Like that killer birthday party you spent months planning, only for it to pass by in a drunken flash, the G20 Leaders’ Summit has come and gone already.

If you spent the weekend barricaded inside your house, or if you were one of the thousands of people who got out of town to spend the weekend in the comfort of a traffic jam on the Pacific Motorway, this is what you missed — the moments that defined Brisbane’s G20.

Obama brought the glamour…

He might be the most unpopular President since World War II back home, but you’d never know it from the rapturous response The Big O received in Brisbane. Obama was treated like a rock star at the University of Queensland on Saturday morning, where he put climate change squarely back on the G20 agenda (despite Tony Abbott’s best efforts to leave it off).

“If China and the US can agree on this,” he told the invite-only crowd of roughly 2000 students and politicians, “the world can agree on this. We need to get this done.

“I have not had time to go to the Great Barrier Reef and I want to come back and I want my daughters to come back and I want their daughters and sons to come back and have that be there in 50 years.”

 …but he wasn’t the only rock star in town.

UQ had Obama, but QUT had Modi. India’s hugely popular new Prime Minister Narenda Modi paid a visit to The Cube, QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre, on Friday…


… before he set off pandemonium at Roma Street Parklands on Sunday when he unveiled a statie of Mahatma Gandhi.

O Canada

After all the tough talk surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tony Abbott’s plans to “shirtfront” him in the lead-up to the G20, nobody could have predicted that it would be the meek and mild Canadians who would end up landing a body blow.

“I guess I’ll shake your hand,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly told Putin, “but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of the Ukraine.”

The Canadian delegation were given a shirtfronting of their own, though, when it came time for them to leave town.

Climate change shirtfronts Abbott

The push to put climate change on the G20 agenda started in earnest with Obama’s speech on Saturday, and continued when United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put climate change at the top of his G20 priority list.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our times, therefore it is only natural that the G20 leaders should focus on this,” he told reporters at the International Media Centre in Brisbane.

Even David Cameron, a reliable Abbott ally, put the pressure on. “Countries that have so far done the least have to think about what more they can do,” he told Britain’s Sky News. “I’ve had good and friendly discussions with prime minister Abbott about that. “I hope [Australia] will do everything they can in the coming months to look at what more they can deliver, because… if we want to get a global agreement everyone is going to have to bring something to the table.”

Ultimately, though, nobody did more to bring attention to climate change during the G20 than, well, the climate.


Temperatures reached a sweltering 38.9 degrees celsius in the CBD yesterday, more than 10 degrees above the November average of 27.9 degrees. If the world remembers one thing about Brisbane’s G20, it will be this — it was hot.

Handshake shirtfronts Abbott

The most awkward G20 moment had nothing to do with climate change — instead, it was a handshake gone horribly wrong. Abbott found himself in the middle of a botched photo op when he became tangled in a clumsy three-way handshake with Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll catch on.

Koala shirtfronts Obama

But he didn’t seem to mind.

An overseas viewer could be forgiven for thinking that our marsupials and reptiles were our real G20 delegates. Virtually every leader got their photo taken with a koala, including these guys.

Even the spouses got in on the act…


Everybody loves Angela

Obama who? Modi what? German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately became the most likable G20 leader when she was snapped on a Caxton Street pub crawl, doing her country proud.


Annerley on the menu

The world’s leaders were always going to have to eat, but it was still kind of surreal to see images of Barack and co. tucking into a BBQ put on by Annerley’s Billykart Kitchen. No doubt a career highlight for chef Ben O’Donoghue.


Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and everything works out OK

The mass riots, violent protests and widespread property damage that many people feared never eventuated. Just one person, activist Ciaron O’Reilly, was taken to the special 24-hour G20 magistrates court that was in place in anticipation of a slew of arrests. The 6000 police officers on duty recorded just 14 arrests, most of which had nothing to do with protests. In the ultimate show of good faith and solidarity between protesters and police, Queensland Police Service Assistant Commissioner Katarina Carroll was even invited to take part in the corroboree at Musgrave Park!

And, in the end…

It all came down to this — the G20 Leaders’ Communique; 20 paragraphs outlining what was agreed upon at the summit. The first five paras concentrated on “ambitious” economic growth, the next six on a plan to beef up global infrastructure (including a Global Infrastructure Hub to be built in Sydney), and the next three tax collection. Paragraph 20 commits the G20 to doing “all it can to contain and respond” to the Ebola crisis. But for observers of all the weekend’s action, Paragraph 19 is the money shot — it promises “strong and effective action to address climate change.”


Did you have a favourite G20 moment, or are you just glad it’s over? Let us know in the comments below!