No.3: Rupert Murdoch (chairman, News Coporation). At 81, Rupert Murdoch can still fly into Australia to sack his right-hand man, rip apart the front pages, terrify his editors and have them hanging on his every word in case they should fail to catch a passing wish.
Meanwhile, his 175 newspapers around the world dutifully spout his views — on the Iraq War at least — and back whatever political leader he decides to endorse, be it George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, John Howard or even Kevin Rudd. Rupert doesn’t have to tell everyone exactly what to do, because his editors — who are an incredibly loyal bunch — are constantly trying to second-guess him and keep him sweet.
The big question now about Murdoch is how much his power will be damaged by the News of the World hacking scandal in the UK. We wouldn’t expect him or his emissaries to be as welcome with the British government as they were between May 2010 and July 2011 when they met ministers twice a week on average. But whether the examination and excoriation will really spell the end of Murdoch power is too early to say.
However, even back in Australia, politicians and the media no longer fear Murdoch’s News Limited as much as they did, and more have been prepared to stand up and criticise.
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Eventually, Rupert must slow down (or die), but if he lives as long as his mother, Dame Elisabeth, he’ll have at least another 22 years to rule the roost, unless the hacking scandal or the evidence he provided at the Leveson inquiry (the public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press) knocks him off his perch.
But as his interrogation during the inquiry has shown, he’s looking fitter and sharper than he has for many years. — Paul Barry
No.2: Wayne Swan (Treasurer). Wayne Swan delivers the budget, craves a surplus and is lucky enough to run one of the world’s healthiest economies. But is he really the World’s Greatest Treasurer, as Euromoney magazine recently claimed?
Mark Latham, who gave him the shadow treasurer’s job in 2004, once branded him “insipid”, “unfamiliar with basic economic terminology”, and beset by “nerves and anxiety”. Cheryl Kernot, who knows him from Queensland days, told The Power Index, “people in Canberra don’t think he’s good, even on the Right. And he’s been appallingly weak in supporting Julia Gillard on the mining and carbon taxes”.
And a former treasurer told us, “the treasurer’s words are much more important to the markets than those of the prime minister. But I don’t think anyone has told Swanny. He’s gone into Treasury as if he’s still on the campaign trail.”
Witness his recent whinging about those evil mining billionaires making life impossible for Labor. So is he as bad as his critics say, or as good as his gong? Answer: he’s competent at best, with few skills as a salesman, no reforming zeal and almost zero star quality.
His saving grace, says one ex-Labor staffer is, “he’s not stupid enough to think he can run Treasury. He does what he’s told, which means he doesn’t do anything radical, but he doesn’t get too much wrong.” — Paul Barry