Iona Mineshaft's greatest letters Vol 1

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In mysterious circumstances, writer Graham Jackson has received a collection of missives written recently by the inestimable Iona Mineshaft to various prominent people in Australia and overseas. Independent Australia is proud to publish over coming weeks, in three parts, this fascinating array of insights from one of Australia’s largest mining magnates.


(The Unauthorised ‘Mr Coolie’ Edition)


Dear ‘Mr Coolie’,

You might find your pirate project amusing, but you have no idea what it’s like walking in my shoes (flat or high heel) and I suggest you take a leaf out of Mr Abbott’s little book of policy aspirations and live with the Tribesmen for a week or two – anywhere remote, any length of time – and see if you survive and get home to enjoy the relief of throwing your shoes off, putting your feet up and experiencing some of the small pleasures, having familiar faces around you, lawyers and journalists, briefing them about the latest family injunction, and so on and so forth, before getting back into the swing of things balancing on the back of a truck while keeping your hat on, but secure in the knowledge you have a media empire behind you intercepting phone-calls and allowing you to share Rupert Murdoch’s dreams of world domination in a penthouse far away from your pathetic life, ‘Mr Coolie’, of trivial pursuits and buying the Age every morning. See if I care if you never buy my paper again.


Dear Julia Gillard,

You will note I address you personally rather than in your official capacity and that is because I have no regard for prime ministers – or any authority, for that matter, human or divine – but I do have time for people with a decent bottom and since mine is bigger than yours I feel I can offer you advice for the good of the country and against the trend of the speculators, tweeters and other baleful influences, and that is not to go down the path of weight loss, or shedding policies, no matter how burdensome, but to stick to your guns! even if it means pretending to tax people like me, who can afford to shed a few pounds in the interest of balancing the books (and oneself on high heels), because at the end of the day we’re in this together and because, since my recent acquisition of media interests, I have come to appreciate the importance of the letters to the editor columns, fickle fortune, finding staff on whom one can rely and rewarding them with the Michelle Grattan Medal. I hope I have made myself clear.


Dear Mr Palmer,

Since we share common ground – well, not common exactly, because that would have us in dispute over leases and rights like a couple of argumentative Tribesmen – and since our common ground casts a broad shadow, almost a blight on the face of the country (as some black-hearted Coolies like to portray us), I imagine you might have had the same idea, Mr Palmer, that we should join forces, close ranks against the shallow-minded, those who don’t have the courage to dig deep, all those whom my roving reporter Andrew Bolt calls envious, join forces to dig up whatever is left to dig up once I have a firm grip on Fairfax affairs and a better understanding of how to get the dirt on people and how to use the power of the word, where previously I’ve been happy to use the power of wealth derived, as you know better than most, Mr Palmer, from the not so delicate art of extracting mineral concessions from under the feet of the owners of the land, wherever they might be found and whoever they might be. Can I count you in?


Dear Rupert Murdoch,

Since Mr Palmer turned me down, I wonder if I could arrange a merger of our empires and the coming together of our common interests – viz, world domination, etc – and, who knows, in the fullness of time even our children might find shared interests? although of that I’m less certain, having only the remotest inkling of what goes on in my children’s minds, and I imagine you must have similar moments of doubt – I was going to say existential panic, having seen the expression in the Australian – but when all’s said and done, what does each of us know about anything, except what can be phone-tapped, or eavesdropped, or found in fat envelopes or under overturned rocks, or even deeper in the ground? or buried in the human mind, Mr Murdoch, where strange things lurk, dreams and the like, intimations of forgotten desires, critical press notices, although as a recent arrival on the media magnate’s scene I realise I shouldn’t accept things at face value, but rely more on intuition, words overheard in the park, Michelle Grattan’s opinions and your own columnists’ wisdom. I understand we enjoy joint ownership of Andrew Bolt already.


Dear Ron Paul,

Although not usually backward in coming forward, I have to admit I approach you with some trepidation, no doubt because you are so eloquent and because you are unlike anyone else I know, despite the fact that we share common beliefs, like zero taxation and a rigorous libertarianism which, if implemented, would allow me to dig up the rest of Australia without attracting undue attention, since, as Rupert Murdoch’s analyst, Professor Dominatrix, recently noted in one of her punitive columns, come the libertarian era all the envious Coolies and Tribesmen will be back in their caves (or wherever they come from) and in no position to notice anything or anyone, even a presence as imposing as mine, Ron Paul (do you know, your name reminds me of Paul Revere and the Raiders), the downside of which is that if I want to be heard I will still have to rely on writing open letters, which lacks the excitement you must experience as you bring the troops home to wage war against abortion, etc, and capture the occasional headline, even in my own papers. Do you know Tony Abbott, or Margaret Court?


