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CEO Magazine – Maserati to Moët: Inside the inspiring 2019 Executive of the Year Awards

by 15 November 2019

Article courtesy of CEO Magazine

Australia’s top executives gathered to celebrate another remarkable business year at The Palladium at Crown, Melbourne for The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards.
Dressed in their finest black-tie attire, hundreds of industry leaders trickled into the country’s largest ballroom to recognise the 22 inspiring category winners (plus the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award), as well as the striking success of the many finalists.
As soon as guests arrived at the prestigious venue, they captured the moment against the media wall before venturing into a Gatsby-inspired cocktail room complete with blue velvet armchairs, gold tables, dozens of fresh bouquets and, most importantly, a captivating Maserati poised in the centre.
With a refreshing glass of The Dalmore Old Fashioned cocktail or flute of Moët & Chandon Champagne in hand, business leaders, including the talented guest judges, mingled as others signed up to participate in the evening’s silent auction. Of the incredible items being auctioned off was the incredibly rare A$12,000 bottle of The Dalmore 35-year-old, with all proceeds being donated to the Children’s Cancer Institute.
Following the red-carpet arrivals, guests including Gina Rinehart trickled into the breathtaking ballroom ready for an evening of festivities, presented by Channel 7’s charming Larry Emdur.
Between mouthwatering dishes of slow-cooked lamb loin, hot-smoked king salmon, pan-seared barramundi, 12-hour braised Riverine beef cheek and delectable sweets including mango tarts with passionfruit foam, raspberry and milk chocolate mousse and lemon meringue tartlets, guests were entertained by a variety of enthralling acts.
Impersonator Ben Price had the room in stitches as he satirically took on the personalities of some famous faces. Later in the evening, mesmerising aerialists elegantly danced with silk ribbons as Hanna Oblikov, who has played with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Chet Faker, delighted the audience with her magical cello performance.
And it wasn’t just a night of beguiling acts. Almost 30 extraordinary business leaders were recognised for their outstanding efforts.
The guest judging panel – Sportsgirl CEO Colleen Callander, BMX CEO Dave Fenlon, OzHarvest Founder and CEO Ronni Kahn, Salesforce CEO Australia and New Zealand Pip Marlow, Maserati Australia, New Zealand and South Africa COO Glen Sealey, Wilson Group CEO Operations Jose Da Silva, Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman, The CEO Circle CEO John Karagounis, Twitter Australia MD Suzy Nicoletti, Europcar Australia and New Zealand MD Ron Santiago and 2018 CEO of the Year winner Mark Nielsen – named MLC Life Insurance CEO David Hackett the 2019 CEO of the Year.
The eighth annual Executive of the Year Awards was given an extra special touch this year, with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Gina Rinehart in recognition of her outstanding contributions and accomplishments throughout her career.

CFOs’ vision for the future is less government

by 8 November 2019

The AFR View, courtesy of the Australian Financial Review

By learning how to guide the direction of the business and how to lead by communicating the company story today’s CFOs will develop the skill set that can make them the CEOs of tomorrow.

The message from The Australian Financial Review CFO Live 2019 summit is that the role of the CFO of the future will focus on transforming companies to deal with the complex challenges – from big data to social licences and populist politics – confronting business.

The summit made it clear that what CFOs want from government is not cheap advice about the need for more investment, but for government to get out of the way and cut the red tape and over-regulation that make their jobs even harder.

Opening the summit, the nation’s CFO – Finance Minister Mathias Cormann – reassured the nation’s chief financial officers that the government’s fiscally responsible budget strategy has left consumers and businesses with more money in their pockets to spend and invest, to stimulate growth. This record clearly hasn’t impressed Cochlear chief executive Brent Cubis, who said the best way to encourage business to invest would have been for the government not to have given up on cutting Australia’s internationally uncompetitive 30 per cent company tax rate. His most damning statement, however, was that in hindsight CSL – one of our most internationally successful companies – ‘‘wouldn’t set up in Australia’’, to avoid the past decade’s reform-shy, anti-business political environment.

