judicial advice concerning the continuation of these proceedings “in the face of the referral/stay motions and in light of her competing personal claims”. Gina says Bianca also has failed to establish that any consideration was given to whether the proceedings should be maintained at the time the judicial advice application was made (reference being made in this context to what I said in the February Judgment at ; and the observations there made at , which it is not necessary here to repeat). It is suggested that Bianca’s failure to put on evidence as to the matters to which reference was made at  of the February Judgment (as to whether particular matters were raised before his Honour on the judicial advice application) may give rise to a relevant inference.
- As to the complaint that indemnity costs would be punitive, Gina says that the indemnity costs are not sought to punish Bianca for her misconduct but, rather, to compensate the defendants for having incurred costs as a result of Bianca’s delinquency (again citing Oshlack).
- As to the alleged delinquency on the part of Bianca concerning the pursuit of the unconscionability motion, Gina accepts that this could only justify indemnity costs incurred in relation to that motion (including the application to have that motion referred to arbitration). Gina submits that the unconscionability motion obviously came within the scope of the High Court’s finding concerning challenges to the efficacy of the Hope Downs Deed (citing Rinehart v Hancock at -) and says that there was therefore no issue as to whether the “governed or controlled” test had been overruled in that respect, because it was directly covered by what the High Court held. Gina maintains that this disposes of Bianca’s submission as to why pressing the unconscionability motion before the stay motion had been determined was not hopeless in light of the High Court’s finding at . As to Bianca’s submissions concerning whether it was obvious that the proceedings would be stayed, Gina says that these merely reassert the arguments she made during the hearing (and points to the findings made at  and  of the February Judgment).
- On the breach of undertaking issue, HPPL argues first that the mere fact that a breach of an undertaking is serious and has not been expressly raised before in the substantive proceeding is not a reason to disregard it on the question of costs. Second, HPPL says that it is unremarkable that a party’s conduct of the proceedings will only be ventilated for the first time on a costs argument (as the conduct will often be irrelevant to the substantive relief). Third, and finally, HPPL argues that, in any event, Bianca has had an opportunity to respond to HPPL’s submission that she breached the undertaking; that she did not deny it; and that she elected not to respond to its substance. HPPL says that in these circumstances, having regard to the breach of undertaking on the question of costs cannot be said to be unfair.
- HPPL says that its submission as to the failure to obtain judicial advice is not as to whether Rein J was informed about the arbitration agreement and the potential for a stay application (though HPPL says that there is no evidence that this occurred); rather, its position is that Bianca resisted the stay application and sought to challenge the Hope Downs Deed in these proceedings without seeking judicial advice to do so. HPPL says that it is clear from his Honour’s reasons that Rein J gave no such advice and that Bianca can be criticised in these circumstances because her failure to obtain judicial advice breached the undertaking she gave to Brereton J.
- Like Gina, HPPL says its application for indemnity costs is not seeking costs on a punitive basis. Rather, HPPL says that it was required to take steps and incur costs in this proceeding which, in HPPL’s submission, almost certainly would have been avoided had Bianca sought judicial advice as to this aspect of the matter (because Bianca was unlikely to obtain judicial advice to continue this proceeding while maintaining inconsistent claims in other jurisdictions); and therefore it seeks orders to compensate it for costs that, in its submission, it should never have had to incur.
- Turning to the next argument to which Bianca responded in reply submissions (the submission that the unconscionability application was hopeless and/or unreasonably pursued, with the result that indemnity costs should be awarded), Bianca says that, at most, the contention could touch only costs incurred in dealing with the unconscionability application (which she notes “was itself only listed for directions”, and did not involve any evidence on the part of Gina or HPPL), and that this could not warrant a general indemnity costs order.
- Pausing here, HPPL argues that Bianca’s acceptance in these submissions that the unconscionability application was only listed for directions is a sufficient basis for the conclusion that it was unreasonable for Bianca “to waste the parties’ time and resources in nevertheless seeking to agitate the application”.
- Bianca submits, further, that she should not be criticised for pursuing the unconscionability application in circumstances where Le Miere J had found that a similar (but not identical) argument offended the separability principle (referring to the Le Miere (No 10) Decision). It is noted that that application had been brought by Bianca in her personal capacity and that Le Miere J’s judgment was under appeal. It is said that that appeal, if successful, would not have “undone” a referral to arbitration in these proceedings made in the face of Bianca not taking the unconscionability point. Bianca says that had she not taken the point, Gina and HPPL might very well have later submitted that she should was subject to an Anshun estoppel (see Port of Melbourne Authority v Anshun Pty Ltd  HCA 45; (1981) 147 CLR 589 at 602-604, per Gibbs CJ, Mason and Aickin JJ;  HCA 45) or should otherwise have been precluded from arguing the point on a later occasion.
