2009 was the year that could have been much worse, but which in the end brought us all down to earth with a thud.

For Australians, who’ve escaped a recession and appear poised to enjoy all the good and bad aspects of an economy locked into China’s growth trajectory, things appear far happier than elsewhere.  There are key economic issues to be dealt with, but they’re the types of problems other countries would be only too happy to have — how to accommodate a fast-growing population, how to address skill shortages, how to build on our retirement income system, how to rapidly return to budget surplus.

For the rest of the world, things are rather less positive, particularly in the United States and Europe, where high unemployment looks set to remain for years to come.  Worse, as the first anniversary of the Obama presidency looms, the disappointment and frustrated hopes of not only many Americans but people throughout the world, who expected so much — inevitably, too much — of the new president, are palpable.

The debacle of Copenhagen — another example of placing too much hope on a single event — perhaps sums up best the sense not merely of an opportunity missed, but of a systemic failure of leadership, across all nations.  Coordinated international action — smart, innovative, rapid international action — was achieved when the world economy was threatened by the global financial crisis.  But action when the world economy is threatened by climate change — and climate change will in the long-run be far more costly and damaging to the world economy than the GFC — is apparently beyond us.

For Australia, which is on the receiving end of the earliest and harshest consequences of climate change, Copenhagen should be a worrying sign that the rest of the world will not have the will to prevent major damage to our economy over the next century.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom, because Crikey’s annual Arsehat Awards are announced today! Hooray! Let us all join together in this celebration of the mundane whilst simultaneously (and controversially) anointing that esteemed backbencher Malcolm Turnbull as our Person of the Year.

Enjoy today’s edition and please have a safe and enjoyable holiday. Crikey will publish again on the 11th of January for what promises to be a huge year full of Federal Election excitement, US Midterm madness, the UK election, three state elections, a Football World Cup, and more of Abbott in his budgie smugglers…