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Feb 13, 2012

Geoff Lemon: Gina, your poetic licence is revoked

As the editor of a long-running poetry journal, I thank Gina Rinehart for putting the noble art of verse in the media spotlight, writes Geoff Lemon, poet, author, satirist and editor of Going Down Swinging.


Thank you, Gina Rinehart. As the editor of a long-running poetry journal, I thank Rinehart for putting the noble art of verse in the media spotlight.

The critics, as Rinehart knows, are harsh. They criticise your poetry. They criticise your attempts to become a media magnate. They are probably going to abduct your children. That could be handy, because you don’t like your children very much, but that is nobody else’s business. Get off my lawn.

But in all the talk of Rinehart as a crazy person, people are forgetting what matters — the poetry. Australia, it’s time to assess Rinehart’s work dispassionately, in content and structure.

Our Future (the full ode below) attempts a noble challenge: the rendering of economic theory and politico-economic ideology into stirring verse. Some call it impossible to include phrases such as “special economic zones” in a fluid and aesthetically pleasing poem. Those people are right. But Rinehart doesn’t let that stop her. If it doesn’t fit, she’ll shoehorn the bastard in there anyway.

The first thing you notice about Rinehart’s poem is that it passes the Crusty Old Bugger in a Pub test. Namely, it rhymes. Second, she starts out with noble intent. She’s read The Man from Snowy River. She knows poems go dum-de-dum. And in fact, the first two lines are in almost functional iambic heptameter.

If that phrase scares you, it just means there is an unstressed syllable followed by an emphasised syllable. That pattern repeats five times, for 10 syllables in total, which in combination form a line. Viz:

The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife
And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life.

Obviously Rinehart is aware of the metre, as she’s thrown the word “now” into that second line to maintain it. Her only false step is “debt”, which doesn’t work as an unstressed syllable before a stressed “pov(erty)”. I might have suggested “with economies in strife”, had she had the forethought to seek my professional opinion. (Hint, Gina: good poetry editors are pretty freaking thin on the ground.)

In terms of content, it is perhaps a little dubious to hear sad tales of poverty from the person stewing in the most obscene swill of mineral cash in the entire country. For those who do want a better life, the poet in question would be in a better practical position to help them than any other Australian. Set up farms across the sub-Saharan belt? Still got change to play blackjack with Kerry Packer’s ghost. Dengue fever in India? Scrub it off like the Spray and Wipe chick. A team of mercenaries to take out Bashar al-Assad? Her PA would have his scalp in Gina’s inbox before she’d finished her morning muffin.

Their hope lies with resources buried deep within the earth
And the enterprise and capital which give each project worth

Not bad, not bad. The metre is a bit frayed, but still there in intent. Maybe a slight reshaping would help: “Their hopes are the resources buried deep within the earth / And the enterprise and capital which make ‘em what they’re worth.” Always read the lines aloud to yourself. Plus, the abbreviation of “them” gives it a nice bush-ballad feel, no? True blue and that. But then, we start to go off the rails …

Is our future threatened with massive debts run up by political hacks
Who dig themselves out by unleashing rampant tax
The end result is sending Australian investment, growth and jobs offshore
This type of direction is harmful to our core

The first line of those four abandons metre, as rhetoric stirs from its meat-coma and begins to lick its spit-flecked jaws. Every bad poet loves adjectives. Who can resist “massive”? Who can resist an awkward phrase like “political hacks”? And then we get to that third line, which actually came from an Institute of Public Affairs white paper.

Poetry is basically about making something sound good, or putting across a new and interesting way of seeing. This sounds like a Joe Hockey press conference submerged in tomato soup. The line is overly long and awkward, the Bruce Reid of this poem, which is then followed by the Danny de Vito, jammed in there as an afterthought while Gina tried to think of something to rhyme with “offshore”.

Rhetoric is off the leash now, and it roams like the Beast of the Apocalypse (either Biblical or the weird creature in The Brotherhood of the Wolf). Those who criticise Rinehart for being insanely rich and still bitching about taxes are “envious unthinking people” who think wealth is magically created. (To be fair, inheriting an immense mining company does help sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on the old investment portfolio.) Rinehart is hurt and troubled by their attitudes.

