Thank you Richard and thank you for your ongoing support for G'Day USA.

Ladies and gentlemen, sponsors, supporters, friends. Steve Ciobo and I are delighted to welcome you to the launch of the 2018 G'Day USA program and what a year it will be next year as we continue to showcase the best Australia has to the vast audiences across the United States.

In its 15th year G'Day USA has become Australia's premier public and economic diplomacy platform. Why the United States? Well, this relationship underpins our prosperity and our security. The United States matters to us. We're as close as two nations can be and this relationship compels further, deeper, longstanding investment.

Arguably, the United States is our largest economic partner. Most certainly, the US is our largest foreign direct investor and the two-way investment relationship is valued at $1.5 trillion. The United States is also our second largest trading partner in goods and services and this is underpinned by a high quality and comprehensive free trade agreement that was signed back in 2004 and since that time the stock of US investment in Australia has trebled and our trade has increased by more than 60 per cent.

The United States is also our most important strategic partner in defence, intelligence and security terms. In fact, 2018 will be a particularly special year because we will celebrate 100 years of mateship on 4 July 1918 at the Battle of Hamel on the Western Front US infantry and Australian infantry joined forces and were led by Australia's great General John Monash – the first time our armies had fought together and the first and only time the United States infantry has been led by a foreign commander. We have been shoulder-to-shoulder in every major military conflict since that date and today US and Australian servicemen and women are working together to counter terrorism in Syria and Iraq and the Philippines.

We are natural partners. There is an affinity between us. We are open and free democracies and we want to continue to encourage the free flow of ideas and goods and services and people and innovation, across our two countries.

Back in 2004 our then Consul General John Olsen together with our founding partner Qantas established G'Day USA. Today it is a year-long program of high level dialogues, of public performances and showcasing talent, food, wine, tourism, innovation. We raise Australia's profile in Los Angeles and San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Boston and Palm Springs. For example, the Australia-US dialogue on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is supported by the US Studies Centre here in Sydney and the Perth USAsia Centre in Western Australia. Through these events we send a message to the most lucrative consumer market in the world – Australia is a sophisticated, strong and stable economy and we welcome US trade and investment.

Next year's program is full of highlights. Dickie mentioned the South by Southwest Festival in Austin where Thandi Phoenix and Gordi, two performers here today, will be representing Australia along with other wonderful musical talent, innovators, entrepreneurs will be there as well as a bit of food and wine. Our talent through music is really raising our profile and I'm delighted that Isaiah Firebrace is here again. You might recall last year Isaiah, who had won the 2016 X-Factor, sang for us and I was so impressed by his beautiful haunting voice that I asked him to come to Los Angeles for the G'Day USA Gala. He accepted, we issued him with a passport – he hadn't been overseas before – and he performed to the delight of millions of Americans who saw his work and then he represented Australia at the Eurovision contest and was voted in the top 10. They are exciting stories for Australian talent.

The signature event is the G'Day USA Gala Ball held in Los Angeles around Australia Day and next year will be no exception as we honour three great Australians who have contributed so much to the entertainment industry.

I did give Richard and the Today Show the scoop about 12 minutes ago, so I can now re-announce that at the Gala in 2018 we will be honouring the Oscar winning actor Heath Leger with a posthumous for his extraordinary contribution, Bruna Papandrea, the producer of the magnificent Big Little Lies staring Nicole Kidman and, Richard's favourite film, Gone Girl – there's no story there is there? Did you say that's the story of your life?

We're very excited that the third award will be going to Margot Robbie, the actor, producer who has made such an impact in Hollywood and was named one of Time Magazine's most influential people of 2017. It should be a fabulous event and we welcome you all to attend G'Day USA events across the United States throughout 2018 as we celebrate this very special relationship with the United States.

Welcome.

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