The 6 most awkward moments of the G20. Koalas not included.






Any time you get a big group of people together, awkwardness is inevitable.

When those people are the most powerful in the world, and Tony Abbott is their host, we’re talking next level awkwardness.

Even the LA Times have dissed us, calling us the ‘pimply youth’ of the world stage.

Unfair? Maybe. But Australia wasn’t the only one feeling awkward in Brisbane.

Here they are, in ascending order…

The Most Awkward G20 Moments:

6. Americans arrive. Stop traffic with their #helicopterfail.

Everyone in Brisbane was expecting road closures, which had been advertised for months.

But no one expected that a helicopter landing would  bring traffic on the busy South East Freeway to a stand-still with a spontaneous dust storm that covered cars and buses and take driver visibility down to zero.

Welcome to Brisbane, you dirty fly-ins.


5. Obama shirt-fronts the PM on climate change.

Unfortunately, that helicopter landing wasn’t the only time that America left Australia in its dust this weekend.

In something less like a shirt-front and more like a political wedgie, the US President, Barack Obama managed to outmanoeuvre the Australian Government and put climate change at the forefront of people’s minds and squarely on the G20 agenda.


As chair of this year’s G20, Australia didn’t put climate change on the G20 agenda. But President Obama made it the central tenet of his first speech in Australia at the University of Queensland, which was nationally televised.

With a casual, ‘hey-have-you-guys-thought-about-this?’ tone, the President pointed out that the countries in our region will be the first and most deeply affected by climate change, that weather changes and bushfires were both signs of a climate in crisis (it was 40 degrees in Brisbane during the Summit – and the Blue Mountains were on fire), and  that he’d really like to come and visit the Great Barrier Reef one day with his children and grandchildren. All with the implicit and explicit message that Australia should stop messing around and get on board.

He also slipped marriage equality and gender equality in there too.

It was awkward for Australia, especially the PM, who had fought to keep climate change off the agenda, boasted about repealing the carbon tax during his opening address to the Summit and spoke up for coal interests during the meeting.

Australia was left with our collective undies jammed right up where the climate doesn’t change.


4. Vladamir Putin has no friends.

The only person feeling less awkward than Australia was Vladamir Putin. Tony Abbott had already threatened to shirt-front him over his perceived lack of assistance in the recovery and investigation of flight MH17. Then it turned out that the Russian Navy were sending ships to hang around off the coast of Australia during the Summit.


The Courier Mail gave President Putin an awkward welcome:

As did protesters, who weren’t terribly subtle.

And then when the PM and President Putin did meet, they had an awkward finger gun competition.

Putin ended up leaving the G20 party early. No surprises there.


3. Tony Abbott is at a meeting about international policy…

…And only talks about #firstworldPMproblems.

The Prime Minister opened the Leaders’ Retreat with a speech that canvassed domestic issues like not being able to pass the Budget (his efforts to “get the budget under control” were proving “massively difficult”), not being able to increase the costs of higher education (“students never like to pay more”), and not being able to get people to pay more to go to the doctor (“it is proving to be massively difficult to get this particular reform through the Parliament”).

When the leaders have met to discuss global financial strategy and international policy, and other leaders are dealing with rampant poverty, a collapsing economy or Ebola crises, Mr Abbott’s speech came across as awkward, petty  and out of place.

Even the world leaders were underwhelmed:


They weren’t the only ones. The LA Times described Australia as “the shrimp of the schoolyard”, and Tony Abbott’s speech as “an awkward, pimply youth moment” because “Prime Minister Tony Abbott opens [the Leaders’] retreat Saturday with a whinge (Aussie for whine) about his doomed efforts to get his fellow Australians to pay $7 to see a doctor.”



2. Nobody really cared about global economic growth or Australian culture.

President Obama may have cracked some jokes about being in “Brisvegas” to have a “xxxx”, in the end, the only thing people really want to do in Australia is hug a koala.

Which they did. A lot. Nobody looked comfortable but everyone did it. I don’t know why we even have diplomats. We should just send koalas.



1. *That* handshake

The Most Awkward Moment of the entire G20 came when three leaders attempted the impossible: the three-way handshake. It may be good for cracking bon-bons at Christmas, but it is terrible for diplomacy.

It happened like this: Tony Abbott and the PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe, were shaking hands. President Obama walked up and offered his hand. Rather than letting go with his right hand, PM Abbott reached out with his left and put it outside the President’s hand.

It makes more sense if you look at it.

Actually, it makes less sense looking at it.

But it will be the picture that defines Australia’s hosting of the G20: it was a little bit awkward, but everyone got there in the end.