- To this, HPPL says that the contention by Bianca that it is not unreasonable for her to repeatedly press materially the same unsuccessful argument in different courts should be rejected. HPPL maintains that it is plain, given the authorities referred to in its earlier submissions, that the unconscionability application had no reasonable prospects of success. In particular, HPPL says that “[r]ecycling a failed argument with no reasonable prospects of success is precisely the kind of unreasonable conduct that should sound in an award of indemnity costs”.
- As to the submission that the unconscionability motion was contrary to the separability principle (as held at  of the February Judgment) and was covered by the High Court decision in Rinehart v Hancock at  (as to which Bianca says there was not an express finding in the February Judgment), Bianca submits that, at best, that is a submission that Gina and HPPL’s arguments were found to be persuasive. Bianca says that it does not mean that it was unreasonable for Bianca to put a different position; nor, a fortiori, does it mean that it was so unreasonable for Bianca to put such an argument that an award of indemnity costs is now justified. Further, it is said that to submit that the unconscionability motion was squarely covered by the High Court decision so as to make it unreasonable to put any different approach fails to take account of the (reasoned) debate before me as to how the High Court’s decision in Rinehart v Hancock sat with the Court of Appeal’s decision on the meaning and scope of the arbitration agreement.
- Bianca says that the submission that “it should have been obvious” that the proceedings would be stayed “given the conflicting positions [Bianca] was adopting in different fora” also rises no higher than a submission that Gina and HPPL’s submissions on inconsistency were ultimately accepted by the Court. It is said that there was nothing unreasonable in Bianca submitting: that any inconsistency would arise only at the time of judgment, and should not prevent (at least) the filing of a defence and the service of evidence by Bianca; that HPPL had not established that it had insufficient funds available to declare dividends to the trust even if the Federal Court “asset” claims were resolved wholly against HPPL; and that the Court’s remedial armoury in a breach of trust and oppression suit was sufficiently flexible to ensure that there would be no double recovery (and it is noted that I did not reject any of these submissions).
- Finally, insofar as HPPL refers to the “no choice [but] to bring the current proceedings as trustee” submission, Bianca says that this is not relevant to the present issue; emphasising that Bianca obtained judicial advice that she was justified in commencing the present proceeding.
- In answer to the above argument, HPPL says that it did not say that indemnity costs should be awarded because Bianca submitted that she had no choice to bring the current proceedings as trustee; rather, that HPPL’s point is that Bianca did have a choice as to whether to oppose the stay application. HPPL says that Bianca’s submission that she was duty bound as a trustee to bring this proceeding is irrelevant in determining whether her decision to resist the stay application was reasonable.
Forthwith costs order
- As to the application for a forthwith costs order, Bianca says that there is no sufficient reason here to “order otherwise” than as provided under the UCPR (see rr 42.7(1) and (2) of the UCPR).
- Bianca says that Gina and HPPL do not assert some special cash flow need to obtain their costs now (and says that having regard to their financial resources, they could hardly do so). Bianca maintains her position that there is no unreasonable conduct on her part which would justify such an order. Further, it is said that it is a matter of speculation as to how long the arbitration will go (noting that no findings have been made on that issue).
- Bianca also says that the applications determined on 14 February 2020 are not readily characterised as “discreet, separately identifiable aspect[s]” of the proceedings, referring to the fact that the s 247A application remains alive. It is said that this can be said of “virtually any interlocutory application” and should not alone justify the orders sought.
- It is submitted that it would be unjust for Gina and HPPL to obtain their costs immediately; and that a number of their arguments were accepted only on a prima facie basis, to be finally determined by the arbitrator (referring, in particular, the arguments as to “party” addressed at - of the February Judgment). It is submitted that Gina and HPPL are effectively seeking their costs now for work that they would otherwise have had to do to put the arguments before the arbitrator, and which they might ultimately lose before the arbitrator.
- HPPL argues that the above submissions for Bianca wrongly conflate the stay applications with the underlying proceedings which are the subject of the stays. HPPL says that the fact that it made submissions on certain factual matters on a prima facie basis, which will be addressed on a final basis at arbitration, does not detract from HPPL’s success on those issues on these particular applications.