Dear Mr Abbott,

I appreciate we are both in a hurry to achieve our own goals, but Speedos are not a good look and should be pushed to the back of the bottom drawer, if you can find your way past all that old correspondence with Alan Jones and the Pope, not to mention my ungainly letter about the proposed mining tax – I was caught on the hop – which I trust you destroyed after committing to memory, just as I imagine you will have the good sense to accept in the spirit it is offered the following advice from one who now has the media power to make or break you, Mr Abbott, as assuredly as the media is breaking Prime Minister Gillard, and my advice is to travel quickly, taking no prisoners as my revered father once used to say, avoiding trenches or anything else that might cross your path, unless you see the glint of metal and pause to stake a claim, before scurrying on to raise the flag over our Empire. Do not let me down.


Dear Mr President,

If you are agreeable, I would like to pay off your country’s debts, so that China can feel more comfortable (like you, I depend on them) and less anxious about warmongering Republicans whom I confess I approached indirectly before approaching you, in the hope that I could buy them out – notwithstanding the fact that Mitt Romney is a wealthy man, if not in my league – with the philanthropic intention of making the world a more harmonious place and getting Dick Smith off my case, because it bears repeating that my trillions will be worth nothing if the bomb goes off, other than to help excavate an even deeper hole in Western Australia to which I can retreat with my most valued possessions, my lawyers, newspaper editors and the like, even you, Mr President, if you agree to a takeover and are prepared to leave your children behind (you can still bring your wife) with the prospect of safely watching the world consuming itself and contemplating the day we might emerge to rebuild it. Did you know Michelle is one of my favourite names?


Dear Denizens of Australia,

This is by way of an introduction to myself and a counter to columnists’ confusion – viz, whether I am an inheritor or creator of wealth, a master of the dark arts or a mistress of fortune, etc – and to bring out into the open whether my ownership of your country is a good thing or not (I say nothing of my ownership of the Age, which you all love and respect), and to let you know in the clearest way possible that I am common like you, that I have no royal flag (although I make no apology for revering my father) and have no intention of putting a Crown on my head – as others have done in the West – but to retain my simplicity despite owning everything, especially the iron ore so dear to my father, and dearer still to the Chinese who since they came into possession of America have a fat wad of dollars on offer for your habitat, for which you will be compensated in the traditional trickle-down way with a small Diet Coke, that is, one for each denizen. May we all prosper together.

Creative Commons Licence


Dear Hugo Chavez,

Although we are unlikely bedfellows we do share an interest in things hidden deep in the ground, and in this context and for an appropriate consideration – I have in mind the deeds to Tasmania, once Mr Abbott is in a position to oblige me – I wonder if you could let me know how nationalisation works, since I have heard rumours of a conspiracy to deprive me of my mines, and would like to be in a position (informed by your insights) to counter any such move, either through the courts of the land, in which I am thoroughly at home, the influence of my media, with which I am increasingly comfortable – particularly its more subterranean element – or the simple use of bounty in envelopes, so familiar to all those in power, even you and me, Mr Chavez, when the need arises to encourage certain people to cool their heels in a distant land, perhaps with the connivance of Qantas’ Chief Executive Officer, who might find some advantage operating his employees and planes out of Venezuela. Perhaps you would prefer the deeds to South Australia?


Dear Mr Joyce,

Although we have never met, I make no excuses about flying this kite since we both stand to benefit, with a direct route to Caracas operating out of Hobart or Adelaide offering Qantas a solution to its current dilemma – to fly or fall off the radar – as well providing you with a fringe benefit in the shape of proximity to Guantanamo Bay, where your pilots might be reassessed, and while we are in this part of the world I believe I can safely reveal I already have Hugo Chavez on board, although he insists on flying Economy – understandable when one considers he so frequently flies by the seat of his pants – and seems to prefer Adelaide to Hobart, which might suit your needs, Mr Joyce, and even if not I see no reason why we can’t work something out, although I prefer not to go down the arbitrated path you recently blazoned to the delight of all magnates and moguls. To anticipate your question, although I am not in love with Hugo, we both have round faces, were born the same year and have two previous marriages, tra la.