There was also little sympathy among CFOs for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s demand that business slash investment hurdle rates and give less back to shareholders, to kickstart the economy. Wesfarmers CFO Anthony Gianotti said that business could both invest and return capital to shareholders.

Investment decisions were based not just on cost of capital or a single fixed ROI number, but also on a range of complex, long-term risk factors, including political instability and regulatory complexity. And baking in lower interest rates into investment decisions would mostly inflate the prices of assets. Woodside CFO Sherry Duhe agreed that cutting red tape and providing certainty was the key factor in business and investors having the confidence to greenlight and finance major projects.

The summit heard that the forces reshaping the role of business are also reshaping the role of CFOs. Rather than simply filling the traditional role of overseeing company finances, CFOs’ control over the purse strings is allowing them to drive decision-making around companies’ social and environmental purpose. Andrew Porter, chair of Group of 100 and CFO of the Australian Foundation Investment Company, said that while CFOs still had to do their core work right, they also need to partner with others across the business to ensure companies operate in the sustainable way that investors and stakeholders expect.

PwC’s Matt Graham suggested CFOs will be at the forefront of ensuring that companies develop the systems needed to accurately measure and report on their social impact. Jessica Fries, head of the The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, agreed and said that the response to automated accounting should be to reimagine the role of CFOs and finance teams by using data to drive performance across companies around sustainability, and to also measure the value that operating sustainably adds to the business. This would put CFOs at the forefront of developing the business lens through which companies should view their social licence, according to Coca-Cola Amatil’s Alison Watkins.

The CFO of the future will be engaged across all aspects of the business and developing the corporate strategy. As Gina McNamara, CFO of SAP, put it, CFOs will no longer be known mostly for their technical skills and trying to get the numbers right, but for being able to use data to lead a company.

As enterprise leaders, said IAG’s CFO Nick Hawkins, they will use the data to understand the business and its customers, what needs to change and why, and to get people on board with the transformation process.

And ASX’s Gillian Larkins explained that CFOs who used to just read the company by the numbers will now be challenged to take a much bigger seat at the table. By stepping up to the leadership opportunities, CFOs will transform not only their present roles but their career paths. By learning how to guide the direction of the business and how to lead by communicating the company story today’s CFOs will develop the skill set that can make them the CEOs of tomorrow.

Cut red tape to boost economy, say CFOs

by 8 November 2019

Article by Jonathan Shapiro and James Thomson, courtesy of the Australian Financial Review

The nation’s top finance chiefs say cutting red tape would do more to help the economy than further interest rate cuts or budget stimulus, with Wesfarmer’s chief financial officer, Anthony Gianotti, urging the government to retain some fiscal dry powder.

And despite Finance Minister Mathias Cormann again urging business to increase capital expenditure to lift employment and wages, top chief financial officers said they were cautious about reducing hurdle rates on potential investments, warning low rates would push up asset prices and investors remain hungry for dividends.

Woodside Petroleum chief financial officer Sherry Duhe told The Australian Financial Review CFO Live conference in Sydney on Thursday that the energy giant had projects worth in excess of $45 billion in the pipeline and had implored federal and state governments to help deliver them on time.

“Cutting red tape and just having regulatory efficiency is really important for us, because the number of agencies and individuals that we have to deal with can be overwhelming,” she said.

“If you’ve got to wait months every time [you get to the] next step, there’s a real risk you cannot meet your project schedules.”

Mr Gianotti, CFO of Wesfarmers, which was until recently Australia’s largest employer, said a myriad of local and state regulations complicated their efforts to run a national business.

“There are things that can be done without reducing governance in terms of what we are required to comply with,” he said, adding that the budget surplus was a “big positive”.

