The richest family in Australia, The Rineharts, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over their vast fortunes, and things have started to get ugly. Gina Rinehart, the matriarch of our clan, has just lost an effort to keep the battle out of the media after a judge ruled against her on Friday.

Mrs Rinehart, who is ranked 29th on the Forbes rich list, with an estimated wealth of $17.1 billion, emailed her son and three daughters days before the trust was to vest in September, warning they each faced a potential capital gains tax liability of $100 million.

The iron ore magnate told them that to avoid bankruptcy and financial ruin they were to sign a new deed giving her long-term control over the trust, which was set up in 1988 by her father, the late Lang Hancock, with his four grandchildren as beneficiaries.

Rinehart inherited an incredibly large but debt-ridden mining company from her father 20 years ago. Last year Citigroup predicted that she will eventually become the richest person in the world. From an article in the UK Telegraph last year:

Gina Rinehart, 57, is the richest person in Australia and predicted to become the wealthiest in the world. From an article in the Telegraph last year:

Her fortune has more than doubled to A$10.3 billion (£6.8 billion) in the past year because of a commodities boom.

She is on course to overtake Carlos Slim, the Mexican magnate worth £46 billion, and the Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who is worth £35 billion, Citigroup has estimated.

As the recently released emails have revealed, it seems Mrs. Rinehart is not keen on the ability of her four children to manage the obscene amounts of money headed their way. She told them that if they were not happy, they should go out and "earn for themselves." Her youngest daughter, Ginia, is the only one that has sided with her. She's seen as her successor and has been seen driving around a Rolls-Royce.

Her son, John Hancock (seriously), has not taken kindly to that advice and responded by saying, "'I'd love to have inherited projects and royalties to work with - instead I've got to rely on the skills I possess,'' he said. ''I won't be able to replicate Ginia earning the achievement of a Rolls-Royce at 25, but at 36 I'm now turning my set of skills towards helping several very interesting projects achieve commercialisation.''

Hancock has also pointed out that he made $120,000 "share trading" over the past six months. Joining him are his other sisters, Bianca Hope Rinehart and Hope Rinehart Welker.

Documents released showed that Mom thinks of her children as "manifestly unsuitable" for the task and thinks it would be in the "best interests of the beneficiaries to force them to go to work," according to The Australian.

So basically Mother Rinehart is telling her spoiled, lazy-ass kids to get off their asses and show some initiative before she hands them over a couple billion, and now they're all going to fight about it and publicly shame each other for the entertainment of us commoners. As for how the trust and ownership of the company works, I don't know, that's rich people things that I don't understand. Publicly shaming your family though, we can all understand that.

[articles via The Australian, The Age, and Reuters, pic via The Age]