Purse string keeper holding the power

UNDERTREASURER John Langoulant stands head and shoulders above other public servants.

His influence derives in part from simply being head of Treasury and Finance – the man who controls the purse strings.

However, his influence is greater than that. He has served both Coalition and Labor Governments with distinction, winning respect for his intellect and pragmatism.

As Director General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Mal Wauchope has done a remarkably good job of keeping a low profile. Some observers see him as a dour bureaucrat who keeps the cogs turning while the likes of David Hatt fight over the big policy issues. However, others see him as an influential figure, particularly through the Expenditure Review Process.

Acting Commissioner of Railways is a relatively inconspicuous title, yet Reece Waldock has prime responsibility for the $1.4 billion New MetroRail project, including the contentious southern rail link to Mandurah.

This is the State’s biggest and most risky infrastructure project, and any cost blowout or construction problems could have devastating implications for both the Government and the State.

He is the prime candidate to head up the planned Public Transport Authority, which will manage rail and bus services.

Planning and Infrastructure (Greg Martin), Education (Paul Albert) and Industry and Resources (Jim Limerick) are three of the biggest and/or most influential departments, so the heads of each have been included in the list.

Police Commissioner Barry Matthews and Water Corporation chief executive Jim Gill both run large, influential and very politically sensitive organisations, so they have also been included.

In terms of size and political sensitivity, no agency matches the Health Department.

However, director general Mike Daube is not considered particularly robust and he has been usurped somewhat by the appointment of Mick Reid to review the State’s hospital system (see political advisers) so he has not been included.

Exclusions from last year’s list are David Eiszele, who retired as Western Power managing director early this year after battling unsuccessfully against the Government’s planned energy reforms and Paul Schapper who lost his position as a result of restructuring moves.

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