More of the wit and wisdom of Iona Mineshaft

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Graham Jackson has a collection of letters written the larger than life mining heiress Iona Mineshaft to variety of public figures, living and dead, of which we published the first instalment last week. In part 2. Here she explores, amongst other matters of deep public importance, her profound newfound love of verse.


(the Unauthorised ‘Mr Coolie’ Edition, including the hit singles ‘So pleasing to see you fully dressed,’ ‘While there can be no room for self-doubt’ and ‘Since I have been told by my analyst to get off the back of my truck’)

#1 Dear ‘Mr Coolie’,

You must know there can be no reconciliation, no matter how you plead, because we play such different roles – you Coolies to do what you are told, and me to tell my journalists how you might best be led – just as the fates have ordained and the dice have fallen (James Packer might be able to explain this more clearly) – so you should not take the matter personally, but get down to your local club, where the poker machines are a wonderful distraction, and, with any sort of luck and failing a jackpot you might find you have an impulse to go back again – and again – in much the same way as I keep going back to my lawyers – so you see we have something in common, after all – but lest you become too familiar, ‘Mr Coolie’, it bears repeating I allow no one to approach my trillions too closely, which is my miners’ right. By the by, James Packer has just called to say he will give you free chips with your free Diet Coke if you care to drop by his Crown Casino.

#2 Dear TS Eliot,

Well might you ask, ‘what are the roots that clutch, what branches of the family tree grow out of this stony rubbish,’ when you only ever knew Cotswold’s limestone and had no first-hand information or stock exchange advice about Pilbara ore, because even I, sitting on top of it, have to keep pinching myself to make sure it’s real and not a libertarian dream … but we all have moments of doubt in these uncertain times, not knowing from one day to the next whether one is worth billions or trillions or whether one can count on Dick Smith to stick to peanut butter and other jarred pastes and not go poking his nose into private preserves, charitable donations and tax deductions, for all the world like a shadow striding behind me each morning, Mr Eliot, or rising to meet me each evening – how I love your poetry – ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’: not only sublime, but calculated to keep all the Coolies in line, begging for jobs. ‘I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring,’ tra la.

#3 Dear Trillions,

What can I do with you? I hear people ask, unaware you now have a life of your own and unaware of the dangers inherent in my own dog eat dog world, each magnate for herself, calculating what country or enterprise to compromise next, whether to approach Rupert Murdoch and put a down payment on one of his scribblers, or for a few peanuts more offer to buy Dick Smith out of butter, or even give Andrew Bolt a bit more in his envelope … the calculation of the profit and loss is endless, Trillions, only Mr Eliot knows how to unravel me, ‘the Lady of the iron-yielding Rocks, the lady of situations,’ and show me to best advantage: ‘the Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne, glowed on the marble, where the glass held up by standards wrought with fruited vines from which a golden Cupidon peeped out (another hid his eyes behind his wing) … the glitter of her jewels … from satin cases … strange synthetic perfumes … gave upon the sylvan scene,’ and so much more in the same rich vein. ‘What are you thinking of,’ O my Trillions, ‘what thinking? what?’

#4 Dear Prime Minister Gillard,

Since I have been told by my analyst to get off the back of my truck, put my feet on the ground and promise to try writing poetry as therapy, I wonder if you could tell me your secret, how you manage to stay upright in the face of strong winds of misfortune, Mr Abbott’s hot air and Michelle Grattan’s nagging and only ever stumble when placed under the wing of your security team … but security can be like that, particularly when those who were once close family friends demand to be banished to distant lands with first class tickets, fond farewells and a generous allowance, all in the mistaken belief one’s coffers are bottomless and one’s patience can never run out, because believe me, Prime Minister, therapy can only do so much, and I am just about at the end of my tether and absolutely in need of any advice or support you can give me now the cyclones of change are upon us, the Coolies regrouping and challenging our right to the Crown. In return I will mention your name in one of my poems and set it in stone.

#5 Dear Mr Abbott,

So pleasing to see you fully dressed, although in other respects you disappoint me, because not even your strut and other accomplishments can disguise your lack of commitment – to me or anything else – and yes, I know you aspire to take me off the taxpayer list, and in my own way I am appreciative of that (although I feel I am entitled to no more and no less), but if I might come straight to the point, what I really want from a Leader of the Opposition are pertinent questions asked in the House, such as, Why does the Treasurer not mention the Mineshaft name more often? or, Who does the Attorney General think she is, meddling in legal matters better left to those in a position to buy the right kind of opinion? or, When does Midnight Oil (I forget his other name) intend to insulate my home? or, Why are people in Iona Mineshaft’s situation not entitled to the Family Allowance? and only after you have asked questions like these, only then will I give you campaign support in an envelope. So shape up, Mr Abbott, or ship out with my ore.

