Australian police yesterday imposed a draconian security clampdown on the city of Melbourne to isolate anti-globalization protesters from a meeting of the world's most powerful economic leaders.
Police were not taking any chances ahead of today's start of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the world's leading developed and developing nations.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Jamieson said demonstrators briefly occupied and damaged about 14 buildings, including bank branches, a defense force recruitment center and defense contractor Tenix.
Jamieson said the protesters caused minor damage, with some paperwork in the defense center squirted with water.
"They weren't there for very long at all. They were going in there and yelling slogans and chants in regards to G20. They just really wanted to make their presence felt," he said.
Protest organizers expect up to 10,000 protesters at a rally today and police remained mindful of the violent demonstrations during a World Economic Forum meeting in 2000.
The meeting today and tomorrow will tackle global warming, stabilizing the supply and prices for energy and reform of global financial institutions such as the IMF.
The G20 countries represent 90 percent of the world's economic output and about two-thirds of its population. Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, the meeting chairman, described the summit as the most important gathering of economic leaders ever in Australia.
While the meeting has no formal decision-making power, any consensus can act as a platform for future international action.
Britain has been pressing for climate change to be included on the agenda, although it had previously been ignored by Costello.
But yesterday he said that market mechanisms to reduce emissions, such as carbon trading, would have to be included in any discussion of energy.
"We won't be negotiating a Kyoto type agreement here. The climate change convention is going on in Nairobi at the moment but we'll certainly be discussing pricing matters and how that affects energy," Costello told a press conference.
Australia and the US are the only two developed countries which did not ratify the Kyoto agreement on climate change, but the international focus on global warming has forced Canberra to address the issue.
Costello said it was vital a consensus be reached among all countries to control emissions.
"That is the criticism we have of Kyoto, that it doesn't include all countries," he said.
Australia -- a major mineral and energy exporter -- has given a prominent place on the G20 agenda to energy and minerals markets and how to meet the rapid growth in the Chinese and Indian markets without driving prices too high.
He envisages an "energy freeway" with a system to ensure a transparent trading system to ensure stable pricing and enough energy to meet fast rising demand.
This was not at odds with tackling global warming, which is largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels, he said.
"That's just another issue to be negotiated within that framework. It makes it more complicated but it can be done," Costello said.
The G20 includes the G7 nations -- the US, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Britain and Canada -- as well as the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.