AFR Magazine reveals annual list of Australia’s most powerful people
AFR Magazine reveals annual list of Australia’s most powerful people
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has topped The Australian Financial Review Magazine’s Power List in a year in which the influence of health officials, banks and state premiers is recognised as the nation grapples with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 Power issue of AFR Magazine is available today in The Australian Financial Review and will also appear on www.afr.com. It offers in-depth analysis of the trends behind the lists and profiles of Australia’s most powerful people.
“Now in its 20th year, AFR Magazine’s Power issue is the definitive analysis of who’s really running Australia,” said AFR Magazine Editor, Matthew Drummond. “This year’s list reflects the dramatic changes in how the country is run with the National Cabinet bringing leaders together, while state borders keep people apart.”
The 2020 AFR Magazine Power List – and the supplementary Covert Power List – were decided by an esteemed panel of decision-makers across Australia’s political and business spheres. The panellists were:
– David Gazard, Political consultant and lobbyist
– Paul Howes, National managing partner of KPMG Enterprises
– Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor and president of James Cook University
– Tony Mitchelmore, Managing director of Visibility and campaign strategist
– John Scales, Qualitative and quantitative researcher, founder of JWS Research
– Nicola Wakefield Evans, Non-executive board director
– Michael Stutchbury, Editor in Chief of The Australian Financial Review
– Julie Bishop, Chancellor of ANU and former foreign affairs minister
– Warren Mundine, Businessman and political strategist
– Raina Macintyre, Head of the Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute and Professor of
Global Biosecurity at UNSW
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has once again topped the main Power List in recognition of his strong leadership in response to COVID-19, while the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has also maintained his second position on the Overt Power List. The former Chief Medical Officer and current Secretary of the Department of Health, Brendan Murphy, debuts on the list in third place in recognition of his role in advising the PM and National Cabinet during the pandemic.
Josh Frydenberg is Australia’s second most powerful person (DOMINIC LORRIMER)
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has slipped from third place in 2019 to fourth, while the Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews, is at number five and WA Premier Mark McGowan number nine. The collection of premiers on the list recognises their growing influence as a result of the unprecedented lockdowns enforced by their states.
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt also debuts on the list, in sixth place. Hunt has become the most prominent member of the federal government behind the PM and Treasurer since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn enters the 2020 Power List in seventh place as he looks to repair the damage from the banking royal commission and money-laundering scandals. He is the first CEO of a big bank to make the Overt Power List since 2014.
Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia Philip Lowehas slipped from fourth place in 2019 to eighth, attributed to the cash rate being already at a record low and hence reducing his ability to push interest rates down much further.
Rounding out the top 10 is Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, down from fifth place in 2019. Albanese’s drop is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most voters uninterested in partisanship and Labor struggling to remain relevant in the ongoing COVID-19 debate.
The top three places on the 2020 Covert Power List are taken by men working closely with the Prime Minister. Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Philip Gaetjens, is again at number one. Gaetjens, one of the PM’s closest advisers, leads the Covert Power list for the third year in a row.
He is followed by Scott Morrison’s Chief of Staff, John Kunkel, and Principal Private Secretary, Yaron Finkelstein,who tied for second place. Kunkel, noted for being one of the most powerful men in Canberra, maintained his second-place position while Finkelstein, a key link to the Coalition’s backbench, jumped to second spot from fourth position in 2019.
In third place is Ben Morton, the Federal Liberal Member for Tangney who was appointed Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet in May 2019. Morton is a close friend and ally of the PM, and at the height of the summer bushfire crisis, according to the panel, he was acting as a de facto chief of staff. He played a key role in the reform of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and has been a near-constant presence in Canberra during the pandemic.
Nick Warner, Director-General of National Intelligence, climbed from fifth place in 2019 to fourth place. As Australia’s spy chief, he briefs the PM personally on threats and emerging challenges from around the world, bringing together power from the reorganised network of intelligence and national security agencies in Canberra. Amid China’s increasingly aggressive posture towards Australia, Warner’s power is matched by decades of authority, lasting networks at home and around the world, and bipartisan political standing. ACTU Secretary Sally McManus claims fifth place on the Covert Power List. The first female secretary of the ACTU, McManus has worked closely with the Coalition, helping to rewrite industrial relations rules and advocating for workers buffeted by COVID-19. A skilled user of traditional and social media and a strategic campaigner, McManus is considered to be one of the nation’s most influential union bosses in a generation.
In sixth place is the boss of retail giant Wesfarmers and one of Australia’s largest employers, Rob Scott. Scott has emerged as a critical contact for the federal government during COVID-19 job losses and panic buying across the country.
Nev Power, Chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, is in seventh place, with his name becoming synonymous with the road to recovery. The former Fortescue Metals Group boss is now central to decision making on how to kick-start economic growth in the COVID-19 era and create new jobs. His commission has cabinet-level status and was quickly formed after the PM decided a nexus with business was urgently needed in the crisis.
David Gazard, a political consultant and lobbyist, holds seventh place. Few people have as much access to the Morrison government as Gazard – a long-time Liberal operative, former candidate and Morrison mate. Initially tipped to take on the role of chief of staff to the PM, he is a regular presence in parliament’s ministerial wing and is sought after by business and decision-makers alike. His power stems from a sophisticated understanding of the political process and close relationships with those who matter. Gazard was also a member of this year’s Power Lists panel. He recused himself during discussions about his influence.
Secretary to the Australian Treasury, Steven Kennedy, makes the list at number nine. Kennedy has remained in near-constant contact with Josh Frydenberg and senior ministers during the coronavirus crisis. He has helped to frame the discussion around Australia’s return to recovery and guided the formation of billions in landmark wage assistance spending in the form of JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Fronting the powerful Senate select committee on COVID-19, Kennedy is an authoritative voice on the road out of the crisis, respected by all sides of politics.
Jane Halton,Australia’s representative for the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), rounds out the top 10. Having retired in 2016 after 14 years as a departmental secretary, including stints at the top in Health and Finance, she is also part of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission. On the CEPI, which she chairs, Halton is a key voice in the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, she has brought her reputation as a problem solver to the urgent federal inquiry into hotel quarantine preparedness around Australia.
The full Overt and Covert Power Lists are currently available online at www.afr.com. Along with the Cultural Power List, they appear inside the Power issue of AFR Magazine, available in the Financial Review today, Friday, October 2.
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Friday, October 2, 2020