#6 Dear Miss Piggy,

I have no idea why I am writing to you, other than to acknowledge that my preoccupation with open letters has become addictive, and in casting around in my mind for another correspondent I could only think of two names, yours and Jimmy Shand and His Band, and since I am uncertain how I came by the latter – unless channelling my father – I decided you were the one who, in the event, might have better information about confrontational tendencies and, more particularly, Miss Piggy, the confusing affectionate/angry feelings I entertain for Tribesmen and Coolies, who hop around my feet like so many Kermit the Frogs and jump away whenever I want to cuddle them … I mean, it’s not that I believe they’re ungrateful, rather that they’re deluded – refusing to believe I’m not here for their welfare, much better than dole cheques because by relying on me they keep their self-respect, whereas if they rely on handouts (instead of a paper round) they will become dependent and sullen and unable to concentrate on my media’s message. Tell me, do I have a right to be angry?

#7 Dear Reverend Costello,

I had thought of writing to Senator Xenophon, but as you might be aware Independent thinkers are either two-edged swords or left-handed shovels or, whichever way you look at it, unreliable assets when one is prospecting out in the field or mucking around in old mine shafts, and it came to me then that in writing to you I might kill two birds with one rock specimen – viz, get your thoughts on addiction as well as well as charitable advice – thereby squarely facing this open letter mania (although I am still some way off relinquishing my dreams of media domination), while at the same time doing something about the persistent Dick Smith, whom I confess is beginning to rattle me, whereas I assume you will be able to see things from a different perspective, from your stairway to heaven, which – the good Lord only knows! – is the kind of advice I desperately need, with my mind already contemplating (before the present letter is ended) whom it should address next. If you think Senator Xenophon might still prove useful, let me know and I will enlist my friend Hugo Chavez in his re-election campaign.

#8 Dear Mr Rudd,

Running the country is easier than I imagined, far easier than your own term in office would suggest, or your troubled successor is experiencing now, although I am beginning to wonder if it might not be a better idea to insist she runs full term, to give Mr Turnbull more time to challenge Mr Abbott, since a banker is better suited than a boxer in front of the camera and more inclined to be civil, a mood I can already detect as my poetry slowly permeates through Parliament, countering contrary influences like your own Sorry Speech to the Tribesmen, who, if Mineshaft family dramas offer any instruction, might have paused to draw breath before taking umbrage at interventions by officers of the Inquisition, the Venezuelan Ambassador and defence force personnel sent out to the territories to ensure the safety of mining leases (in which I should declare an interest) and sundry tribes … and I have achieved all this, Mr Rudd, without having to furiously walk John Howard’s hard yards, plunge wildly about in the surf, huff and puff at rallies or phone Alan Jones. I have done it all at my own pace and am fitter for office than anyone knows.

#9 Dear Mr Secretary-General,

You will appreciate that as one grows older matters seem to become more urgent, or not worth bothering about at all, so that once one has taken a stand either way it is advisable to follow up as quickly as possible, which is where I find myself now addressing world issues and a letter to the head of the United Nations, in which I must urge you to get all your pale blue soldiers in line and give them the lash of your tongue, remind them of the urgency of their mission to put Coolies of all colours, faiths and creeds to the sword – I will send you free steel for the weapons – and bring peace to the world and the Pilbara as well as your own country of origin, which I note is within my own sphere of influence, a stone’s throw from China, where Coolies are less rampant than they are farther East, or in the West, where you have no doubt encountered them, Mr Secretary-General, as you go about your rounds in New York and hear them solicit prayers from the sidewalk. You might be good enough to grant the Reverend Costello some kind of exemption.

#10 Dear Mr Secretary-General,

Having posted my first letter I had a moment of regret that I had approached you in such an open manner, for it is a surprising fact that words can be more inflexible than iron ore and, once delivered, allow no other interpretation than their hard, uncomfortable meaning, like an elephant in the room, or the Leader of the Opposition here in Australia whom I have supported thus far, but have now reconsidered, since his name – Mr Abbott – has a clerical sense and brought him no end of grief with cartoonists who refuse to listen to threats of dismissal, let alone editorial advice, and who really leaves me with no alternative than to forward the attached names – I have underlined Mr Ron Tandberg’s as well as Mr Tony Abbott’s – and respectfully ask you to append them to the list of fellow travellers to be eliminated in the imminent massacre of Coolies, which, as we have agreed, will not involve the Reverend Costello. You might also exempt, although I have no names at the moment, anyone you might find behaving inappropriately at my alma mater in Perth, St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls.

