The 15 Most Covertly Powerful People in Australia

Arthur Sinodinos, Martin Parkinson and Lucy Turnbull lead our annual list of the most powerful behind-the-scenes people in Australia.

See our other power lists here: AFR Magazine Power issue

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Arthur Sinodinos 
His ability and his background in terms of cabinet business and policy has got to be incredibly powerful and influential. – Sandra Harding 
He’s in cabinet, each of the cabinet sub-committees, including the national security committee, and advising Malcolm Turnbull. He’s the gatekeeper for what goes to cabinet and what comes out of cabinet. – Greg Combet Turnbull trusts Sinodinos and that makes him very powerful. – Ian Macfarlane

Because: He has the trust of the Prime Minister and was key to Malcolm Turnbull getting the numbers to topple Tony Abbott and take power in September 2015. His role means he has the influential task of preparing, managing and ensuring the confidentiality of cabinet business, positioning him as an important gatekeeper for the Prime Minister. His career has risen phoenix-like from the political ashes after an inquiry conducted by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption found there was insufficient evidence that Sinodinos was involved in a secret political donation scandal.

What the panel says: He has the Prime Minister’s ear. He’s the person who can help undo roadblocks. Also, he has so much intricate knowledge of the Howard years and how Howard conducted himself. Turnbull does respect how Howard conducted himself and to have that available to you would be a wonderful gift. Sinodinos can use that if he wants.
– Amanda Vanstone

He had a huge role in getting Turnbull there. He’s respected. – Tony Mitchelmore

Cabinet secretary
2015 ranking: None

Because: She’s the Prime Minister’s wife and his most trusted confidant. Turnbull is an experienced businesswoman, who is passionate about city planning, and is also a former lord mayor of Sydney. In Australia’s history there hasn’t been a prime minister’s wife of such achievement. Her many current roles include being chair of listed company Prima Biomed, chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, a director of the Grattan Institute and chief patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

What the panel says: She has great political heritage. If you grow up in a political household, you live and breathe politics and that’s what Lucy has done. Malcolm is what he is because of Lucy. There’s just no way to overstate that.
– Ian Macfarlane

Malcolm trusts her more than anyone else in the whole world. She’s intellectual, she understands the game. If Arthur Sinodinos was saying let’s go left, and Lucy was saying let’s go right, I guarantee which way Malcolm would go.– Dominique Fisher

2015 ranking: None

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