And then, the final four lines: a crescendo of disjointedness, as both reason and poetic technique disintegrate.

Develop North Australia, embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores
To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores

One, the long line/short line thing again. Rinehart is getting all Ogden Nash on us here, if you replace the wit with self-righteous indignation. Two, “embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores” just doesn’t cut it as a line. Does that sound good to you? Does that ring with the authority of naturalistic rhythm and truth? Is this question rhetorical?

Three, is it strictly fair to equate “embrace multiculturalism” with “bring in a bunch of really cheap foreigners for a while to make us arseloads of cash and then make sure to send the dirty buggers back to wherever it is they came from”? The second phrase is even more unwieldy in a poetic sense, but I feel it cuts closer to the essential truth of the matter.

The world’s poor need our resources: do not leave them to their fate
Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government, before it is too late.

Ah, the crowning triumph. “Special economic zones” bounding in like a photobomber of verse, resting its nuts on the crown of poetry’s head. Again, the not-so-delicious irony of an appeal on behalf of the world’s poor. Not to labour a point here, but we are talking about the richest man, woman, or erotic llama masseuse in the country. And yet, this is about philanthropy.

The poor need our resources. Not for free of course, for an appropriate fee. So, the world’s poor need to buy shit from Gina Rinehart. Do not leave them to their fate of not buying shit from Gina Rinehart. Do not abandon them.

And you know, as it happens, those things that are in the interests of the world’s poor just so happen to be in the interests of making Gina Rinehart wealthier. Not that that’s the issue here. It’s just a coincidence. Rinehart just loves art and literature, and really, guys, this is all about the poor.

Rinehart’s philanthropy, it seems, is much like her iambic heptameter. It can be applied when it suits, and abandoned when it becomes inconvenient.

Yep. Poetic licence revoked.

Our Future

The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife
And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life
Their hope lies with resources buried deep within the earth
And the enterprise and capital which give each project worth
Is our future threatened with massive debts run up by political hacks
Who dig themselves out by unleashing rampant tax
The end result is sending Australian investment, growth and jobs offshore
This type of direction is harmful to our core
Some envious unthinking people have been conned
To think prosperity is created by waving a magic wand
Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled
Against miners, workers and related industries who strive to build the world
Develop North Australia, embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores
To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores
The world’s poor need our resources: do not leave them to their fate
Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government, before it is too late.


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35 thoughts on “Geoff Lemon: Gina, your poetic licence is revoked

  1. Dan Gulberry

    There’s a lady who’s sure
    All that glitters is coal
    And she’s buying shares
    In Fairfax and Ten…

    (apologies to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page; No apologies at all to Gina Rinehart)

  2. ianjohnno1

    This is the sort of thing that begs the publication of The Thoughts of Chairman Gina.

  3. leone

    Wow! Is there anything that Gina can’t do? Loving mother, fervent benefactor of the legal profession, billionaire, business woman, media magnate and now poet as well. I look forward to seeing more of her talent. A little bird tells me that Gina will soon be gracing the stage in the Australian Ballet’s new work Fantasia Revisited. I believe Gina has the role of the hippo.

    Gina has also been working on her debut as an author, with her Aussie-themed romance ‘Passion in the Pilbarra’ soon to be published by Mills and Boon. Advance publicity says the book will be ‘a passionate tale of an heiress betrayed by her family and left to fend for herself with only a few billion dollars to her name. It will feature a romance with a handsome media star and will take us into the seedy world of politics.’ Should be a great read.

  4. carolinestorm@iinet.net.au

    As a lover and sometime writer of what used to be called ‘light verse’, I care very much about scansion, rhythm and rhyme, which must be perfect in this form of frivolity (except, of course, for O.Nash). The great poets can do what they want.

    Doggerel is another matter altogether and always dissipates any passion the writer may feel. For example: “The trumpets sounded loudly,
    The Angel beckoned ‘Come’,
    The gates of Heaven opened
    And in walked mum.”
    It’s unlikely Gina will see this amusing writing, which would probably wound her more than anything written recently about her court cases, her children, her questionable care for their families. Ignorance may be bliss.

