christine holgate boris johnson solomon lew
Christine Holgate, Boris Johnson and Solomon Lew (Images: AAP, AP)

From billionaires behaving badly to long suffering artists to politicians just being themselves, it was a year rife with losers… but still plenty of winners.

Sure, Scott Morrison was generally considered the big winner for his handling of the COVID crisis, but where he really lucked out was in getting a major do-over.

At the start of the year he was a definitive loser, with his disastrous handling of the bushfire disaster meaning he was facing a lasting legacy of that image of a Hawaiian shirt and cocktail.

Who could have imagined that in a few short months an even bigger disaster would give him the chance to learn from his mistakes?

I mean Boris Johnson managed to wipe out the impending Brexit debacle with an even bigger cockup on COVID. In a late run, he’s even edging out Donald Trump for the biggest loser title in the political COVID category for the year.

On the other side you had New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern who came off a year of disasters in 2019 — the Christchurch massacre and White Island volcano — into a global pandemic. She handled them all expertly and still has an economy performing better than ours.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had the swiftest turnaround from saint to sinner — perhaps not even a strong handling of the new COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney can redeem her. It’s unlikely to wipe out the unseemly image of her secret relationship with Dodgy Daryl Maguire — her fate is now in the hands of ICAC’s delayed report.

On the corporate side the main winners financially are really losers personally.

There was Twiggy Forrest’s debacle of a press conference for his dubious Chinese PPE acquisition. He invited the Chinese consul-general to speak at a government press conference without informing the minister next to him. But a bit of bad PR doesn’t wipe out the billions more Twiggy is making from iron ore shipments while most other Australian companies suffer from Chinese bans.

It was hard to believe that James Packer’s cringeworthy performance before the Crown Resorts inquiry could be topped by his own board, but the endless parade of sycophants, spineless incompetents and downright buffoons managed to do just that.

The inquiry is ostensibly into Crown’s fitness to hold a casino license but instead raised questions about the fitness of everyone involved — from the management and directors to the politicians who enabled them.

But despite stiff competition, my loser of the year is businessman Solly Lew — despite him making millions from the COVID crisis.

He wins the Best Crocodile Tears Award for crying to Josh Frydenberg when the treasurer was consulting with him on how to set up the new JobKeeper scheme.

While the scheme did put much needed money in the pockets of millions of Australians, unfortunately it also put millions into the pockets of Lew’s Premier Investments, despite the PM and treasurer specifically requesting business not pay themselves dividends by profiting from government subsidies.

But wait there’s more.

It was a tossup for Lew’s biggest corporate atrocity between the decision to quickly stop paying rent — which caused a flow-on crisis for landlords around the country — or Premier’s early move to slow down payments to suppliers causing untold hardship to smaller companies.

Women in power were also big losers this year, from the aforementioned Gladys Berejiklian to mortally wounded Crown chair Helen Coonan and former Australia Post CEO Christine “Cartier” Holgate — all proving women can be just as bad as the blokes.

But let’s end on a positive note with someone who started the year as a loser but fought back to be my biggest winner of 2020.

Actress Erin Jean Norvill was reluctantly dragged into the Geoffrey Rush defamation case and then pilloried as an “unreliable witness” in the record damages judgment the Federal Court awarded against The Daily Telegraph.

It would be enough to demolish the careers — if not the spirit — of most, but by year’s end Norville had returned to the Sydney Theatre Company stage and gave one of the most triumphant performances ever seen in Australian theatre in The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

Success being the best revenge.