20/06/2006 - 22:00

Wielding power and influence

20/06/2006 - 22:00


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Our Most Influential survey enters its fifth year this week – the first time Geoff Gallop is not heading the list.

Wielding power and influence

Our Most Influential survey enters its fifth year this week – the first time Geoff Gallop is not heading the list – in a feature put together by senior reporter Mark Beyer.

Dr Gallop has, of course, left the political stage, providing an opportunity for Alan Carpenter, who was already emerging on the Most Influential stage last year.

There will be some readers who won’t agree with this selection.

One notable character we consulted, a regular name among our Most Influential lists, was adamant from the beginning that Jim McGinty was more influential than Geoff Gallop.

It was an argument he persisted with over the years. Perhaps he was right, but it was not a call we were prepared to make.

There were some suggestions that Mr McGinty’s influence had waned in recent times, but careful consultation has put paid to that. The health minister and state attorney-general remains firmly placed in the upper most branches – but not at the very top of the tree.

Dr Gallop’s demise and Mr Carpenter’s ascension to the premiership has prompted significant change among the key players in the ruling political party and the bureaucracy of the state.

Clearly, one place a new premier puts his stamp early is in the premier’s department where there has been significant change.

Interestingly, in these boom times, business leaders have remained pretty steady.

We asked our network whether Andrew Forrest belonged in the state’s top 10 – he’s created a company worth billions and single-handedly shaken up the Pilbara iron ore duopoly – yet those in the know said no way, not yet.

In contrast, Sam Walsh, the local head of Rio Tinto, a nemesis of Mr Forrest, does crack a listing in the top 10.

Clearly, iron ore is driving this state like no time since the 1960s, when the industry took Western Australia out of relative resources obscurity and thrust it on the world stage.

Signing a deal with another Most Influential name, Gina Rinehart, certainly cemented Mr Walsh in the upper echelons, just beating his local BHP Billiton rival, who does not quite have the same executive power within his own resources giant employer.

The Most Influential is a challenging yet engaging process, which is either illuminating or obvious, depending on which sphere of influence you inhabit.

There’s no 100 per cent right answer in this, but we definitely don’t go making outrageous calls just to get noticed.

We hope, instead, to produce a useful guide for those who need to know or are just interested in those who influence the way our state works.

More power comes from fuel debate

I love the debate raging about energy.

For the first time that I can recall we have serious debate about going nuclear, we have real argument about the economic viability of alternative energy and we have the people from coal claiming to have reinvented their fuel into a clean option.

All of these arguments have flaws, which is what makes its so interesting. And it is certainly better than no debate at all.

Driving much of this is the even broader debate over global warming, which is still bitterly argued between those who think the evidence of catastrophe is already here and those who can’t find anything to prove that the world is artificially getting warmer, or that there will be huge consequences if it does.

Across the divide the backers of each cases accuse each other of being doomsayers or having heads in the sand – depending on their cause.

All this is sensible stuff.

While some may argue that debate stifles action, just as tobacco giants sought to stymie cigarette sales regulation by denying research evidence that contradicted their own, that is how democracies work.

They require rigorous argument.

Even to those who believe our soapie watching, fast-food eating public takes too little time to analyse what is happening to them, the current debate shows significant breadth.

It’s a good omen for a good decision.

From my point of view, I am not opposed to nuclear power but, like many, would have reservations about having one constructed in my back yard. I don't believe this spurious argument about taking back spent nuclear fuel, whether or not we have nuclear power. Such an argument should not be used to distract general debate about the value of various energy sources and the risks that each entails.


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