“It probably allows the government to do something if things get worse. At the moment, the level of stimulus is OK and I think … making it easier for business to invest and lowering regulation would be helpful.”

Cochlear CFO Brent Cubis said a lower corporate tax rate would have been the best way to encourage more investment but he conceded “we lost that battle“, despite lobbying alongside fellow health giant CSL.

“If we had our time over again, we wouldn’t set up in Australia,” Mr Cubis said. “And CSL is one of the most amazing companies in the world.”

Mr Cubis said an extension of the electoral cycle from three to four years would improve the stability of the economy, and suggested incentives around visas could help.

“We are losing good people,” he said.


Diminishing returns

Alison Harrop, the chief financial officer of Dexus, one of Australia’s largest commercial landlords, said consumers needed more confidence about the outlook for the housing market, and interest rate cuts could only do so much.

“There’s a low of diminishing returns to some degree. You may not be generating the sort of stimulus that people expect,” she said.

Telstra CFO Vicki Brady backed this view, telling the conference “there are plenty of levers and low rates alone are not going to do it”.

But a number of the CFOs reported that the economy was in better shape than the headline figures suggest, adding support to the view of Senator Cormann, who told the conference he was cautiously upbeat ahead of the federal budget update next month.

“What I can say is the RBA governor made a very clear statement that he expects economic growth to gradually strengthen and return to trend growth in 12 months,” he said. “We are quietly optimistic.”

But Senator Cormann added his voice to those of Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in calling for businesses to grow the economy by lifting investment levels.

“If we are going to create more jobs and allow people to keep more of what they earn, we need businesses to increase their capital expenditure,” Senator Cormann said.

Mr Lowe has urged companies to reduce the hurdle rates on potential investments (the desired rate of return) following falls in interest rates, while Mr Frydenberg has suggested companies should prioritise investment over shareholder returns.

But while Australia’s cash rate now sits below 1 per cent for the first time in history, large companies are still apprehensive about lowering hurdle rates.

Dangerous game

Wesfarmers’ Mr Gianotti said it was “a dangerous game to bake what are historically low interest rates into a long-term view” and hurdle rates were just one assumption that formed part of the assessment of a project.

“It’s easy to talk to a hurdle rate because it’s a single number and you can move it up and down, but the reality is it’s much more complex than that,” he said.

He also warned that an economy-wide shift to lower hurdle rates could be dangerous.

“If people start to factor in lower discount rates and lower hurdle rates, it actually pushes asset prices up,” he said.

“One way to destroy a lot of shareholder value is to overpay for an acquisition, so it’s something we are focused on.”

Ms Brady said Telstra invested over $3 billion a year but that it has a “hard balance” to satisfy institutional investors that wanted the company to invest more and the needs of the 1.3 million individual shareholders that relied on the dividend.

“We then have institutional investors overseas and can guarantee you they will ask why aren’t you investing more and why is the dividend as high as it is?

“Where we have good business cases and we need to invest for growth we do. But we do need to be mindful of the dividend.”

Woodside’s Ms Duhe said it was “too soon to rethink hurdle rates” but she did say the company was taking advantage of lower borrowing costs in the debt market.

“We went out earlier this year and did our biggest bond we’ve ever done at $1.5 billion and you will see us getting funding while can as opposed to waiting when we need it.”

‘Good idea’ to invest in real estate

Ms Harrop from Dexus said ultra-low interest rates were driving the investment decisions of global investors.

“Super funds and sovereign funds use to be sticky about a return number, but we are seeing that absolutely come down as interest rates hit the floor.”

She said it would be “silly” not to reconsider interest rate hurdles given how low interest rates are, pointing out that real estate investments were delivering a yield of almost 3 percentage points above the government bond rate – “literally at all time highs”.

“So putting your money in real estate is really a good idea and we are finding a lot of offshore capital is flooding into Australia wanting to get invested.”

