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
General Secretary of the NSW Labor Party and member of the Centre Unity faction of the ALP
Born in: an Iraqi fishing village to an Iranian father and Azeri mother, arrived in Australia as a refugee
Foes: Eddie Obeid | Joe Tripodi
Home Town: Sydney
A flashy, even spivvy, dresser who likes French champagne, Sam Dastyari brings back memories of the ALP's famous Boy from Bankstown, except he's polite, well-mannered and doesn't yet think he's God.
The pocket-sized former refugee, who was born in a small town in northern Iran and came to Australia when he was five, got the job as NSW Labor's general secretary in March 2010 at the tender age of 27. But despite his youth and inexperience he's already making his mark.
For a start, it was his idea to get Australia's new foreign minister, Bob Carr, a senate seat. But he's also been leading the battered party's push to reform.
It was Dastyari who persuaded the factional bosses to trial primaries in NSW, so the public can have a say in picking candidates. He has also boosted party membership, which hit rock bottom in 2011, with bizarre offers of dinner with Bob Hawke for new recruits, which snared a record 400 people in the first half of April.
Dastyari is hailed as the Graham Richardson of his generation, and has the gig that set Richo on the road to power. But he does not seem like a cynical machine man. "There's no point in winning government," he told The Power Index, "if you don't do something with it".
With his matinee idol looks and shiny dark hair, Dastyari resembles a very young Omar Sharif. And he is almost as smooth. He is also charming, funny and so full of ideas he can hardly complete his sentences. "He has undiagnosed ADHD," says a friend. "He just can't sit still."
"He has a 30-second attention span and is constantly on his mobile," says another observer. "He's definitely part of the Twitter generation".
Dastyari has impeccable Labor bloodlines. He's married to the daughter of ex-Hawke adviser Peter Barron, close to uber-fixer Graham Richardson, and friends with up-and-coming union boss Paul Howes (whose office is on the floor above). He's also a protégé of Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar.
But he's certainly not from the same gene pool. His parents were student activists in the 1979 Iranian revolution, forced to flee the country when the Islamists cracked down. His cousins had escaped over the mountains. It's almost certainly what explains his energy and passion.
Dastyari joined Young Labor at 16, and rose to be president, like Keating and Carr. He signed up his schoolmates to the ALP's Hornsby branch and arrived in uniform to demand the roles of president and secretary. When Arbib and Bitar summoned him for a dressing down, they were so impressed they adopted him instead.
A dozen years later, he doesn't lack confidence. As one senior figure on the NSW Left observes: "He's anything but the shy retiring type. He's not hampered by self doubt".
At Baulkham Hills High, a top selective school in Sydney's north-west, Dastyari starred in the debating team and Student Representative Council and was popular with his classmates. At Sydney University he ran the Labor Club and picked up an economics degree in his spare time.
He launched his political career with lobbyists Hawker Britton, graduated to the party's Sussex Street headquarters, and got the top job when Matt Thwistlewaite was dumped.
He holds this position, and is convenor of the NSW Right faction, thanks to the state's most powerful union bosses, like the TWU's Tony Sheldon, the ETU's Bernie O'Riordan and the AWU's Tony Collison. So it was brave of him to proclaim, as he did last June, that power in the ALP "has to be taken away from the factional operators".
After last year's state election disaster, Dastyari was the first to admit Labor deserved to lose: "It's simple. We lost our ability to deliver on the services that the public expected and required," he wrote. "They saw us looking after ourselves ... It was an ugly sight for the voters."
But he had already started trying to fix it, giving two notorious NSW MPs, Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi, their marching orders and warning them to leave quietly or face the mother of all pre-selection battles.
It was around then -- late 2010 -- that he arrived late for the launch of Paul Howes's book, Diary of a Faceless Man, explaining he had been stuck on the phone to Tony Stewart MP, whom the party also wanted out of parliament. "What these politicians don't understand is that when we tell them to go they've got to go," he complained.
Two observers at the launch were surprised to see that Richo and Howes both appeared to defer to the younger man.
Friends say Dastyari has a ruthless streak and is used to exercising power. They also say he's astute at managing the union bosses who have installed him. But he faces a challenge that will require all the skills and cunning he can muster: to make the Labor Party relevant again.
Remarkably, he's "optimistic" that it can be done, and "excited" about the prospect. That's youth for you.