No.11: Christine Milne (Greens leader). Christine Milne’s ascension to one of the most powerful positions in Australian politics — controlling the balance of power in the Senate — saw the Greens senator described as a hardliner and uncompromising.

That was the opinion of one unidentified Labor figure. But it was an observation that informed much of the mainstream media’s coverage of Milne’s replacement of Bob Brown as Greens leader.

Given Milne’s political history, the statement was bizarre. If it was a warning shot at the new Greens leader from a government keen to establish the upper hand over her, it’s likely to fail: the Greens are currently polling at the same sort of levels that saw them pick up four extra Senate seats and a House of Representatives seat in 2010.

Like Brown, Milne has extensive Parliamentary experience — far more than any other party leader in Parliament. She spent nine years in the Tasmanian Parliament, five of them as leader (succeeding Brown there as well), supporting both Liberal and Labor minority governments. Indeed, she had more experience than Brown in working with governments in a balance of power role.

So much for “hardline” and “uncompromising”.

Her experience has been important in shaping her approach to achieving outcomes. In a long interview with The Power Index, she told us one of her preferred mechanisms for reaching compromise is through cross-party committees like the multi-party committee on climate change that last year yielded the carbon pricing package. — Bernard Keane (read the full story at The Power Index)

No.10: Barry O’Farrell (New South Wales premier). The NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell holds the key to change in the country’s most populous state. Unfortunately, up until recently he’s decided to bar the door instead, which makes him powerful, but for all the wrong reasons.

BOF is a cautious, conservative politician who is happiest when he’s setting up inquiries and delegating his powers to people like former Premier Nick Greiner … then ignoring their advice.

Mostly it’s been a barren first year in office, which has earned him the unflattering nickname “Barrier O’Farrell”. But perhaps that moniker has stung O’Farrell into action, because he’s started getting things done. This year he has raised billions selling off the state’s electricity generators, signaled the death knell for the widely-loathed monorail and slashed public service numbers.

However there are those who still say he’s doing his best to stop Sydney building a much-needed second airport. To cap it all, he’s been up to his armpits in the Star Casino scandal, starring his (now former) communications director, Peter Grimshaw.

One thing Bazza has done is to persuade the NSW parliament to ban political donations from trade unions, companies and special interest groups, which will make it even harder for Labor to get back into power.

Baz’s latest light bulb moment is to get people who want to fly to Sydney, to fly to Canberra instead and catch a new fast train. Even his Liberal Party mates say it’s a ridiculous idea. — Paul Barry

Peter Fray

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