Meanwhile, CFO lobby Group of 100 announced on Thursday that REA Group CFO Janelle Hopkins was its new president, taking over from Andrew Porter, the CFO of Australian Foundation Investment Company. There are 32 female CFOs in the ASX 200.

Red tape rebounds to record high

by 7 November 2019

Article by Adam Creighton courtesy of The Australian

Red tape, driven by federal agencies, has grown to record levels ­despite Tony Abbott’s 2013 pledge to slash constraints on the economy.

The number of regulations in federal law has increased by 9 per cent to 356,000 since 2013, ­according to research by the Institute of Public Affairs, despite the former prime minister having a promising start in his quest to cut red tape after winning government.

The level of federal regulation dropped more than 3 per cent in 2014 after the Abbott government began a campaign to prune it, saving the economy almost $6bn.

The regrowth in red tape has sparked a renewed push from the Morrison government to slash unwanted regulations.

At a state level, the IPA research outed the Labor-run ­administrations of Queensland and Victoria as the heaviest-handed when it came to red tape.

Describing regulatory bloat as “shocking” and “very undemocratic”, Daniel Wild, the IPA’s ­director of research, pointed to “rapid growth of regulation ­imposed by unelected and unaccountable regulators”.

Constraints from regulation made by federal agencies, such as ASIC or APRA, have surged ­almost 200 per cent since 2005, while restrictions within laws have plateaued.

“The will of the people means little when regulators have a free rein. Parliament is pushing more policy responsibility to an unelected cadre of elitist regulators who have taken a sledgehammer to small businesses,” Mr Wild said.

Ben Morton, the federal minister overseeing the government’s latest deregulation push, “welcomed” the IPA’s research.

He said that deregulation required “renewed” and “constant vigilance” which was why the government this year created a deregulation taskforce.

“This doesn’t let individual ministers and departments off the hook,” he told The Australian. “I have presented to departmental secretaries to outline the government’s objectives and departments will now … report through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to me.”

Conducted jointly with the US-based Mercatus Centre, the IPA analysis uses artificial intelligence to count restrictions in laws and regulations, such as instances of “should”, “must”, and “shall not”.

Queensland had 118,765 restrictions, more than any other state, followed by Victoria with 113,737. Tasmania had 39,514, the least in aggregate but 74 per 1000 people — a higher ratio than the other states. “While federal regulations attract the most attention, state government impose a substantial regulation impost,” the ­research concluded.

Since 1977, the first year available, the number of constrains within federal laws has surged from 23,000 to 123,000.

“Evidence from the United States and Canada shows that cutting regulatory restrictions boosts growth and job creation. We should expect to see similar results in Australia,” said Patrick McLaughlin, a Mercatus analyst who developed the “regdata” technique that has helped US states and Canadian provinces curb regulation.

The Trump administration has introduced the fewest number of new restrictions of any US government since the Carter administration in 1977; only 19 significant new rules were introduced in its first year.

Mr Wild said the lesson from the US was that when you cut taxes and deregulate the economy “the result is an economic boom”.

Gina slams ‘selfish extremists’

by 2 November 2019

Article by Sarah-Jane Tasker and Sean Smith courtesy of the Weekend West

WA billionaire Gina Rinehart has backed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s move to bring in laws to deal with “selfish extremism” as she calls for interim measures to address foreigner activists.

Ms Rinehart, whose company Hancock Prospecting has revealed an annual profit of $2.6 billion – WA’s biggest profit by a private company – said the Prime Minister had correctly pointed out that the activity of the recent anti-mining extremists in Melbourne was selfish, blocking people from being able to get to their workplaces.

“It was also grossly disrespectful to our police,” she said.

“The Prime Minister has said he and the Attorney-General will be bringing in new laws to better cope with such selfish extremism.

“I hope in the interim they can quickly bring in laws against foreigners flying in to Australia to create such extremist disruption.” Ms Rinehart added she was fortunate to be in the mining industry.