Dear Hugo,

Your reply has taken me by surprise, since I had an idea my letters were all in my mind, a way of explaining the world to one whose life has taken strange twists and turns, dodging stepmother Rose, trying to cultivate children in Pilbara sand, but now you have written I see things in a different, more benign light, filtered somehow (could that be humidity?), and even hear things differently (in Spanish?), so that my mind is a whirl and my steps less certain, hardly knowing where my foot will fall next or to whom I should write – if not to you – and brooding on the disappointment of having to send one of my people over to finalise the details of this merger of our countries, desperately wanting to go myself but prevented by distractions here at home, including abuse from the country’s Treasurer, and wondering if I will even have time to see the wonderful film they have just released about you, Hugo, although it has been irritatingly marketed in this part of the world as a family film, but surely can’t be as ugly as that. Can it, my love?


Dear Stock Exchange,

Regrettably, at breakfast this morning I choked on my toast and inadvertently clicked the wrong button and acquired a controlling interest in everything you have on your board, including the Bilderberg Group, about which I know nothing except that Ross Garnaut attended a meeting once, which suggests that Bilderberg is up to its neck in the climate debate, but even if you are unable to confirm or deny I should be able to get the right information from Monckton – the dear fellow has offered me a peerage – whom I must make a note to fly back into the country after you have sorted this share business … I mean, owning Australia and Venezuela and having a significant say in America, if not a seat on the actual board, is as much of a load as any single human being should be expected to carry, although Mr Joyce is quickly growing on me (as he probably should have done years ago), but I daresay taking a beating from you Stock Exchange bullies gives him no respite, no time to expand his horizons or imagine new destinations for my fleet. Do I really own Qantas now?


Dear Mr Joyce,

It has certainly come as a great surprise to us both that I am now your employer and can determine your remuneration, but since we both enjoy the same perspective – looking down at the world from a height – there is really no reason we can’t see eye to eye, unless you happen to be grounded, in which case we might have to take advice from our compliant board and one way or another reach an agreement acceptable to us both without resorting to an umpire, which brings me to the point of this missive, to unburden into your receptive ear my anger at the existence of umpires and nanny state politics, all this interference in the proper running of Australia by a handful of stretched families who carry the heavy burden of hereditary responsibility, not to mention vast wealth, and the ticklish business of keeping millions of Coolies more or less happy as they work in the mines, serve drinks to high-rollers and make up the numbers any decent democratic country needs to have to maintain its defence force and moral authority. I write in confidence.


Dear Fairfax Board Members,

While the politics of envy is easy to grasp, the politics of excess is a more slippery customer, and every means possible must be found to reel it in and give it a decent whack on the head, and to this end I propose replacing Amanda Vanstone as one of our columnists – thereby retaining balance and avoiding accusations of branch-stacking – and charging myself with the responsibility of promoting the ideals of greed and fear which I believe are enshrined in the Constitution and should be defended by all right-thinking Australians, even as Andrew Bolt is paid to promote them, and as Mr Murdoch gives Professor Dominatrix and so many others good money to expand on his tweeting, and as Mr John Singleton sools Alan Jones onto all and sundry … which really ought to be enough firepower to kill off this vicious, subversive politics of excess whispering campaign before it becomes a noise in the land and demands I pay an appropriate tax on my windfall trillions and seriously consider giving Venezuela back to its Tribesmen. Do you think we should make Ms Vanstone our special correspondent in Caracas?


Dear Self,

Iona, Iona, what were you thinking? how could you possibly fall for pie in the sky Qantas deals, media daydreams and other delusions of grandeur, when you already have what your father gave you – and Rose threatened to take – tracts of dirt, the real thing, the substance of Australia, before which Mr Abbott fawns, Ms Gillard pays lip service and all lesser Coolies more or less tremble, quake with mirth or fear (according to their dispositions) and media types run around in small circles hoping to a catch a glimpse, or capture a candid picture, while all the proud Tribesmen pity you, Iona, with your trillions of dollars and not the ghost of a chance of balancing on two feet, let alone one, and gazing off into the distance towards the mirage of eternity, where ancestral spirits soothe the hearts of the unforgiving and bad dreams disappear like vapour trails, where division bells call all the tribes together, and where clans and even families (including stepmothers) regroup and proclaim the Fire and the Rose as One. O my Father, have I really come of age, or gone mad?

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