- Finally, Bianca points to the position taken by the Full Federal Court on a similar forthwith costs application by Gina and HPPL (see Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd v Rinehart (No 2)  FCAFC 208). It is noted that the Full Court rejected such an application, Allsop CJ, Besanko, and O’Callaghan JJ saying (at ):
… there is no reason why in justice these costs should be paid forthwith. The costs will be large. That is a result of how both sides have treated the applications. With some exception in oral address, no stone has been left unturned, no opportunity for opposition passed up, and no proposition in writing expressed otherwise than to the fullest. Should the costs be payable forthwith that would raise the real risk of stultification of the substantive complaints of the first and second respondents to the appeal. That would be a matter of some real injustice. If the first and second respondents’ complaints are legitimate (whether to be vindicated in an arbitration or court proceeding) they would amount to very serious wrongs.
[Emphasis in the original]
- It is submitted that there is no reason here to adopt a different approach. Bianca says that all parties have approached this litigation in substantially the same manner as was described by the Full Federal Court; that the costs will inevitably be large and that a payable forthwith order raises a real risk of stultification of the substantive complaints which would be productive of injustice. Further, it is said that if Bianca’s corporate governance and oppression complaints are legitimate (whether to be vindicated in arbitration or in court proceedings) they would amount to very serious wrongs.
- HPPL says that there are two material differences between the position here and the position considered in the costs decision of the Full Federal Court. First, HPPL notes that Bianca was a party to the Federal Court proceeding in her personal capacity whereas here, she is a plaintiff in her capacity as the trustee of the HMH Trust (with, it is said, extraordinarily valuable revenue streams and assets). HPPL says that there is no suggestion that Bianca is not being indemnified from the HMH Trust assets. Second, HPPL says that there is no evidence before this Court of a risk of stultification of the proceedings and no evidential foundation for such a submission. In particular, it is said that there is no evidence that the HMH Trust is unable to indemnify Bianca for her costs of this proceeding.
- Similarly, Gina says that Bianca does not assert that a forthwith order would result in stultification of the proceedings and has not addressed the evidence identified in Gina’s 28 February 2020 costs submissions as to the dividends received by Bianca in FY15-FY18. Gina says that there can be no risk of stultification as a result of the costs order being paid forthwith, so that the approach of the Full Federal Court is inapplicable (and says that the fact that Bianca has now filed a notice of intention to appeal demonstrates that there is no risk of stultification).
- Gina further says that: there is no principle that a defendant must have a “cash flow need” to obtain a forthwith order; it is patently clear, not speculation, that the various arbitrations have “some considerable distance to go” (noting that Bianca’s counsel accepted during the hearing of the stay applications the proposition that the determination of the arbitral proceedings would be “years away” (see T 321.5-6; T 322.38)); and that the costs to date have been associated with preliminary but discrete, and separately identifiable aspects. Further, it is said that even if this application was not discrete, it would be only a reason not to make costs payable forthwith concerning it, but not as to the balance of the motions. Gina further submits that the s 247A application, as presently formulated, is discrete from any isolated s 247A application which may be made in the future in this proceeding.
- Gina also says that there is no injustice by reason of the First Defendant’s arguments having only been accepted on a prima facie basis, noting that that was the relevant threshold. Gina says it cannot be the case that the costs incurred on these motions would have been incurred in arbitration in any event, since the focus of the stay hearings was not upon the merits of the underlying claims, as it will be before the arbitrators (and says, further, that those arbitrators will be responsible for the appropriate costs orders following determination).
Other costs issues
- Insofar as Gina and HPPL seeks costs in relation to Gina’s application to set aside the three Subpoenas determined on 17 July 2018 in Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 1102 (the 2018 Subpoena Judgment), Bianca points to the fact that I had previously concluded that costs on that issue “should be reserved until after the hearing of the s 247A application” (see 2018 Subpoena Judgment at ). Bianca again notes that the s 247A application has not been heard or determined; and says that neither Gina nor HPPL has identified any reason why he or it “should be entitled to re-litigate” that conclusion.
- Bianca says that, in any event, HPPL should not have its costs in relation to the Subpoenas determined in the 2018 Subpoena Judgment, noting that: HPPL did not apply to set aside the Subpoenas; and that HPPL’s contentions in respect of those subpoenas were not determined. It is submitted that there is therefore no “event” which costs can follow. (So far as HPPL contends that it should have those costs on an indemnity basis, Bianca says that that contention should be rejected for the same reasons as put forward in response to HPPL’s general application for indemnity costs.)
- Gina’s position is that at the time that the costs of the applications to set aside the Subpoenas the subject of the 2018 Subpoena Judgment were reserved the s 247A application was to be heard along with the stay motions (see Rinehart atf The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust v Rinehart  NSWSC 803). Gina submits that given the change in circumstances the reserved costs should be dealt with now. Similarly, HPPL says that circumstances have changed, noting that the costs in question were reserved at a time when the s 247A Application was set down for hearing. HPPL says that the s 247A Application is unlikely to ever be heard “at least in the same form in which it was stayed”, because of the likelihood that similar relief may be sought from an arbitrator; and that in those circumstances, it is appropriate that the question as to the reserved costs should now be revisited.
