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
Editor in chief and founder of WikiLeaks
Born in: Townsville, QLD
Foes: The Guardian | New York Times | US government
No person has snatched, wielded and lost more power in the past eighteen months than Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder has been responsible for the publication of hundreds of thousands of secrets, helped spark revolutions and changed the face of journalism -- perhaps forever.
Now, he's seeking asylum from Ecuador and may soon find himself in a Swedish courtroom. He's also a wanted by the US government to answer for what he's released. Meanwhile, his organisation is close to broke.
Along the way he's tried to revolutionise the way people leak confidential information, using the power of the internet to harvest and distribute massive tranches of sensitive documents.
Assange tells The Power Index WikiLeaks is an organisation intent on freedom of information and helping the public see in full view how their governments operate: "It is our role to make sure that information relevant to that is published," he says.
And he's managed to do just that through a series of major newsworthy leaks. Just this week, the organisation released five million emails it said came from Syrian political figures. Earlier this year, they leaked emails revolving around intelligence company Stratfor.
Its most prominent release was the publication of classified documents concerning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then the disclosure of more than a quarter of a million secret US embassy cables.
It's the latter, aided by major newspapers worldwide, which has been credited by groups like Amnesty International with having helped spark last year's Arab Spring protests.
"We thought that they would cause a lot of discussion and debate around the world, we specifically thought that they would restabilise the Middle East," says Assange when asked what effect he anticipated Cablegate would have.
"They do seem to have contributed towards the revolutions there and perhaps the most significant ongoing thing to come out of them was the radicalisation of internet-educated youth."
WikiLeaks has provided a new model for how people leak information. In theory, the concept makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to be able to safely disclose state and corporate secrets without fear of being uncovered. The encryption is supposed to be so good even WikiLeaks doesn't know its sources.
As Suelette Dreyfus, author of cult classic hacking book Underground (on which Assange collaborated), puts it: "His idea was to use technology to make it safer for whistleblowers ... his idea changed the risk profile for revealing wrongdoing."
It's all part of Assange's open governance philosophy, built on his background as a computer hacker breaking into organisations like NASA and the Pentagon as a teenager. It's a concept prominent academic Robert Manne lauds as one of the "few original ideas in politics".
And if a measure of influence is having imitators, then Assange scores highly: a string of WikiLeaks copycats have popped up since its inception.
"There's no doubt that WikiLeaks, and by extension Assange, has been responsible for some of the most important and game changing acts of journalism over the past two or three years," Chris Warren, secretary of journalists' union the MEAA, tells The Power Index.
As a result of Cablegate, Assange has become the subject of an ongoing investigation by an embarrassed superpower hell-bent on seeking justice for the biggest leak in its history.
It's here where his influence takes on shades of grey. A financial embargo has meant submissions have been unavailable on the WikiLeaks website since Cablegate, as Assange's legal team battles his extradition from UK to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. And if, as his supporters fear, Assange ends up in a US prison, it could spell the end for WikiLeaks as an organisation.
There are also concerns over the future of Bradley Manning, who is currently facing trial in the US for allegedly passing on documents to the organisation.
While WikiLeaks has not confirmed Manning as one of their sources, the organisation has provided him with legal support. There are some who think they haven't done enough.
Former WikiLeaks spokesman and Assange confidant Daniel Domscheit-Berg wrote in his book Inside WikiLeaks that the organisation had "utterly failed" in providing Manning with financial and other support.
Domscheit-Berg isn't the only former associate to have had a falling out with Assange. Two of WikiLeaks' former media partners, the Guardian and the New York Times, have also sought to distance themselves from him. Both sides have accused each other of reneging on how the US state cables were to be published.
"They were involved in an underhanded business to breach the Cablegate contract to the exclusion of all the other partners," Assange tells The Power Index, adding that the cable redaction process of the mainstream media had been "corrupting".
"He tried to stop all three partners publishing, claiming that they belonged to him and that he had a legal right to sell them," counters Guardian journalist Nick Davies, telling The Power Index that Assange's claim is an example of his "weird compulsion to make things up".
That the organisations who once championed Assange have now turned on him so thoroughly gives an insight into his personality. Those who have dealt with him say he is arrogant, narcissistic, paranoid and controlling.
Still, no one questions his intelligence, or his ability to influence the debate.