Who are the intellectuals most influencing our public debate? Next week The Power Index counts down the Top 10 Most Powerful Thinkers. Here, we present the shortlist …
Up until very recently, Dr Livingstone, we presume, was much more powerful. But after Julia Gillard welshed on Andrew Wilkie’s poker machine reforms this week, things have gone a little downhill for Footscray’s bespectacled public health academic. Still, those in the know say he’s the leading intellectual voice for gambling reform.
“Charles is, for my money, the most qualified expert on poker machines in this country,” Senator Nick Xenophon tells The Power Index. “His work has been very influential on me,” agrees Wilkie. “He’s a clear thinker, independent and evidence-based and his advice shouldn’t be disregarded lightly.”
Broderick by all rights should be making the suits at the top end of town nervous with her talk of board quotas, equal pay and paid parental leave. But somehow the S-x Discrimination Commissioner has a way of making things happen, both in the corporate world and at a government level. In short, Liz is getting results. And she wants more.
Silver-haired second-waver Cox has been shining a light for feminism for decades. And while the torch may have been passed, with movements like SlutWalk changing how the battle is fought, she’s still speaking out on everything from women’s rights to the future of civil society. And if that’s not enough for you, last year Australia Post put her on a stamp.
In between coining the phrases “tyranny of distance” and the “black armband” view of history, there aren’t too many historians in Australia with the record of influence of Blainey. Or as prolific (he’s authored at least 36 books). But with the culture wars having moved on from the history-centric focus of the Howard years, Blainey’s power — outside the odd book-signing — has waned.
We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog. A prodigious columnist ready to preach polemic on everything from ABC bias to industrial relations, Hendo also has influence as head of the shady Sydney Institute think tank.
He may look like Ned Flanders on a shaving strike, but White’s ideas are anything but straight-edge. A visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and former adviser to Kim Beazley and Bob Hawke, White’s recent Quarterly Essay on relations with the US and China caused rumbles. He’s got cred too. Two former foreign ministers and a defence minister were ready to praise him when The Power Index came calling.
Broken Hill’s sultan of scepticism has been everywhere lately, thanks to his new book challenging the teaching of science in schools (launched by John Howard). A pariah in parts of the scientific community after his best-selling tome Heaven+Earth, the Adelaide Uni geologist has become a poster boy for those seething shock jocks still trying to whip up outrage over the carbon tax. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his influence.
Roskam is the whip smart and media savvy executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, the loudest – and most right wing – think tank in the country. As libertarian-in-chief, it’s Roskam’s job to marshal the IPA’s platoon of conservative culture warriors as they spread their free market agenda. And according to his bosses, he’s making a good fist of it.
“I think their views are certainly making a difference,” Liberal Party grandee and IPA board member Michael Kroger tells The Power Index. “I think they’re winning arguments all over the place.”
WikiLeaks may have not had a decent release for a while, but most observers agree the aftershocks of the secret-spilling organisation’s publication of more than 250,000 US government cables are going to be felt for a while. At the centre of it all is Townsville’s most famous former computer hacker and his philosophy of free speech and open government.
As Assange tells The Power Index: “Everything that’s mentioned in an official communicae back to Washington, to the state department and to the CIA and to the White house, is important. Everything.”