- As already noted, there is no issue raised by Bianca as to the making of an order for costs (on the ordinary basis) in respect of the motions that were determined on 14 February 2020 on the basis of the usual order that costs follow the event (see r 42.1 of the UCPR).
- Two issues have arisen as to the ambit of such an order: first, whether (as Bianca contends) there should be a “carve-out” for costs referable to the s 247A application that has not yet been determined (and has simply been stayed pending the outcome of the arbitration); and, second, whether (as Gina contends) the order should be an order for the whole of the proceedings to date (on the basis that the relief granted has practically disposed of all extant issues in the proceedings), or should encompass certain of the interlocutory motions that were not dealt with on their merits (such as the unconscionability motion).
- As to the second of those issues, I do not consider that an order for costs in respect of the whole of the proceedings to date is warranted. Presumably some costs will have been incurred in the proceedings by the defendants to date that relate to the substance of the dispute not to the interlocutory motions as such (say, for example, in a review of the pleaded claims for the purpose, if nothing else, of advising as to the scope of the proceedings and, perhaps, in preparation for a defence of the proceedings). I see no basis for an assumption that all of the costs incurred to date are costs of, or incidental to, the particular interlocutory motions that were the subject of the hearing and determination before me in July last year. That said, I accept that the costs of the interlocutory hearings in 2017 and 2018 are properly characterised as (or predominantly as) costs of, or incidental to, the costs of the respective stay applications. Debates going to the sequence in which the respective motions were to be heard, for example, largely turned on the stay applications.
- Nor do I consider that costs orders should be made in relation to motions that were either before me only for directions and have now been stayed (the unconscionability motion) or were listed before me but not the subject of a hearing on the merits (the mediation motion). As to the mediation motion, even though the same result has now been achieved as was sought by that motion, it has been of the Court’s own motion. Moreover, it is difficult to see that much in the way of separate costs (other than the preparation and filing of the motion) would have been incurred in relation to that motion, since the focus of the hearing(s) to date was on other matters (in particular, the stay applications).
- Therefore I propose to confine the costs orders to costs of, and incidental to, the particular motions that were determined by me. If there is a dispute as to whether aspects of the sequencing debate are properly to be regarded as incidental to the respective stay applications (notwithstanding the observations I have made above), that can be dealt with in due course on a costs assessment.
- The more difficult issue is the first of the above two issues, namely as to the carve out sought in respect of costs incurred in relation to Bianca’s s 247A application. For the reasons set out in the February Judgment, I did not refer that application to arbitration. I concluded that Bianca’s s 247A application, though arbitrable, was not per se a dispute caught by cl 20 of the Hope Downs Deed and thus was not required to be referred to arbitration. Therefore, it has not yet been determined on its merits and, indeed, I contemplated that there might be particular, limited categories of documents required by Bianca for the purpose of her administration of the HMH Trust as its trustee (other than for the purposes of the prosecution of the claims the subject of the Oppression Proceeding and hence unconnected to the dispute the subject of the matters that I was contemplating would then be referred to arbitration), such that I was not prepared to rule out the possibility of entertaining a discrete s 247A application even pending the determination of the arbitration.
- But for the qualification I make below, I consider that there would be force to Bianca’s submission that the appropriate order would be to carve out of the costs order costs referable to preparation for the s 247A application (that has not yet been heard).
- The qualification I make is that, notwithstanding that I did not refer Bianca’s s 247A application to arbitration with the balance of the matters in dispute in the proceedings, I did consider that it should be stayed pending determination of the arbitration (because the hearing of that application is likely to involve a public airing of the matters the subject of the bargained-for confidentiality and, to the extent that the documents sought are relevant to the matters to be referred to arbitration, it would be open to Bianca to seek production of documents in the context of the arbitration). Therefore, albeit for a somewhat different reason, perhaps, HPPL and Gina did succeed in persuading me that the s 247A application should not now be heard.
