Power Move

Eight of the best power grabs of 2011


The past year has provided a smorgasbord of power snatching opportunities for those looking to increase their influence. Here we present eight of our favourite 2011 power grabs:

Alan Joyce

It was the industrial relations power play no one saw coming. Qantas had been involved in a running battle with the unions over Joyce's plans to restructure the business and long-term industrial action looked to be on the cards.

So when Alan Joyce tried to force the federal government's hand by grounding Qantas' international and domestic fleet the initial reaction was shock (and, amongst the business community, awe).

Unions, politicians and the public were taken completely by surprise; Fair Work Australia intervened and Joyce got pretty much what he wanted (as well as a handy $2 million bonus).

Anthony Albanese/Peter Slipper

After a parliamentary year like no other, the last sitting day for 2011 had one big surprise left in store: the resignation of the Speaker of the House.

Incumbent Harry Jenkins announced he was stepping down to participate more fully in caucus policy discussions (and, as one Liberal wag put it, so he could have a beer with his Labor mates).

Lead government schemer Anthony Albanese spied an opportunity and successfully lured disgruntled LNP member Peter Slipper to take the job (and a $100,000 pay rise).

Tony Abbott denounced the political double deal as "Machiavellian ruthlessness" but the minority government, a byelection away from destruction, was given some extra breathing space on the floor.

Barry O'Farrell

It wasn't the most difficult of election victories, the NSW scandal-plagued Labor government had been on the nose for what seemed like an eternity.

But Barry O'Farrell still had to get the job done to finally end the Coalition's 16 years out of office. And do a job he did, winning in a landslide with 69 seats to Labor's 20.

The months since haven't been the kindest to BOF, as Infrastructure NSW boss Nick Greiner gives him a hard time on power asset sales.

But compared to the previous mob's performance at Macquarie Street, he's going to have a political honeymoon for some time yet.

Bob Brown

Ever since last year's hung parliament election result, Greens leader Bob Brown has been dubbed the man behind the throne in Canberra. And with good reason, The Greens' position in both the Senate and House has given them the power to pretty much demand as they please.

And the most evident display of that power has been the passage of the federal government's carbon price; a direct contradiction of a Gillard election promise and a key requirement of Brown's support for Labor legislation.

With bills through both Houses and the Opposition plotting its demise, one thing's for sure: without Brown (and The Greens) it would be highly unlikely that the most contentious policy of the year would be in place.

David Manne

When Julia Gillard and Chris Bowen announced they were going to send asylum seekers over to Malaysia for processing, refugee lawyer David Manne was quick to seek legal redress to stop the plan.

And what a win it was. The High Court ruled in his team's favour six to one, leaving the federal government with the option to either strike a deal with the Coalition, or process asylum seekers on shore (they chose the latter). 

Justice Mordecai Bromberg

Conservative firebrand Andrew Bolt, judged to be our most powerful Media Megaphone, would freely admit that he has plenty of people who want to shut him up.

But it was Justice Mordecai Bromberg who succeeded (well, according to Bolt anyway) when he ruled in favour of nine fair-skinned aborigines this year who said a 2009 Bolt article had racially discriminated against them.

Bolt took to the front page of the Herald Sun to proclaim it a "sad day for free speech", but for now Bromberg's ruling hovers over the columnist's head. And both his enemies and supporters have something to hold on to.

Kim Williams

Here's another one no one really saw coming. Former News Limited boss John Hartigan looked set to lead Australia's biggest media company out of the free content era and behind the subscriber paywall. Harto even commissioned a shakeup of operations, with a new logo and company name mooted.

But Rupert Murdoch had other ideas and just days after his most-recent visit to the colony Hartigan was announcing his resignation, with Foxtel boss Kim Williams anointed to take the crown.

As many have pointed out since, the move makes sense. The bespectacled Williams has form in making people pay for stuff they had always got for free.


It was a year of protest, both locally and internationally. And while the activists who took to the streets here may not have had as much on the line of those in, say, the Arab world, the arguments were still extremely passionate.

There was SlutWalk, which questioned the objectification of women, and the Occupy protests, which aimed to raise awareness of corporate and capitalist greed. 

And then, of course, there were the series of gatherings which campaigned both for and against the government's contentious carbon price.

Many claimed to be first-time protestors, spurred on by a desire to see the government either push through or scrap the legislation. Regardless, it led to some of the protest signs of the year.

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