“I can be proud of the industry because it makes such a contribution to the lives of those working in it, including the many related industries that exist because of the mining industry,” she said.

“I hope all in the industry will feel proud to be working in an industry so essential to civilisation.” Her comments came after it was revealed Hancock Prospecting had doubled its profit from last year on the back of strong iron ore prices.

The Perth-based company’s assets are anchored by a 70 per cent stake in the big Roy Hill iron ore mine, 340km southeast of Port Hedland, but also include Ms Rinehart’s extensive cattle operations and property and sharemarket investments.

Increased prices for Roy Hill’s iron ore are believed to have driven the surge in Hancock’s revenue from $5.8 billion to $8.4 billion.

The result supported another big dividend payout of $483 million, though that was down from the previous year’s $528 million and less than half of the $1.24 billion in dividends pocketed by Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest for the year.

Ms Rinehart is already WA’s richest person, topping The West Australian’s rich list with $15.7 billion in wealth, up from $12.9 billion in 2018.

Even allowing for the dividend payments, the Hancock result was so good that the company also managed to repay $US600 million of debt last month and put aside another $US400 million for a further repayment in January.

Perth to host gala ag dinner

by 16 October 2019

Article by Aidan Smith, courtesy of Farm Weekly

THE National Agriculture and Related Industries Day Gala Dinner will be held in Perth for the first time next month with more than 600 interstate and international guests, including farmers, pastoralists, agribusiness leaders and politicians expected to converge at the exclusive event.

The high-profile dinner is expected to attract plenty of attention and will be held at Burswood on Swan on Thursday, November 21.

The purpose of the dinner is to celebrate Australia’s agricultural industries and indulge in Western Australia’s world-renowned wine and food.

It is the third year the dinner has been held, with events at Canberra in 2017 and Sydney in 2018, each attracting 300-380 attendees.

The patron and founder of National Agriculture and Related Industries Day, Gina Rinehart, said the day was “a very special day to recognise and celebrate our industry and its related industries, all of those hard working people who spend day after day producing food for our State and nation and for our trading partners too”.

“The National Agriculture and Related Industries Day gala dinner will be held this year in Perth for the first time,” Ms Rinehart said.

“We especially hope many from the land will come to Perth to enjoy seeing their friends and to enjoy the Australian and international entertainment and celebrate their day.”

Ms Rinehart said Akubras and boots were “very welcome”, as well as representatives from the fishing industry – “everyone who contributes to our diverse agricultural industry”.

“Agriculture is a very important industry for WA, in both our history and in our future, it creates tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in revenue which helps our government afford to build the roads, hospitals, police, kindergartens and more,” she said.

“National Agriculture and Related Industries Day is a day we can thank our pastoralists and farmers, our fisherman, our viticulturists, bee keepers, our poultry and egg producers, our market gardeners and fruit growers and associated industries and all those who give meaningful contributions to our agricultural industry.

“We hope you are proud of your industry and your contribution.”

As part of National Agriculture and Related Industries Day celebrations, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA) will be facilitating a panel of agribusiness leaders and policy makers to identify where the greatest growth opportunities lie.

The forum, Australian Agribusiness – Global Opportunities, Local Expertise, will provide a platform for Australian Agribusiness leaders and politicians to provide their expertise to a national audience on identifying these growth opportunities and showcase the nation’s global profile.

“Of all the sectors in the Australian economy, agribusiness is the sector with the strongest combination of playing most to Australia’s competitive advantages and being a sector producing what the world increasingly wants,” said PGA president Tony Seabrook.

“However this optimism over the future prospects of Australian agribusiness raises the question – where within this sector do the greatest growth opportunities lie?

“This will be just one of the many questions we will be exploring at the forum, which will involve agribusiness leaders and policy makers, including Australia’s most successful agribusiness leader, Gina Rinehart.”

