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Winner and losers 2010

Nick Bryant | 14:34 UK time, Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Winners

Julia Gillard: Pulled off the political double of engineering the downfall of a once highly-popular prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and negotiated her way to victory after the deadlocked election in September. However, the fact that she came so close to losing the election, which would have been unprecedented for a post-war first-term government, badly undercut her authority and left her weakened in the eyes of a once admiring party. Critics suggest she has not yet imposed herself upon the country.

Tony Abbott: Though he ultimately lost out to Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott surprised the Canberra press gallery, the wider commentariat, his party and possibly even himself by coming so close to victory. In defeat, he emerged as something of a winner because he solidified his position as opposition leader and will be expected to lead his party into the next election. Indeed, next year he hopes to win over the two regional MPs who spurned him, which would bring down the Gillard government.

Two of the Three Amigos: Two previously little-known regional MPs, Tony Bishop and Rob Oakeshott, ended up deciding who should become the next prime minister. As a result, they got to deliver millions of dollars of federal largesse to their constituents.

The Australian dollar: Reached parity with the dollar for the first time since it was floated in 1983, which reflected the wider strength of Australia's seemingly recession-proof economy. But the strength of the dollar has been problematic for Australian exporters and the tourism industry.

The Australian Greens: The party saw its first elected MP, Adam Bandt, take his seat in the House of Representatives and will hold the balance of power in the Senate by the middle of next year.

The Mining Giants: BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto demonstrated their colossal corporate might when they took on the Rudd government over its proposals for a mining super profits tax and forced a climbdown. Their multi-millionaire advertising campaign, orchestrated by the country's most powerful lobby group, the Minerals Council of Australia, hammered the Labor government especially in Queensland and Western Australia and was a factor in the downfall of Kevin Rudd. After a brief hiccup in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, it was boom times again for the resources sector.

The nation's farmers: The end of the Big Dry, Australia's worst drought in a century, brought relief to farming communities across Australia. Heavy rains in November and December, which brought flooding to parts of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, had led to widespread crop damage. But wheat yields are still up on last year.

Laurie Oakes and Kerry O'Brien: In the year that new media like Twitter and the continuous news channels were expected to dominate the federal election, it was two journalistic veterans who set the pace. Channel Nine's Political Editor, Laurie Oakes, was the conduit for a series of leaks from the Rudd camp that were highly damaging to Julia Gillard. He also summed up the frustrations of many Australians at the choice put before them in the election when he described Gillard and the Liberal leader Tony Abbott as "political pygmies".

In his final year as the presenter of The 7.30 Report, Kerry O'Brien's tough line of questioning drew anger from Kevin Rudd over climate change. "It might be easy for you to sit in 7.30 Report Land and say that was easy to do," said Rudd, his voice rising in anger. "Let me tell you mate, it wasn't." He also exposed Tony Abbott's lack of fluency on broadband policy, which proved to be a factor in the post-election deadlock, since faster internet speeds were such an important issue for the regional MPs who held the balance of power.

Animal Kingdom: The Melbourne crime family drama was the finest Australian film in years, winning at the Sundance Film Festival and sweeping the AFI awards. Brilliant performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver. A stunning movie.

Masterchef Australia: Channel Ten's nightly cook-off was the ratings success of the year, offering proof that Australia is a nation of foodies.

Tourism Australia: Pulled off the coup of bringing Oprah Winfrey to Australia, an investment of $A6 million spread between the federal government, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland governments and Qantas, which is expected to deliver $A100 million dollars of global exposure.

Jessica Watson: Aged just 16, she circumnavigated the globe, but missed out on the record for the youngest sailor to do so because she did not sail far enough above the equator.

Mark Webber: Came runner-up in the Formula One World Championship and lost out to his Red Bull team-mate, but impressed with his driving smarts and bravery. He drove the final grand prix with a broken shoulder, though he did not tell anyone. He also became the country's richest sports star.

Wayne Bennett: In rugby league, Bennet steered the St George Illawarra Dragons to the premiership title. It was Bennet's seventh grand final victory, thus removing any lingering doubt that he is Australia's greatest ever rugby league coach.

The budgie smuggler: Popularised by Tony Abbott, Australian budgie smugglers got more global exposure than ever before.

Losers

Kevin Rudd: Once thought of as an "Era politician" who could dominate Canberra for a decade, Rudd was dumped by a party that had never much liked him in the first place. Not long ago the recipient of the highest approval ratings since Bob Hawke in his pomp, his fall was remarkable for its speed and brutality. He became the first prime minister in Australian history not to see out his first term.

Malcolm Turnbull: He lost the Liberal leadership at the back end of 2009, but an unexpectedly strong showing from Tony Abbott in the federal election meant that his chances of returning one day to lead his party were greatly diminished. After going back on his decision to retire from parliament, he is the opposition's main point man on broadband, one of next year's hot-button issues.

Senator Steve Fielding: The Family First senator, famed for weird publicity stunts like walking the Canberra's corridors of power dressed as a recyclable drinks bottle, was swept from office in the federal election.

The Big Banks: This was the year the public and the politicians turned on the big four major banks, National Australia Bank, ANZ, Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank, for what are seen as overly high fees, overly high profits and the commercial opportunism of hiking interest rates higher than the level set by the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia. Just before Christmas, the Gillard government announced a series of banking reforms

Stern Hu: The Shanghai-based Rio Tinto executive found guilty of stealing commercial secrets. In March, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Climate change as a top agenda issue: Climate change slipped down the political agenda in 2010, partly because of the failure of the Copenhagen summit to produce a stronger agreement, partly because Kevin Rudd decided to downgrade the issue, partly because Tony Abbott launched the Liberal fight back on the back of rising scepticism and partly because of the end of the Big Dry, the worst drought here in a century.

Melbourne Storm: The dominant rugby league team of the past few seasons had its two premiership titles stripped along with all of its points from this season for breaking the salary cap.

Winner or Loser?

Julian Assange: The 39-year-old founder of WikiLeaks became the world's most talked about after the release of the so-called "Baghdad video" which badly embarrassed the Pentagon and thousands of diplomatic cables. He remains, of course, a highly contentious figure: a hi-tech hero to his many supporters in Australia and elsewhere, or a cyber terrorist according to some lawmakers in the US.

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