Young, smart and connected, Sam Dastyari does not make the top 10 but comes in as our No.1 political fixer to watch. His power will match the best of them in the years to come.
A flashy, even spivvy, dresser who likes French champagne, Dastyari brings back memories of the ALP’s Boy from Bankstown, except he’s polite and well-mannered and doesn’t yet think he’s God. But that may not last long, given he’s now the NSW Labor Party’s general secretary.
The pocket-sized former refugee, who was born in a small town in northern Iran and came to Australia when he was five, landed the job in March 2010 at the tender age of 27. But despite his youth and inexperience he’s already making his mark.
Hailed as the Graham Richardson of his generation, Dastyari has the gig that set Richo on the road to power. But at this stage he does not appear to be the cynical machine man. “There’s no point in winning government,” he told The Power Index, “if you don’t do something with it”.
Dastyari’s parents were student activists in the Iranian revolution, who were forced to flee the country when the Islamists cracked down. His cousins had already escaped across the mountains into Turkey and made it to Australia. It’s almost certainly what explains his energy and passion.
In person, the young Labor Party boss is charming, funny and so full of ideas he can hardly complete his sentences. “He has undiagnosed ADHD,” says a friend. “He just can’t sit still.”
“He has a 30-second attention span and is constantly on his mobile,” says another observer. He’s definitely part of the Twitter generation’.
But we found him focused, impressive and undoubtedly a force.
With his matinee idol looks and shiny dark hair, Dastyari resembles a young Omar Sharif. If you closely examine that forehead and you’ll see why his mates think he’s a ringer for Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Either way, the boy has the right bloodlines to succeed. He’s a protégé of Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar (who preceded him in the job); he’s mates with up-and-coming union boss Paul Howes (whose office is on the next floor up in Sussex Street); and he’s married to the daughter of ex-Hawke adviser Peter Barron (who gives him tips across the kitchen table). He’s also close to ALP uber-fixer Graham Richardson.