  5. form1planet

    Our way of life is threatened not by debts or rampant tax
    But billionaires with scant regard for scientific facts
    The more we dig up from the ground, the more we foul the air
    The lack of urgent action leads us almost to despair
    It’s hard to argue with the vested interests in this nation
    Especially ones that buy themselves a handy TV station
    We need to go renewable, it’s safer, clean and greener
    But who is going to foot the bill? Well how about it, Gina?

  6. Michael James

    Jesus Crikey, what a waste of bandwidth.

    We have real issues confronting the country and this sort of sophomore shite is the best that you can come up with?

    I like some satirical irony as much as the next person, but your obsession with Rinehart is getting up their with your unhealthy obsession with Murdoch.

    Lets get back to some real issues and leave this sort of excreta to university mags.

  7. jeebus

    It would be hard to call this anything more than self serving propaganda from a mind more paranoid than Scrooge McDuck!

    In this new gilded age, for a person on track to become the richest in the world, Gina seems terrified of paying two cents, let alone her fair share.

    What she does not want to understand, is that mining is not a wealth creation industry, it’s a wealth extraction industry. Why should a company automatically gain ownership of a resource that they themselves did not create?

    That’s not how capitalism works!

    If mining companies want to sell OUR resources, they should first have to BUY them off us at properly negotiated market rates. When the global spot price goes up, our government should be negotiating a better price on our behalf.

    We can only sell these resources once, and we should be getting the best price that we can from these service and logistics companies.

    Did Gina Reinhardt create $20 billion worth of minerals? Nope. She merely dug them up for a fraction of the cost. We need a government that will negotiate in our interest against these entitled robber barons.

  8. podrick

    There is rich lady name Gina
    Who raged about things being greener,
    She then used her billions
    and lawyers by the millions
    to buy the north of Australia
    so she could call it Ginatalia

  9. Liz A

    It’s a brilliant example of Vogon poetry.

    I wonder if she used this to generate it:


    In fact I had one generated just for Gina:

    [See, see the dead sky
    Marvel at its big pink depths.
    Tell me, no-one do you
    Wonder why the miner ignores you?
    Why its foobly stare
    makes you feel crabby.
    I can tell you, it is
    Worried by your ANDEV facial growth
    That looks like
    A core.
    What’s more, it knows
    Your Green potting shed
    Smells of mineral.
    Everything under the big dead sky
    Asks why, why do you even bother?
    You only charm JuliARs.]

    That’s pretty good by comparison!


    The woman wants free reign to tear the earth a new asshole
    and writes torturously bad poetry.

    Folks, she’s a Vogon.

  11. BSA Bob

    The Florence Foster Jenkins of verse?
    When I first saw this I thought it was a joke.
    What singleminded conceit.

  12. David McRae

    row row ya boat
    gently down the stream
    if ya see a mining tax
    don’t forget to scream

  13. Mike Flanagan

    An entaining article regardless of Michael James’ myopic view of the world.

  14. Modus Ponens


    “Resting its nuts on the crown of poetry’s head” BAM

  15. Freja

    I am strenuously holding myself together for long enough after asphyxiating on the line: ““Special economic zones” bounding in like a photobomber of verse, resting its nuts on the crown of poetry’s head.” to suggest that Gina and Amanda ‘Rousing Nationalist Anthem’ Vanstone (http://forums.vogue.com.au/archive/index.php/t-235696.html in case you need reminding) join forces to write “Mining Patriots, the musical!”

    Oh the horror. Reading the whole poem made me bleed simultaneously from all orifices. Truly, Gina is the ebola of poetry.

  16. ilolatu

    Michael James:
    “Jesus Crikey, what a waste of bandwidth.”

    I’m not concerned with your objections to bandwidth provisioning or Crikey content as there is a more pressing problem to deal with. There was a disturbance in the force from a galaxy far far away, millions of voices cried out… then nothing.

  17. PatriciaWA

    Great article, Geoff. Well done, form1planet!

    Not bad David McRae, but what about a limerick?