- Both HPPL and Gina made very clear at all stages in the various sequencing debates their position that the s 247A application should not be heard at this stage (albeit that their principal contention was that it should be referred to arbitration). To the extent that Bianca pressed for it to be heard and proceeded to serve material or take other steps in aid of that application, which then caused the defendants to incur costs against the possibility that Bianca would be successful in persuading me to proceed to determine it, it seems to me that Bianca should bear the costs consequences of that forensic decision. I am fortified in that view by the 13 April 2017 letter. Bianca was well and truly on notice, from a very early stage of these proceedings, of the contention by HPPL that it was inappropriate to continue with the proceedings pending the resolution of the Federal Court proceedings (and/or other curial or arbitral proceedings) and, further, that questions would or were likely to arise as to issues of abuse of process or the like as a result of the perceived inconsistency in Bianca’s position (as well as the potential for an application to stay the proceedings for a referral to arbitration).
- Moreover, although it was not necessary (in light of my other findings) separately to determine the application for a stay of the proceedings on the alternative bases put forward (being the stay on the grounds of case management principles or, alternatively, as an abuse of process), I was of the view that a stay on those bases would have been warranted (see at - of the February Judgment). Therefore, had the outcome of the interlocutory motions turned on those issues, the result would still have been in Gina and HPPL’s favour in that the proceedings would have been stayed on those bases (and the s 247A application would still remain yet to be determined).
- In those circumstances, I do not consider that a “carve-out” from the overall costs orders is warranted in respect of costs incurred in relation to the s 247A application at least so far as those costs can be characterised as being incurred incidental to the preparation for and hearing of the respective stay applications. To that extent, the costs order in favour of the defendants should encompass those costs.
- The two further issues that have been raised in relation to costs are: first, the basis on which any costs order(s) should be made (i.e., whether on an indemnity or party and party basis) and, second, the time when such costs should be payable (i.e., whether the costs should be payable forthwith).
- As to the claim for the costs orders to be on an indemnity basis, I accept that on one view HPPL and Gina are here in a different position because the 13 April 2017 letter on which HPPL relies was not an offer put forward (nor, at least so far as I can see, adopted) by Gina. A party seeking to invoke the Calderbank principles would ordinarily be the party who made the relevant offer (not another party seeking in hindsight to take the benefit of the making and non-acceptance of that offer). Certainly, I was not taken to any authority in which a party who did not make the relevant offer nevertheless obtained a special costs order by reference to such an offer. However, it is not ultimately necessary to determine this (some might say esoteric) issue because of the conclusion I have reached as to the other bases on which the claim for indemnity costs is put by Gina (see below).
- As to HPPL, and the application of the Calderbank principles to the offer that it made, I consider that there is force to the submission that it was unreasonable for Bianca not to accede to the proposed stay (or at the very least not to do so without judicial advice that she would be justified in resisting an application for a stay or for a referral to arbitration). I have referred in my earlier reasons to the striking overlap between the issues and inconsistency in the claims for relief made by Bianca (albeit in different capacities) in different proceedings and in different fora. In Commonwealth of Australia v Gretton  NSWCA 117, Beazley JA, as Her Excellency then was, noted the public policy considerations that underpin the making of favourable costs orders where a Calderbank offer has been made (see at , quoting from Leichhardt Municipal Council v Green  NSWCA 341 at  per Santow JA), those being the encouragement of settlement of disputes as soon as possible and the discouragement of wasteful and unreasonable behaviour by litigants. Those considerations are manifestly applicable in the present case. Having regard to those factors, the non-acceptance by Bianca of HPPL’s proposal for a stay of the Oppression Proceeding would, in my opinion, subject to the matters referred to below, warrant the making of indemnity costs orders in relation to HPPL’s Stay Application.
- It is however relevant to consider the timing of the offer and its terms, i.e., to consider whether it was not unreasonable for Bianca not to accept the offer based on the time available for its acceptance (which was indeed a short period) and/or on the basis of the complained lack of clarity in the terms of the offer. As to the former, effectively the offer allowed less than a week because of the intervening public holidays. However, it was not suggested at the time that Bianca was incapable of considering or dealing with the offer in that time frame. As to the latter, no complaint as to the clarity of the terms there proposed was raised at the time. Therefore, I would not conclude that for those reasons it was not unreasonable for Bianca not to accept the offer.
- Relevantly, however, insofar as the offer was predicated on the Court of Appeal’s construction of the arbitration clause being incorrect, at the time the offer was made there was a judgment binding on any first instance judge in this Court as to the construction of the relevant clause. Bianca cannot be criticised for proceeding on the assumption that that construction would be correct.
- On balance, therefore, I would not conclude that it was unreasonable for Bianca to have rejected the offer at the time that she did.
