Remarks at AAA benefit dinner

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Friends of Australia, friends of the United States.

One hundred and seventeen years ago, in 1897, a young American arrived in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, armed with a mining engineering degree from the first ever graduating class from Stanford University and he joined in the gold rush.

The next year in 1898, with British financial backing, he floated Sons of Gwalia gold mine. In 1905, he co-founded Zinc Corporation in Broken Hill which, of course, later became part of the Rio Tinto group – today's mining and metals giant that globally employs about 70,000 people in 40 countries across six continents with a market capitalisation of something like $100 billion.

By the time he left Australia he was well-known and very wealthy, but that wasn't the end of his ambition, for of course Herbert Hoover became the 31st President of the United States.

Fame and fortune can still be found among the rocks of Western Australia. For this is a State of boundless opportunity in a country of endless potential – a nation that, as our Prime Minister says, is open for business

Tonight we celebrate this very special relationship between Australia and the United States. There is no more important security partner for Australia, there is no more significant investment partner for Australia, than the United States. For our two-way investment is now valued at a trillion dollars and if you add into that our two-way trade of around $55 billion, this is a significant economic partnership.

The largest single United States investment in Australia is in one of the world's largest natural gas projects – the Chevron Exxon Mobil project at Gorgon – and of course this evening we will be paying tribute to Roy Krzywonsinski, the managing director of Chevron Australia, for his leadership in Chevron's many varied interests in the energy sector, oil and gas.

This evening we are also paying tribute to Andrew Harding, the chief executive officer of Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

When the World War II embargo on Australian iron ore exports was lifted in 1960, the Rio Tinto group was among the first companies to get in and start iron ore operations in the Pilbara, with their mine at Mount Tom Price. Of course today iron ore is one of our largest exports, it is one of the major drivers of the Australian economy.

Rio Tinto has been there and persevered, through the good times and the not so good times - commodity price variations and infrastructure challenges and union militancy, but today, Rio Tinto Iron Ore's global headquarters are here in Perth, Western Australia.

Tomorrow I will be hosting around 80 Ambassadors and High Commissioners from the foreign diplomatic corps from Canberra. As part of their three-day visit to Western Australia I will be taking them on a site visit to the Pilbara which will include visits to Rio Tinto's Parker Point iron ore loading facility and on Saturday to Rio Tinto's world-class operations centre at Perth Airport.

So it is with great pleasure that I pay tribute this evening to Andrew Harding, the CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, for his leadership at Rio Tinto, for his contribution to Western Australia, his vision for Australia and his support for the Australian-American relationship.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Andrew Harding.

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