    There was a rich miner named Gina
    Failed as would-be ballerina
    So she turned to her Muse
    Sent verses to News
    Who offered her work as a cleaner

  18. AR

    She’s no poet,
    But don’t know it,
    It’s an utter disgrace,
    That she benefits from so much of our space,
    It doesn’t scan but in fact she doesn’t own it, only has a Crown mining lease which in a sane society would be rescinded,
    Last year.

  19. PatriciaWA

    Talk Turkey at The Political Sword did a good response.

    “Our Future”
    (a Po. . . er, ugh,
    aarrrgh Blurrrrrrrrrrrrrkkk)

    Ahhh that’s better sorry folks now where was I,

    My response to “Gina’s poetic swipe at critics”:

    *clears throat*

    The globe isn’t groaning because of debt, poverty and strife
    She’s groaning because of those who think Her destruction improves life
    Billions are certainly suffering, but it’s often corporate greed
    And propagandists like you, Gina who are conning those in need

    The idea that capital and enterprise are somehow the solution
    Is an insult to the thousands of years of indigenous evolution
    And now we’re so in love with “growth” we’ve started to worship it
    By convincing each other we can only survive by making and selling shit

    Pardon the pun but it’s rich, saying prosperity is the plan
    When you’re worried sharing wealth with Aussies will ruin your little scam
    Stop bleating and whining about contributing to Oz via the mining tax
    And did you suggest you’ll conquer racism making money off migrant backs??

    Our future can only be threatened by huge and massive debts
    When our societies all function on corporate casinos placing bets
    So please, Gina Rinehart, put away your poetic sword
    Because your ill-conceived ranting is offensive and ugh, grossly flawed…

  20. Graham R

    One of Phillips Adams’ listeners the other night made the beautiful comparison of Gina Rinehart to Auntie Jack.

    Now that’s poetry.

    I hope it sticks.

  21. mikeb

    Vale Geoff.
    btw – do you mind if i throw the phrases “rhetoric stirs from its meat-coma and begins to lick its spit-flecked jaws” and “photobomber of verse, resting its nuts on the crown of poetry’s head” in random conversation? Not sure how i can fit them in but they deserve to be aired more than once.

  22. Matt Steadman

    I love “the Bruce Reid of this poem”! At least she’s (apparently) quite adept at running a mining organisation, as it seems poetry is not a strength.

  23. Meep

    Best. Poetry. Review. Ever.

    Thank you so much for absolutely making my day – that my good Sir is pure gold!

  24. Boo

    Without the billions she’d be that crazy screaming woman pushing a shopping trolley full of crap about town. I just wish she’d hire people to write her poetry, as she has to push her crap about town.

  25. Holden Back

    Humphries/Everage at his/her finest taking the piss is better than La Reinhart in earnest:

    There is music in the magpie that warbles in the gum
    There is music in the city with its bustle and its hum
    There is music in the simplest little everyday appliance
    ‘twould be wrong to let the birdsong drown the symphony of science.

    For there is treasure rich and golden at the bottom of the sea
    There is petrol for the Holden, and gas to cook the tea
    And the music of the oil rigs and the chorus of the drills
    Are as much a part of nature as the lyre-bird’s plaintive trills.

    And sometimes we must sacrifice a little bit of scenery
    For progress waits for no man, and neither does machinery
    Who knows? Beneath your armchair could lie a mineral mass
    Even now you could be sitting on a source of natural gas.

    So do not scorn develops who smile upon our land
    There are things beneath the surface that we do not understand
    It’s a wondrous thought to think that quaint old rocks like the Three Sisters
    Might contain sufficient minerals for a lifetime of transistors.

    So sing a song of progress to the trumpets and the drums
    For though the bush is nice to look at, money doesn’t grow on gums
    and while the laughing kookaburra might wonder where its nest went
    Australia isn’t for the birds, it’s for Japanese investment.

    If you ever see a copy of Humphries’ collection of free-range poetry Innocent Austral Verse snap it up. Hours of vicious entertainment.

  26. Steven Warren

    While I appreciate the critique of her prose, I was a little disappointed that no mention was made to her method of publishing.