- As to the other bases on which indemnity costs are sought, my view (as I explained in the February Judgment) is that, although justified in commencing the proceedings, there is and would be an abuse of process in the vexing of the defendants (and particularly, in this case, HPPL) by the maintenance of inconsistent claims across different jurisdictions. Once that became apparent (as, in my opinion, it must have done at a very early stage – and certainly once this was drawn explicitly to Bianca’s attention in the 13 April 2017 letter), the continuation of the proceedings certainly bore the hallmarks of an abuse of process (see, for example, UBS AG v Tyne  HCA 45; (2018) 92 ALJR 968; 360 ALR 184 (UBS AG v Tyne) at  per Kiefel CJ, Bell and Keane JJ; and see -ff of the February Judgment).
- Relevantly, at  of the February Judgment I said:
603. I have concluded that case management principles would have coupled with the stay of the proceedings even if the disputes had not been covered by the arbitration clause by reason of the fundamental inconsistency in the maintenance of the two claims as to the beneficial ownership of the mining tenements assets. From a case management perspective, it is inefficient and raises the spectre of inconsistent judgments to have these matters dealt with in different places before different decision-makers. I accept that there is not one single matter but I also accept that there is a marked degree of interconnectedness (or interconnectivity) in the respective allegations. Whether or not this is “all about the dividends”, as was put to me, there is little doubt that issues relating to the payment of dividends are squarely raised in the pleadings by Bianca and that this will give rise to submissions made on the basis of inconsistency with provisions of the Hope Downs Deed. The fact that a court might be unlikely to grant certain of the relief, or that reliance on certain clauses might ultimately be found to be against public policy or the like, is not to the point – what is relevant is that it is abundantly clear that the defendants will be relying on provisions of the Hope Downs Deed in their defence of the allegations made against them; and that exploring the issues so raised will involve disputes as to the provisions of the Hope Downs Deed. Moreover, I consider this continuation of the present proceedings involving overlapping issues and inconsistent claims for relief (and premised on inconsistent positions albeit raised in different capacities) would amount to an abuse of process. [Emphasis added]
- If it was not abundantly clear from the February Judgment that I was of the view that it would be an abuse of process for Bianca to continue the proceedings at that stage and that the spectre of such an abuse of process arose at the time that the inconsistency between, and multiplicity of, proceedings involving overlapping claims became apparent. In that sense, while it may not have been an abuse of process, as such, to resist the application for a stay (insofar as there was a reasonable argument to be put forward against the requirement for such a stay under the Commercial Arbitration legislation – see the Commercial Arbitration Act 2010 (NSW); Commercial Arbitration Act 2012 (WA)), to allow Bianca to press on with those overlapping and inconsistent claims would have been in my opinion to condone an abuse of process. The precise point at which such an abuse of process might be said to have arisen does not seem to me to be material in circumstances where the costs orders are made in relation to the respective Stay Applications (not the proceedings as a whole). What is relevant is that, as from 13 April 2017 Bianca was on notice of the concerns that had been raised in that regard and chose to proceed with the matter (and, relevantly, to resist the applications for a stay) regardless of the potential abuse of process.
- I consider that, at the time of the 13 April 2017 letter (if not indeed before, having regard to the undertaking to which the defendants have referred), and at the latest when the Full Federal Court Decision and High Court Decision were handed down, it was incumbent on Bianca as trustee (if she wished to be protected from adverse costs consequences of this kind) to seek judicial advice as to whether she was justified in continuing to resist a referral to arbitration or in refusing to accede to a temporary stay of the proceedings.
- It is not necessary (nor is it appropriate in the absence of an opportunity for Bianca to be heard on this particular issue) to delve into the question whether such conduct involved any breach of an undertaking to the Court. In this regard, it sufficies to point to the authorities which make clear the need for trustees to consider the making of appropriate judicial advice applications before incurring costs as a trustee in litigation – see, in particular, Macedonian Orthodox Community Church St Petka Incorporated v His Eminence Petar The Diocesan Bishop of Macedonian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand (2008) 237 CLR 66;  HCA 42, where the High Court said (at ) that:
72. It is, therefore, not right to see a trustee’s application for judicial advice about whether to sue or defend proceedings as directed only to the personal protection of the trustee. Proceedings for judicial advice have another and no less important purpose of protecting the interests of the trust.
- See also Bovaird v Frost  NSWSC 917, where Brereton J, as his Honour then was, noted (at ) that it was both desirable and prudent for trustees promptly to obtain judicial advice as to possible proceedings lest it otherwise be suggested that the trustees “have been gambling with money that is not their own”.
- True it is that there was a basis on which a reasoned argument could be (and was) maintained to support the resistance to the respective stay applications (and it was not until a later point in the course of the proceedings that the inconsistency between the Court of Appeal Decision and the Full Federal Court Decision emerged). However, at all relevant times, there were overlapping and inconsistent claims in multiple fora; and, ultimately, whatever the outcome of the Commercial Arbitration stay argument, there were obvious case management and other grounds to warrant a stay of the proceedings.
