After a year of discovering who really runs Australia, The Power Index is finally set to reveal the country's fifty most powerful people.
Throughout July, Paul Barry and The Power Index team will be counting down the most influential people in the nation from business, media, politics, sport and culture.
The Power 50 / 2012
Chair, Future Fund
Born in: South Africa
Home Town: Sydney
David Gonski is corporate Australia's Mr Teflon: nothing sticks for long, like the controversy over his appointment to run the Future Fund. It helps that he's smart, humble and Australia's most well-connected businessman.
Grey, bespectacled and balding, Gonski is the fixer and negotiator favoured by the big end of town. Listed companies, major not-for-profits and governments of all persuasions ask him for advice, to headhunt board members or chair inquiries.
He's thick as thieves with famous business dynasties the Packers, Murdochs and Lowys, chairs an investment bank and works as a highly sought-after company director.
Most recently, he delivered the long-awaited Gonski review of school funding for the federal government. It's the first inquiry into education spending for 40 years, with the report recommending a $5 billion injection into schools.
But you don't rise like Gonski has without an element of ruthlessness. Big business deep throats liken him to a kind of 'Mafia Don', who does favours for you but always gets something in return.
"He does things for people. He becomes people's consigliere, if you like," offers one associate when asked by The Power Index how Gonski has become so powerful.
"Everyone wants to use him or talk to him and he rations it out as a quid pro quo thing," says another, adding that the IOUs collected by Gonski are rarely for his benefit but for others.