No.14: Campbell Newman (Queensland Premier). Campbell Newman’s astounding sweep to victory as Queensland premier in March has made him one of the most powerful conservative figures in the land. Up against Labor’s netball team of seven opposition members (compared with the Liberal National Party’s 78 MPs), Newman has near-unbridled authority in Queensland’s unicameral parliament to slam through his agenda.
So far, he’s spent the early part of his reign moving the chess pieces. In his first week he axed the Premier’s Literary Awards, angering the arts community. Last month, he weakened gay rights reforms, abolishing state-sanctioned ceremonies for same-s-x couples. He’s also slashed funding for renewable energy projects and other welfare organisations, as well as cutting state agencies the Office of Climate Change, Sentencing Advisory Council and the Queensland Workplace Rights Office.
It’s all part of a cost-cutting drive by “Can Do” and his razor gang, which will see the removal of 20,000 public servants. Other government programs to hit the waste basket include the “Smart State” slogan, a band competition for high schools and coffee and tea for public servants.
Newman’s huge mandate has prompted fears from the other side of politics of a return to the days of long-serving former leader Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who held power in the Sunshine State for nearly 20 years. Whether he lasts a generation is hugely unlikely. But barring any internal implosions, Newman’s band of merry men and women will hold power north of the border for a few terms to come. — Tom Cowie
No.13: Bill Shorten (federal cabinet minister). Small, friendly and charming, Bill Shorten looks like a cuddly koala, but watch out — he can scratch. In 2010, the former union boss was one of the MPs who knifed Kevin Rudd, working two mobile phones from a Canberra restaurant as he marshaled the numbers for Julia Gillard.
Since then, he’s stuck close to the new PM and been given a seat in the cabinet, adding the important job of workplace relations minister to his superannuation and financial services portfolio.
Bob Hawke and Kim Beazley picked the ambitious Shorten long ago as a potential Labor leader. Apparently he shares their high opinion. ”Bill is a future champion,” the late Senator John Button once quipped. ”I know that because he’s told me.”
So, will he get what he’s after? Quite possibly; Blinky Bill impresses people he deals with, has great communication skills, is an excellent negotiator, and oozes sincerity. He’s also got the backing of the powerful Australian Workers’ Union. But he has plenty of enemies who say he’s not to be trusted.
On his climb to the top, Bill set up the ShortCons faction with his old mate Stephen Conroy, which now dominates the ALP Right in Victoria. Like most powerful factional leaders, his hands aren’t clean, but he has got charisma, and he may have principles. The ALP could do far worse. — Paul Barry
No.12: Marius Kloppers (CEO, BHP Billiton). Marius Kloppers is helping to build China. As boss of the world’s biggest miner, BHP Billiton, he’s sating what, up until now, has been the Asian economic powerhouse’s unquenchable thirst for commodities.
But things aren’t all roses for the South African-born cricket nut. China’s once-bulletproof growth rate has been recently forecast down from 8 to 7.5% (compared to 9.2% last year). With a third of its business in China, BHP Billiton will be hoping that any hiccup is simply indigestion.
“If China does well, my company will do well. If China does not do well, this company will not do well,” Kloppers said during an interview with Chinese media outlet caixin.com earlier this month.
Kloppers has already suggested that should uncertainty, rising costs and falling commodity prices continue, BHP Billiton may have to put some of its mooted $80 billion in expansion plans on the back burner. Those investments include the Olympic Dam copper and uranium project, Jansen potash expansion and an outer harbour in Port Hedland.
“At the end of the day, resources … remains a cyclical business. And I emphasise: it’s a cyclical business both for BHP Billiton and for Australia,” he told a Perth conference recently. — Tom Cowie (read the full profile at The Power Index)