Thank you Richard. Good morning. I am absolutely delighted to be here at the official launch of the 2017 G’Day USA program, with my colleague Steve Ciobo, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and with our very good friend and partner, Alan Joyce representing Qantas and the great partnership that exists between the Australian Government and Qantas, and not only in respect of G’Day USA but more generally.

I also acknowledge Jonathan O’Dea, the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism representing Premier Mike Baird, James Carouso the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States and his team, and all the sponsors and supporters and friends of G’Day USA and the Australia/United States relationship.

In a time of unprecedented change, with ever shifting global dynamics, it is more important than ever to treasure the long standing relationships -  to recognise the enduring nature of a relationship that has survived the good times and tough times.

And there is no more important relationship to Australia than ours with the United States of America.

The United States is our region’s security guarantor, our major defence partner, the largest source of foreign direct investment to our country and our second largest trading partner in terms of goods and services.

Like any relationship it should be nurtured. It should never be taken for granted and this is where G’Day USA comes into its own. This is a year-long program from the west coast to the east coast, with events that showcase the very best Australia has to offer, to enhance our trade and investment links but also our cultural and social ties. It is an opportunity to demonstrate to the largest consumer market in the world our talents, our abilities, our creative industries - from film and television, to food and wine, fashion and design, music, art, education, sport, our innovative capabilities in defence industries and technology - and also to showcase the amazing, creative, talented and gifted people of Australia who are behind our creative industries.

This year to increase our profile in the United States, Steve and I have brought together a group of people who are committed to the Australia/US relationship, who are prepared to use their connections, their presence, their profile, to enhance G’Day USA, and they have agreed to be G’Day USA Champions.

Hugh Jackman is our first G’Day USA Champion, and of course not only he is very well known in the United States but globally, and has always supported us by not only appearing at events but doing things like arranging for the Empire State Building to be decked out in green and gold colours on Australia Day!

Rachel Griffiths, the Australian star, will also be a Champion. Peter Lowy of Westfield, Greg Basser from Village Roadshow, Dan Rosen from ARIA, Robert Thompson from NewsCorp, the Hon Bruce Baird, the original Friends of Tourism founder and the former chair of the Tourism and Transport Forum, and of course the Hon John Olsen the Chair of the Australia America Association and the founding father of G’Day USA.

In another milestone for 2017, we will enter into partnership with the Australia Recording Industry Association (ARIA), much as we have entered into partnerships with Screen Australia, AusFilm and the Australian Fashion Chamber. What we will do under this partnership is showcase the talents of Australian recording artists and their music. Each year we will select an ARIA Award winner to perform at the G’Day USA LA Gala, and hence bring our talented people to the attention of the American public. And in 2017 this honour will go to ARIA award winner James Keogh, otherwise known as Vance Joy to his fans. I first met him at the Calgary Stampede, where he was performing before a very large and might I say besotted crowd – little wonder given that he was ARIA’s Best Male Musician last year.

One of the highlights of the G’Day USA program is the Gala Event held in LA and next year it will be on 28 January. We take this occasion to honour Australians who have been a success in the United States and who have contributed so much to the Australia/US relationship. This coming January the three honourees are worthy of this award.

The first being Ben Mendelsohn who will receive an award for Excellence in Film and Television. His long and critically acclaimed career includes The Big Steal, The Dark Knight Rises, The Mississippi Grind. He has won an Emmy for his role in Bloodline and he is also about to star in a yet-to-be released film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The next honouree will be Catherine Martin, and Catherine is of course, one of the world’s finest costume design and set producers and she will be recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award in film and design. Her Academy Award winning efforts have included Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and she is now doing a Netflix series The Get Down.

Our third honouree is David Hill and I believe his brother Andrew is here today. David has a long career in live television production, for the Fox Group and for National Geographic, and he was the first Australian to co-produce an Academy Awards Ceremony. David will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to television and entertainment.

Ben, Catherine and David will all be present in Los Angeles to receive this award.

Ladies and gentlemen we are very excited to again partner with Qantas to present a magnificent range of events in 2017 for G’Day USA.

Thank you for your support and thank you to all those who have supported this amazing public diplomacy initiative and together with Steve Ciobo we are delighted to launch the 2017 program today.

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