Regulatory Dark Matter – Australia’s Secret Red Tape Crisis

by 3 October 2019

Australia has a red tape crisis. And it’s the red tape you can’t see that’s making the problem worse.

Kurt Wallace’s new report exposes Regulatory Dark Matter in Australia.

President Trump Delivers Remarks at “Howdy Modi: Shared Dreams, Bright Futures”

by 24 September 2019

Gina urges PM to follow Trump

by 23 September 2019

Article by Andrew Hough courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.

Magnate pushes to adopt US-style tax cuts

AUSTRALIA’S richest person has implored the Prime Minister to introduce the economic policies favoured by US President Donald Trump.

Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart was yesterday among the 250 high-powered guests at the Australian Embassy in Washington for a garden party celebrating Scott Morrison’s state visit.

The Hancock Prospecting executive chairwoman – believed to be worth more than $15.1 billion – was also among the guests at the White House state dinner the day before.

Ms Rinehart, a staunch supporter of Mr Trump, wants the PM to follow his policies.

“Please, Mr Prime Minister bring more of those successful economic policies such as cutting tax (and) cutting (red) tape.” she told The Daily Telegraph at the Garden Party.

Ms Rinehart - whose business interests including the former S. Kidman and Co empire across The Outback, is keen for business costs and “government tape” to be cut.

Her intervention came as guests, who included many of Washington’s and Australia’s elite, enjoyed the hospitality of outgoing Australian ambassador Joe Hockey.

During the festivities, he planted a White House tree on the embassy’s grounds that was an offspring of the famous Jackson magnolia planted at the White House by President Andrew Jackson nearly 200 years ago.

Other guests included billionaires Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Kerry Stokes, members of Mr Trump’s cabinet as well as other senior politicians and diplomats.

Following his Oval Office meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Morrison yesterday called for calm amid mounting tensions in the Middle East.

It came just hours after Mr Trump used the meeting to boast about his nuclear arsenal being in “tippy top shape” and “tippy top”.

But the PM commended the President’s “natural instinct” of restraint being a sign of strength.

“It was good to have the opportunity to confirm that again in the course of our discussions,” he said after attending garden party in the capital.

“So I think that should provide some assurance.

“I mean Australia will make its decisions in our national interest.” Mr Morrison also said he was confident the trade war with China would resolve.

It follow’s Mr Trump’s comment that China was a “threat to the world” as the two sat side-by-side in what has been dubbed an “awkward moment” for the Australian PM.

 

Mrs Rinehart as Chair of ANDEV with the President of the USA and the PM of Australia!

by 22 September 2019

Article by Andrew Hough, courtesy of the Weekly Times, Group image by Adam Taylor.

 

Donald Trump, Scott Morrison spruik mission to the moon and beyond

Donald Trump and Scott Morrison believe they’ve hammered out a deal that will see the Adelaide-based Australian Space Agency work to send the US back to the moon. And then to Mars.

US President Donald Trump wants to use a new agreement with Australia for moon landings by 2024 as a launch pad for a bold mission to Mars, he revealed at the first White House meeting with “man of titanium” Scott Morrison.During the Prime Minister’s official US state visit, the Australian Space Agency, based in Adelaide, has thrashed out a new deal to help NASA’s mission to the moon within five years.Asked by News Corp Australia in the Oval Office about the new 2024 mission to the moon, the President replied the US Space agency’s program was “tremendous”.“If you look at our facilities, they were virtually closed up,” he said.

“There was crabgrass growing on the runways. And now they’re vital and, you know, we’re doing, we’re going to Mars. We’re stopping at the moon. The moon is actually a launching pad. That’s why we’re stopping at the moon.

“I said, hey, we’ve already done the moon. That’s not so exciting. They said, no, sir, it’s a launching pad for Mars. So we’ll be doing the moon but we’ll really be doing Mars and we’ll be, we’re making tremendous progress.”

He said the US was happy to rent out sites for private rockets to space, such as those being touted by tech businessman Elon Musk.