- I accept that the making of indemnity costs orders is not intended to be punitive; but I see such an order in this case not as punitive but as intended to reflect the unreasonableness or delinquency in conduct on Bianca’s part, for which the defendants should be compensated.
- As to the submissions to the effect that the unconscionability motion (which I emphasise has not yet been heard on its merits despite the debate as to the sequencing of and basis for that motion during the course of the hearing of the stay applications) was hopeless on its face or had no reasonable prospects for success, I would not go so far as to say that. However, its belated appearance in the array of interlocutory motions and, more significantly, its appearance after the dismissal of an almost identical motion in the Western Australian proceedings, reinforces my concern as to the stance here adopted by Bianca in resisting the referral to arbitration and/or stay of the present proceeding (particularly without having sought judicial advice as to whether she was justified in so doing). In the February Judgment I noted my concerns as to the same issues and factual disputes being raised across a variety of jurisdictions and proceedings. That remains my very real concern.
- What amounts to unreasonable conduct in the context of costs applications (albeit in a different context) has been considered in Re the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs; Ex parte Lai Qin  HCA 6; (1997) 186 CLR 622 at 624-625 per McHugh J;  HCA 6 (Lai Qin)). His Honour there said that:
In an appropriate case, a court will make an order for costs even when there has been no hearing on the merits and the moving party no longer wishes to proceed with the action. The court cannot try a hypothetical action between the parties. To do so would burden the parties with the costs of a litigated action which by settlement or extra-curial action they had avoided. In some cases, however, the court may be able to conclude that one of the parties has acted so unreasonably that the other party should obtain the costs of the action. In administrative law matters, for example, it may appear that the defendant has acted unreasonably in exercising or refusing to exercise a power and that the plaintiff had no reasonable alternative but to commence a litigation. [Citations omitted]
- Elsewhere (see Renton v Kelly  NSWSC 1377 at , Baller Industries Pty Ltd v Mero Mero Leasing Pty Ltd  NSWSC 1067 at - ), I have noted that the use of the word “so” in the above passage indicates a level of unreasonableness which is established by the circumstances in which the costs were incurred. It is also relevant here again to emphasise the overriding mandate in respect of the conduct of litigation in this Court (see s 56 of the Civil Procedure Act) is for the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in dispute. The proliferation of disputes across the country raising overlapping issues, coupled with the resistance to the referral of the present disputes to arbitration in circumstances where elsewhere the same or very similar disputes have already been referred to arbitration (and against the background emphasised by the High Court in its decision in relation to the very same arbitration agreement the subject of the present stay applications – Rinehart v Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd  HCA 13; 93 ALJR 582), is in my opinion “so unreasonable”, in the sense considered in Lai Qin, as to warrant an indemnity costs order in relation to the respective stay applications.
- For those reasons I have concluded that it is appropriate to order that the costs of, and incidental to, the respective stay applications be borne by Bianca on the indemnity basis.
- As to the application for orders that the costs be payable forthwith, as noted above the relevant principles have been stated in Morningstar and are well known (see, for example, Sayour v Elliott (No 2)  NSWSC 146 at ). In the present case, I am persuaded that such an order is appropriate, because of the likely delay in the overall disposition of the substantive disputes in the proceedings. I accept that the stay applications raised relatively discrete issues (as to the arbitration agreement and the like), and I consider that Bianca’s conduct in persisting with the applications (without the benefit of judicial advice as to whether she was justified in resisting a referral to arbitration) has the requisite element of unreasonableness to satisfy the Morningstar test. I am not persuaded that there has been established any real risk of stultification of claims if such an order is made. Nor am I persuaded that the case is on all fours with the situation described by the Full Federal Court in its costs decision in this regard. True it is that in the history of my case management of the proceedings all parties have taken, from time to time, tendentious positions and appear to have spared little expense in litigating up hill and down dale. However, the very fact that all parties may be criticised for such behaviour makes it important here to draw a line in the sand (particularly having regard to the mandate of s 56 of the Civil Procedure Act).