#11 Dear Attorney General,

It is easy to accuse me of inciting violence, but as the poet said, ‘the world an ancient murderer is,’ containing Wittenoom asbestos (in which my family once had an interest), Alan Jones and so many other unexpected dangers the mind reels at their telling, and in the context of which my suggestion that the Leader of the Opposition should be dropped down a mineshaft pales into insignificance, and since you have no love for him, Ms Roxon, I fail to see why the matter should even be brought to your attention, unless you think Australia stands above the United Nations or the Mineshaft Family Trust, and knowing you could not be so obtuse I have taken the view that your department contains a glitch or a gretch, which I will help you discover now that, current misunderstandings aside, we are more often in agreement, with my new poem praising the Prime Minister soon to be set to music, after which we might sit back and enjoy her reascent in the firmament as well as the national Top Ten, even as the Coolies – a long-lived but unimaginative group – disappear from the charts. We are an ineffable force, Ms Roxon.

#12 Dear Tiny Tim,

I write more in Hope than a real expectation that this letter will get through to you on the other side, where you might be able to speak to my father and discover news of his welfare as well as any advice he might have for me in these challenging times, in which the only impediment to the family’s continuing good fortune (not counting most of his grandchildren) is paradoxically the sheer size of it all, because make no bones about it, Mr Tim, I am a larger than life woman, nicknamed ‘Tiny’ by friend as well as by foe – and also by past and present pupil factions at St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls – and the reason, obviously, I chose you as my medium, although I will also confess to a sneaking admiration for ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’, perhaps because I was never cut out to tiptoe through life myself and can only imagine how someone as slender as ‘Picaninny’ Hancock ever survived, if in fact she survived at all. She was a former St Hilda’s girl, older than me, whom my father pointed out each Speech Day and might even remember now.

#13 Dear Mr Palmer,

While there can be no room for self-doubt on my march to world domination, I have to say you are doing other magnates and ingots no favours at all with your inept performance – at the head of a soccer club, for goodness sake! – which has been reported in my own media by the detestable Lynch, who raises the spectre of Albert Camus in his description of you – a ‘large, absurdly rich, loud and opinionated businessman’ – and opens an old can of philosophical worms, for if the notion of absurdity ever gains traction again we are all shafted, Palmer, once the Coolies realise they are digging themselves ever deeper into a big black hole and that their pay envelope offers small consolation, especially when you give them a free ticket to a soccer game involving Gold Coast United, which is neither gold nor united but just another reason for Coolies to resent the magnates and ingots controlling their lives. So for the love of St Hilda, Palmer, lift your game! PS: I will sack Lynch, of course, but after that you are on your own.

#14 Dear Fellow Ingots,

I insist that, like me, you all put your philanthropic dollar into private Girls’ Schools and other educational establishments, where some good might be derived from instructing the young in matters of faith and libertarian philosophy and having halfway decent texts put under their noses – viz, Bolt’s Quips and Quiddities, The Whips of Professor Dominatrix, Poems from the Mineshaft, etc – as well as daily readings from my own media, which will prepare them for life at both ends of the spectrum, with the 1% who report directly to us and with the 99% leftovers, the Tribesmen and Coolies who appreciate the value of educating their children to do equally as well as themselves, toiling away in tent cities and mines, if not even better, perhaps aspiring to vote for Our Man in Canberra, Mr Abbott, or whatever his or her name might be at the time, thereby ensuring our grip on the country endures, Fellow Ingots, and is not relinquished to Coolies who read Albert Camus, or Tribesmen who listen to elders and ancestors and other voices from the ill-informed past. I insist that you match me, dollar for dollar.

#15 Dear Doctor Who,

You have been my analyst for some years now, but (with the exception of royalties and miners’ rights) all good things must come to an end and it is with regret that I formally retire you from your position, with no hope of regeneration but with a hearty slap on the back for all your good work, especially during the dark days following the fall off the back of my truck and subsequent rehabilitation in that depressing clinic where I was forced to write poetry and read the Age every morning – my own paper, mind you – all the while forbidden to use the phone to get in touch with close friends and associates like Ms Michelle Grattan, and all the while knowing that other ailing egos like Mr Kevin Rudd are allowed to ring people day and night on a promise of anonymity and collective amnesia, which has never been my own problem, as you well know, Doctor, rather the opposite, that I have struggled all my life with the pain of being too big for my boots. Might I wish you all the best for your future, or time frame of choice.

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