Winners and losers of 2012

 WINNERS

JULIA GILLARD Defeated Kevin Rudd’s leadership challenge and kept her minority government afloat despite losing a speaker and an MP. Toughed it out in the face of poor opinion polls, a fractious cabinet and relentless opposition attacks over her activities as a lawyer in the 1990s.

BOB CARR Plucked from political retirement and parachuted into the Senate in the plum post of foreign minister in an upshot of Labor’s leadership wars.

GINA RINEHART Skyrocketed to the top as the richest Australian and the world’s richest woman. Rinehart almost trebled her mining fortune in one year to $29billion, growing richer by $1million every half-hour, though falling commodity prices have since eroded that.

THE CHAMBERLAINS Finally got the piece of paper that declared they had nothing to do with the disappearance of their baby Azaria near Uluru in 1980. A death certificate stated a dingo took their daughter after all, despite Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton spending three years behind bars for murder.

SALLY PEARSON Australia’s golden girl of the 2012 London Olympics, winning her hurdle sprint by two-hundredths of a second. Anything less than perfection would not have been  enough. She delivered.

MICHAEL CLARKE Married model Kyly Boldy in a secret ceremony in the Blue Mountains, then batted like Bradman, becoming the first Test cricketer to notch four double-hundreds in a calendar year.

GEOFFREY RUSH The Oscar-winning actor was cast in the new and prestigious role of Australian of the year.

JOHN HOWARD Appointed to the Order of Merit, an exclusive club handpicked by the Queen and limited to just 24 members. The former prime minister said the rare honour had come ‘‘out of the blue’’.

DAVID GALLOP Appointed to run the ‘‘sleeping giant’’ of Australian football, bouncing back after being forced to end a decade at the top of rugby league’s administration.

CAMPBELL NEWMAN Pulled off the most stunning victory in Queensland’s political history, leading the LNP to 78 seats in the 89-seat parliament.

CHRISTINE MILNE The long-term Australian Greens deputy took over her party’s top job after Bob Brown resigned, ending his 16-year parliamentary career.

DANIEL KEIGHRAN Awarded the nation’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for exceptional bravery in Afghanistan in 2010.

COMMONWEALTH BANK Set a record for an Australian bank with a $7.09billion net profit for the year to June 30.

SCHAPELLE CORBY Granted clemency by Indonesia’s president, reducing the convicted drug smuggler’s 20-year prison sentence by five years.

GORDON WOOD The late Rene Rivkin’s former chauffeur walked free after three years in jail after winning an appeal over the murder of his girlfriend Caroline Byrne in 1995.

HOME OWNERS Won mortgage relief as the Reserve Bank cut the cash interest rate in four stages by 1.25percentage points to 3per cent, though the commercial banks did not pass on the cuts in full.

 LOSERS

KEVIN RUDD Quit as foreign minister saying he no longer had the support of the prime minister or senior cabinet members, before losing a leadership challenge against Julia Gillard by 71 votes to 31. Though he denies any further leadership ambitions, Rudd supporters are keeping him on ice as an alternative should Ms Gillard stumble ahead of this year’s federal election.

PETER SLIPPER The controversial Liberal renegade resigned after just 11 months as Labor-nominated speaker in the House of Representatives over alleged sexual harassment of a male staffer via text messages, though a Federal Court judge later dismissed the case.

JAMES ASHBY A judge threw out his case against Slipper as an abuse of process and said it amounted to a ‘‘political attack’’ against his former boss. But the saga is unfinished as Ashby plans to take his case to Fair Work Australia.

CRAIG THOMSON Suspended from the ALP, he sits on the crossbench of federal parliament as an independent after a protracted row over alleged misuse of a union credit card when he was an official of the Health Services Union. Maintains his innocence and plans to contest civil proceedings launched by Fair Work Australia.

MICHAEL WILLIAMSON The boss of the scandal-plagued Health Services Union quit as vice-president of Unions NSW after being charged with offences including defrauding the union of $620,000. The HSU administrator later launched legal action to recoup union funds he allegedly fraudulently obtained.

TONY ABBOTT A Nielsen poll showed his standing with voters was the second-worst in Liberal Party history, nine points shy of Andrew Peacock’s 72per cent rating in 1984. But Abbott may get the last laugh, as polls also put the Coalition ahead of Labor heading into an election year.

JULIAN ASSANGE The Wikileaks founder lost his UK appeal against extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation. He has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy ever since after the South American nation granted him diplomatic asylum.

ANNA BLIGH Quit politics after her Queensland Labor government’s crushing defeat at the polls.

NATHAN TINKLER The former No.1 on the BRW Young Rich list lost his private jet and helicopter, shut down his Melbourne racehorse operations and offloaded 300 of his thoroughbreds at auction as falling coal prices undermined the cash flow of his mining empire.

OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM Suffered its lowest medal haul for 20 years at the London Olympics, and its first Games without an individual gold for 36 years. James Magnussen lost the 100m freestyle final, an event he had made his own, by the narrowest margin possible.

ISRAEL FOLAU  After a dismal first and only season in AFL, he broke his Greater Western Sydney contract, failed in a bid to return to his first love of rugby league, then hopped to a third code, union, for one-third of what he was being paid in Aussie Rules.

MEL GREIG and MICHAEL CHRISTIAN The 2Day FM presenters were taken off the air over a telephone prank linked to the death of a British nurse at the hospital caring for the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.

MALCOLM NADEN The most wanted man in NSW was captured by police after seven years on the run, on a private property in the state’s mid north. He has been charged with the 2005 murder of a 24-year-old woman, aggravated indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl in 2004, and shooting with intent to murder a police officer in 2011.

MATTHEW MILAT The 19-year-old relative of Belanglo Forest serial killer Ivan Milat was sentenced to a maximum 43 years jail for the axe murder of a friend.

PAUL DOUGLAS PETERS The once high-flying businessman was sentenced to at least 10 years in jail for strapping a fake collar bomb around the neck of Sydney schoolgirl Madeleine Pulver in a bizarre botched extortion attempt.

ANDREW LINDBERG The former Australian Wheat Board managing director was fined $100,000 and banned from company management for two years for failing to tell both the AWB board and the UN what he knew about bribes paid to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime for wheat deals. Former AWB chief financial officer Paul Ingleby was fined $10,000.

DARRELL LEA The loss-making chocolate giant went into voluntary administration, then was sold to the Quinn family, owners of Queensland-based VIP Petfoods, in a restructure that cost more than 400 jobs.

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