- Finally, insofar as the reserved costs of the contested subpoena applications are concerned, I consider it appropriate for those costs to be borne by Bianca in circumstances where the Subpoenas were issued in support of the proposed s 247A applications (and were pressed in the face of disputes as to the referral of the substantive disputes to arbitration). It cannot be said that nothing relevantly has changed since those costs were reserved. What has changed is that the disputes between the parties have either been referred to arbitration or stayed; and there is no reason to believe that they will be disposed of in the near future. That is a sufficient change in circumstance to warrant the reconsideration of the question of costs. In my opinion, it is appropriate for the costs now to be determined (because the proceedings are now otherwise stayed) and that costs should follow the event. However, I would not order those costs to be on an indemnity basis (as I am not persuaded that the factors that led to the making of such an order in relation to the stay applications apply with equal force to the subpoena applications); nor would I order HPPL’s costs to be met of an application that it did not make even though I accept that it was not unreasonable for it to make the submissions that it did on this issue (and the fact that they were not determined was due to the success of the application by Gina to set aside the Subpoenas). Moreover, to the extent that HPPL’s costs were incurred in order to protect its position in relation to the arbitration the subject of the stay applications, I consider that those costs would be incidental to the stay applications and recoverable in that context.
- The Subpoena application costs and the (already ordered) costs of the application to set aside the HPPL Notice to Produce, should be payable forthwith for the reasons set out above in relation to the other costs orders.
- For the reasons set out above, I make the following orders:
In proceedings 2017/86718 (Oppression Proceeding)
(1) Subject to further order, pursuant to s 8(1)(a) and (e) of the Court Suppression and Non-publication Orders Act 2010 (NSW), order that paragraphs 14 to 17 of the affidavit sworn 28 February 2020 by Timothy Ignatius L’Estrange be kept confidential and not be made available nor disclosed to any person other than the legal representatives of the parties in connection with this proceeding anywhere in the Commonwealth for a period of five years.
(2) Pursuant to s 26 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW), order the parties to mediation, such mediation to take place within three months of the making of these orders.
(3) Order that the costs of the mediation (namely, the fees and disbursements of the mediator or mediators and any venue, equipment, or related service costs) are to be dealt with in accordance with order 2 of the orders made today in proceedings 2011/285907.
(4) Direct the parties to seek to agree on (and jointly to appoint) a mediator or mediators for the purposes of the said mediation within one month of the making of these orders and direct the parties to notify the associate to Ward CJ in Eq by 17 April 2020 of the agreed identity of the said mediator(s) or, failing agreement, their proposed choice of mediator(s) (in which case Ward CJ in Eq will nominate the mediator(s) to be appointed).
(5) Direct the parties, within seven days of the conclusion of the mediation, to inform the associate to Ward CJ in Eq as to whether settlement has been reached at the mediation and of any orders sought to be made in relation to the proceedings in that regard.
(6) Liberty to the parties to apply to the associate to Ward CJ in Eq on three days’ notice.
(7) Order Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, to pay the costs of the defendants of, and incidental to, the second defendant’s amended notice of motion dated 15 July 2019 and filed on 16 July 2019, and the first defendant’s amended notice of motion dated 26 June 2019 (including the hearings of 23 May 2017, 27-28 August 2018, and 15-19, 23 and 25 July 2019), such costs to be paid on an indemnity basis and to be payable forthwith.
(8) Order Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, to pay the costs of the first defendant (on the ordinary basis and payable forthwith) of the hearings to set aside subpoenas issued by Bianca Hope Rinehart in these proceedings to the Institute of Public Affairs, CEF Pty Ltd and the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 1102).
(9) Order that the existing costs orders made in favour of the second defendant in respect of its application to set aside a notice to produce issued to it by Bianca Hope Rinehart, as trustee for the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust (see Rinehart v Rinehart  NSWSC 759) be varied such that the costs be payable forthwith.
In proceedings 2011/285907 (the Trustee proceeding)
(1) Pursuant to s 26 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW), order the parties to mediation, such mediation to take place within three months of the making of these orders.
(2) Order that the costs of the mediation (namely, the fees and disbursements of the mediator or mediators and any venue, equipment or related service costs) be borne (subject to any agreement between all the relevant parties to the contrary) in equal one-sixth shares by each of the Rinehart family members (i.e., Bianca (in her personal capacity), John, Hope, Ginia and Gina) and Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd.
(3) Direct the parties to seek to agree on (and jointly to appoint) a mediator or mediators for the purposes of the said mediation within one month of the making of these orders and direct the parties to notify the associate to Ward CJ in Eq by 17 April 2020 of the agreed identity of the said mediator(s) or, failing agreement, their proposed choice of mediator(s) (in which case Ward CJ in Eq will nominate the mediator(s) to be appointed).
(4) Direct the parties, within seven days of the conclusion of the mediation, the parties are to inform the associate to Ward CJ in Eq as to whether a settlement has been reached at the mediation and of any orders sought to be made in relation to the proceedings in that regard.
(5) Liberty to the parties to apply to the associate to Ward CJ in Eq on three days’ notice.