18 Jul 2017

Sir John Key awarded Australia's highest honour

7:17 pm on 18 July 2017

Former prime minister John Key, who was knighted in New Zealand in June, has received Australia's top honour.

John Key

Former Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Sir John was appointed as an Honorary Companion in the Order of Australia at a ceremony in Canberra this afternoon.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Sir John had been a great friend to Australia.

His former counterpart was deeply committed to advancing the two countries' bilateral relationship and pursuing common interests around the world, he said.

He had helped drive economic growth in both countries, further liberalising the trans-Tasman economy, while also making sure New Zealand played its part in maintaining international security.

"Lucy and I look forward to seeing more of John and Bronagh this side of the ditch and perhaps John and I can venture out for another paddle before too long."

Sir John, who led New Zealand for eight years, was made a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June.

Sir John said he viewed his award more as something for New Zealand as a country, rather than for him personally.

"It just demonstrates that we are the best of friends and that we, you know, see leaders across the ditch on each side as playing an important role, collectively, to make Australasia a stronger set of nations in the world."

Sir John acknowledged Australian had not always treated New Zealanders well, but said every relationship had its challenges.