The federal government will today announce a $150 million boost into local businesses and new technologies that will support NASA on its “inspirational campaign to return to the Moon and travel to Mars”.

“We’re backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back,” the PM said in a statement ahead of a visit to NASA overnight.STATE DINNERS BRINGS OUT WHO’S WHO
Meanwhile, the worlds of politics, media and even sports collided as a stream of administration members from both countries, aides, politicians and even golfer Greg Norman headed outside for the open-air dinner.It is only the second such dinner President Trump has hosted for a foreign leader during his three years in office.The 173 guests who joined them to dine al fresco in the historic Rose Garden included mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Australian astronaut Andy Thomas.Mrs Morrison wore a Carla Zampatti dress while the First Lady wore a J. Mendel aqua silk chiffon gown.

Guests sat at a mix of round and rectangular tables draped in alternating yellow and green tablecloths in tribute to Australia’s national colours and dine on sunchoke ravioli, Dover sole and apple tart a la mode. Temporary flooring was laid over the grass.

Dinner centrepieces featured more than 2,500 yellow California roses and Australia’s national flower, the golden wattle, while the garden itself will be decorated with white and yellow roses.

Yesterday before a series of bilateral talks at White House, the world leaders spoke publicly about the mounting tensions in the Middle East, as Mr Trump announced tough new sanctions and made a veiled threat of nuclear strikes.But they both urged restraint and downplayed any military action. Australia has so far agreed to a limited contribution to the US-led freedom of navigation operation in the Strait of Hormuz.In a chaotic 33 minute press briefing in the Presidential office, in the West Wing, the pair traded compliments and talked up their respective defence forces and economies.But as the PM’s wife Jenny, and the First Lady Melania Trump, watched, it was a question about Mr Morrison’s character, that drew laughter.

In reference to former president George W. Bush’s “man of steel” label for John Howard — the last Australian leader bestowed a state visit — Mr Trump upped his metals when asked to describe Mr Morrison.

“I would say a man of titanium — titanium is much tougher than steel, he is a man of titanium,” he told reporters.

“I think he is a nice guy. OK. A man of real real strength and a great guy.”

Despite the pair downplaying any military conflict with Iran, which has been accused of blowing up Saudi Arabian oilfields and has detained three Australians, Mr Trump boasted about his nuclear arsenal — which he later described as “tippy top shape” and “tippy top”.

The US has announced tough new sanctions against Tehran and its national bank — described as the “highest ever”. — before announcing it would send military forces to the Gulf following attacks that has threatened oil supplies and petrol prices.

While Mr Trump said he was happy for a coalition, and said restraint was a sign of strength, he said the US was “in a class by itself”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with US President Donald Trump. Picture: Adam Taylor

He said: “We have the most powerful military in the world, by far. There’s nobody close.

“As you know, we’ve spent tremendous and hopefully, and we pray to God, we never have to use it, but we’ve totally renovated and bought new nuclear.

“And the rest of our military is all brand-new. The nuclear, now, is at a level that it’s never been before. And I can only tell you because I know, I know the problems of nuclear, I know the damages that, I know what happens.

“And I want to tell you, we all hope and Scott hopes we all pray that we never have to use nuclear. But there’s nobody that has anywhere close to what we have.”

“I think the United State has taken a very measured, calibrated approach to date,” Mr Morrison said.

TRUMP, MORRISON ON CHINA

They also talked about the ongoing trade tensions with China, during which the President descried the economic power as a threat to the world in a sense because they’re building a military faster than anybody — and frankly, they’re using U.S. money”. He said would only sign a trade deal in the US interests.

After the Morrisons watched a spectacular welcome on the White House South Lawns, Mr Trump said he wanted to travel to Australia later in the year for official business and some golf.

“Love to do it. Nothing more exciting than having it in Australia,” he said.

The day also included meetings at the State Department and Pentagon.