Throughout July, Paul Barry and The Power Index team will be counting down the most influential people in the nation from business, media, politics, sport and culture …
No.47: Peter Blunden (News Limited Victoria managing director). When then-Herald Sun editor-in-chief Peter Blunden celebrated 10 years in the hot seat in April 2006, so many Melbourne power players paid homage that an ill-timed terrorist attack would have ground the city to a halt.
Peter Costello, Steve Bracks, Robert Doyle, John So, Christine Nixon, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Janet and John Calvert-Jones, Jeff and Felicity Kennett, Eddie and Carla McGuire and then-prime minister John Howard were all present at the RACV Club in Collins Street, with the event written up a few days later under the headline “Salute to the Chief”.
But while the guest list was widely reported, another curious aspect — a lavish video tribute produced by News Limited’s production arm — left many onlookers wondering whether the adulation went too far. In the video, police chief Nixon — who at that stage was yet to fall out of favour with the paper — sat at her desk, in full regalia. Staring down the barrel in mock Crime Stoppers mode she said this: “We’ve found him, we have found the Mr Big of Melbourne.”
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
That nervous tittering that ensued was surely the high-water mark in Peter Blunden’s claim to the city. For the previous decade, Blunden, a News lifer since his days as a cadet in mid-1970s, had demanded loyalty from friends and made life uncomfortable for his enemies. Each morning 1 million sets of eyeballs admired his handiwork. His stories were followed up on morning radio, and later as the lead story on the 6pm news. — Andrew Crook (read the full story at The Power Index)
No.46: Nick Greiner (Infrastructure NSW chairman). As chairman of Infrastructure NSW, the state’s ex-Liberal premier Nick Greiner has power to change the face of Sydney and solve the city’s transport problems. And he’s just the man for the job.
“I’m a leader and a doer,” Greiner told The Power Index last year. “I don’t want to sound immodest, but I’m the ideal person, the natural pick.” That’s as may be, but he’s faced one big obstacle to getting anything done, and that’s NSW premier Barry (aka Barrier) O’Farrell, who earned the nickname “Barrier O’Farrell” for his unwillingness to be bold and brave.
However, since we named Greiner as the most powerful man in Sydney last year (ahead of O’Farrell) the Premier has privatised the state’s electricity generators, sold off the widely loathed monorail and slashed public service numbers.
Greiner, no doubt, is delighted. Those who know him well have never doubted that he’d crash through. “Nick’s new role takes him into all departments, and he doesn’t hesitate to take on ministers and bureaucrats,” Liberal powerbroker Michael Photios assured us. “He’s very active in the party and very active in government.” Greiner is currently overseeing the development of a $1 billion convention centre with the expansion of Sydney’s light-rail network looming in the distance. — Paul Barry
No.45: Rod Eddington (Infrastructure Australia chairman, business director). Sir Roderick Ian Eddington, Infrastructure Australia chair, Victorian Major Events tsar, JP Morgan chairman and News Corporation director, sits very high in Melbourne’s “tower of power” at 101 Collins Street. His ideas, like the massive $5 billion Regional Rail Link (hatched in a role under the previous Labor government but only now coming to fruition) are, quite literally, changing the face of the southern metropolis.
“Hot Rod’s” trademark moustache may be gone but his influence is real. Everyone takes his calls and everyone bows down to his gravitas. Almost no one in Australia, except perhaps the ubiquitous David Gonski, come close to his symbiotic spider’s web.
Some observers are less than charitable about his overall record, arguing that something — perhaps his international aura — has meant multibillion dollar mistakes on the Allco and Rio Tinto boards have been overlooked.
Still, it’d be a brave political or business leader who didn’t play nice with the Rhodes Scholar-turned British Airways chief, who was knighted for saving the airline — and Britain’s pride — after 9/11 (he admits the title “helps him get tables in restaurants”). — Andrew Crook