No.35: Alan Jones (2GB radio host). Alan Jones is much more than just a radio host: he’s a self-appointed ombudsman on a mission to right society’s wrongs. On-air he rants and raves; off-air he pesters politicians and important decision makers with endless correspondence.
His 2GB heir apparent Ray Hadley now has a bigger audience share and appeals to a younger demographic, but there’s no question Jones remains a megaphone par excellence. Unlike other shock jocks, he refuses to let politicians set the agenda and is not afraid to tackle topics that seem to have little appeal to his big city listeners.
Over the past year, he’s waged a ferocious campaign against coal seam gas companies forcing farmers off their land — an issue Labor and the Coalition had put in the “too-hard” basket — and reform of water use in the Murray Darling Basin.
He’s also encouraged a coarsening of public debate by labeling his foes dupes and idiots. And he’s famously called for the Prime Minister — whom he has renamed “Ju-liar” — to be shoved in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea.
Although he’s had regular stints off the air of late due to illness and theatrical commitments (he’s starred in Annie: The Musical), we think he’ll be around for some time yet. “He is like Godzilla roaming around eating power lines,” Phillip Adams told us. “Rather than getting electrocuted, he grows stronger.” — Matthew Knott
No.34: Christopher Pyne (manager of opposition business). “Poodle”, “mincing” and “loathed” are just some of the epithets used to describe Christopher Pyne MP. But now Nick Minchin has sheathed his sword, the bumptious boy from Adelaide is the Liberal Party’s leading powerbroker.
Not only is the South Australian MP Tony Abbott’s number one supporter and top tactician, the two have been friends for more than a decade. ”It’s the Jesuit connection,” says one seasoned journalist who has watched them break bread together many times.
Pyne and Abbott are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Even so, while Chris is a republican, a Costello supporter and leader of the Liberal Left, like many Catholics he shares Abbott’s hard line on drugs, abortion and stem-cell research.
Pyne’s power is drawn from his formidable media contacts, immense energy and insatiable appetite for self-promotion. He also commands an army of willing foot soldiers working hard at grassroots level to advance his cause.
Once famously described as “the most annoying person in Australia” (two-thirds of 22,672 respondents to a 2010 poll for The Age clicked, “Can’t stand him”) he is still a great asset to his leader as an enforcer, messenger, whipper-in, and tireless spruiker for the opposition cause.
When the Coalition takes power in 2013, as it surely will, Pyne will be even more powerful. Make nice with him if you get the chance. — Paul Barry
No.33: Andrew Demetriou (CEO, AFL). In a country where sport means more than religion, Andrew Demetriou’s church is the biggest and most dominant. But it’s not enough for the AFL pontiff. He’s spreading the word in search of more disciples, even if it means gambling on the game’s future.
He’s already got the audience: of the four big codes last year, the AFL boasted the highest crowd attendance (more than 7 million), the most club members (more than 650,000), the biggest TV deal (more than $1.25 billion over five years) and the largest revenue ($336 million).
And lucky for Demetriou, he’s got the salary too, he’s the best-paid sports boss in the land, taking home a $2.2 million pay cheque.
But where the 51-year-old has been truly aggressive, almost Evangelical-like, is in his driving thirst to expand the size of the league into opposition turf. This year the AFL welcomed its 18th team, Greater Western Sydney, while the Gold Coast Suns joined the fray last year.
Despite all the fanfare and hype, there is a sense that Demetriou’s march into enemy territory might be a bridge too far. But only time will tell whether Western Sydney ends up being his Waterloo. — Tom Cowie