19/06/2007 - 22:00

Most influential on a number of levels

19/06/2007 - 22:00


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This is a bit of a ritual for me. Every year we have our Most Influential list, which follows a long period of discussion and consultation.

Most influential on a number of levels

This is a bit of a ritual for me.

Every year we have our Most Influential list, which follows a long period of discussion and consultation.

It’s one of our most popular features and, while (in contrast to most media) we don’t go out to court controversy, we know that it gets widely read and critiqued by those in the know.

Of course, it’s not just designed for those in-the-know people, who often have very different opinions and will often disagree with our findings.

It also has a wider purpose; to offer those in business who don’t have access to lobbyists or databases an easygoing guide to who is ruling the roost in Western Australia.

Every year we go over the same ground, namely what constitutes ‘influential’. In the end we have a formula, if you can give it as scientific a name as that, focusing on influence over resources, policy and public opinion.

Some can literally move mountains with the resources they have at hand, others can theoretically stop them by using their institutional power, while others can get it all started again by just talking in the right ear.

The most powerful have all three of these and are prepared to use their clout.

The recent federal industrial relations debate has brought some clarity to this.

Our giant miners have decided to speak up on the issue of Australian Workplace Agreements, playing the resources (money, minerals, staff) card to great effect.

Similarly, we’ve seen Premier Alan Carpenter hedge his bets on this subject, both acknowledging the influence of the miners as the drivers of his state’s economic security and being prepared to stand up to his federal colleagues to preserve his own position. As background to this, we’ve seen the unions emerge, proving they are yet to be a spent force.

All three have influenced the debate in a federal election.

All three have a lot to win or lose, depending on the outcome.

Just who was more influential is yet to become clear. Our choice remains the former two ahead of the union movement…but that could easily change in October or November if Labor wins a federal election. Then we’d have reconsider a few positions.


Low-key Browning proves his point

I had the opportunity to catch up with Bob Browning this week, just before he heads to the US to take up his new role with Austal.

As leaders go, he is very low-key. It’s hard to believe he’s been involved in some of the most controversial and dramatic moments in Western Australia’s colourful corporate history.

Apart from some audacious acquisitions as head of Alinta Ltd, driving it to an $8 billion company, there are two things that stick in my mind.

One was the dumping of his options package by institutional shareholders three years ago, which may well have led to the other, his key role in the failed management buy-out of Alinta.

I interviewed Mr Browning after the options debacle and discovered a resolve to prove his detractors wrong. He nearly tripled the size of the company, so let’s assume he did, even if he wasn’t rewarded for it.

The second time around, he seems equally resolved to show investors that they would have done better to stick with him. Of course, the Alinta investors won’t be benefiting from any success this time, it will be Austal’s shareholders who will get to enjoy any fruits of his determination.

I have to add that there’s probably one thing he won’t be trying to prove he can do.

Asked if one day there may be a chance of an MBO at Austal, his response was immediate and clear.

“Absolutely none that I would be involved in,” he said.


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