    Namely: “Charitably” donating a giant rock to a shopping centre (I hope she can claim that on tax) then nailing a metallic plaque to the giant boulder so that future generations of toothless bogans (the shopping centre in question is in Morley after all) can read her timeless art to their grandchildren.

    I jest, I jest, naturally no-one from Morley would be literate enough to recite her poem but I’m sure by the time they have grandkids (28 years at the outside from now) she will have “charitably” donated some sort of speaker system so that they can hear her words immortalised by the voice of Andrew Bolt.

  27. AR

    Why isn’t Edna our Poet Laureate? That is beyond superb – knocks Mckellar’s doggerel back in the Victoriana that spawned it (most of it written in fog bound London as the real first verse shows).
    Even Monty Python’s ode to the Wattle is better than Slessor’s lugubrious 5 Bells.
    Not a poetry person, me.

  28. Holden Back

    AR- in way Edna is our Laureate.
    Oh, and it’s from First Day Covers a series of poems based on stamps which were recited between orchestral interludes by Nigel Butterly.

    I have heard a rumour that Mrs Reinhart was trying unsuccessfully to contact some prominent WA poets, so perhaps she just decided to do it herself. What with the rock and the plaque ready and waiting to be installed . . .

  29. Castley Paul

    This is my latest haiku:

    When Abbott’s day comes,
    Will he make Gina Rinehart
    Poet laureate?

  30. LucyJr

    She’s just a cashed up Vogon.

  31. Taxi Lurker

    Has anyone thought she may actually be a Vogon. After the Galactic Financial Crisis the constructor fleet are doing it tough and a hyperspace bypass is slowly being chiseled out of Oz. I reckon the GFC has bought us a decade but I’m keeping plenty of paper bags handy.

  32. AR

    Lucy & Taxi – to continue this idea, don’t forget that the hyperspace bypass was a ruse cooked up by corrupt (sic!) psychiatrists & Zaphod to stop the Ultimate Question being answered and thus peace, serenity and gemuttlichkeit sweeping the Universe, thus putting them out of their worthless jobs.
    To further continue, beyond the galactic rim, I can think of any number of soi disantaugust personages in OZ only to happy to keep us all frightened of everything to further their lifestyles.

  33. Holden Back

    I fear she is beyond Vogon:

    “Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their poet master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode To A Small Lump Of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning ” four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived only by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos was reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his 12-book epic entitled “My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles” when his own major intestine–in a desperate attempt to save life itself–leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Vogon poetry is mild by comparison.”

    I think that given that was inside the bounds of fiction, we may have a new candidate.

  34. Lofi

    While poetic licence means a level of untruth is acceptable in context, Gina’s greatest crime (abetted by lazy government bureaucrats) is to refer the to the MRRT as a ‘tax’. It’s not a tax, it’s the price of an input, owned by the Australians. All the MRRT was designed to do was to put the price of that raw material up, in light of extraordinary demand (something Gina’s 0.1 of a B Ec would have taught her is the natural state of things).


    There once was a lady called Gina
    She’s a pretty big lass, you’d a seen ‘er.
    When she can’t get her way,
    she lets out a spray
    And through rhyme she just gets even meaner.

  35. Dylan T

    My response to Gina:
    The globe is sadly groaning with economies in strife,
    And billions are now pleading to enjoy a better life.
    Our hope lies with resources that are borne upon the air
    And in the hands of common folk employed to find them there.
    Some envious unthinking people, clutching in the dirt
    Would spoil our soil and break our land, and never feel the hurt.
    Around us is the sun and wind; to all of us they’re free.
    Ignorants, who do not own ’em, can’t sell ’em for a fee.
    The enterprise and capital to give these projects wings
    Needs help from mighty leaders with an eye for better things.
    Instead they’d sell our future, and our children’s life and health
    To turn our soil to wasteland and to build upon their wealth.

    Take back the sun and bind the wind, make power out of nought.
    We’ve got the wealth of brains and steel to build and to export!
    Your special economic zones are full of poor enslaved.
    Instead Advance Australia so ALL of us are saved.


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