Economic leaders to navigate talkfest's slippery slopes

THE Westpac chief, Gail Kelly, and the Leighton Holdings chief, Hamish Tyrwhitt, are among a handful of Australians heading to the Swiss city of Davos this week to rub shoulders with politicians and global business heads.

THE Westpac chief, Gail Kelly, and the Leighton Holdings chief, Hamish Tyrwhitt, are among a handful of Australians heading to the Swiss city of Davos this week to rub shoulders with politicians and global business heads.

The annual get-together is hosted by the World Economic Forum as a place for business and political heavyweights to discuss major challenges facing the world and brainstorm solutions, although outcomes from the talkfest often fall short of predictions.

While the weather is expected to be icy, the conversation and company will be running hot with dozens of prime ministers and heads of companies and influential thinkers converging on the resort town.

This year, Davos will again take place against a changing economic landscape in Europe.

Australia's government will be represented by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, and the Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, is expected to stay for a few days. The Labor backbencher Kevin Rudd is attending and will be speaking on a panel discussing "China's next global agenda".

Also attending is the high-powered public servant Gordon de Brouwer, who is the associate secretary in the Domestic Policy Group of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The chief of Wesfarmers, Richard Goyder, and his finance director, Terry Bowen, were on the guest list and expected to drop in. So to was the chief executive of Lynas Corp, Nicholas Curtis, while Fiona Bull, a professor of public health at the University of Western Australia will represent the nation's academics.

Mr Tyrwhitt will contribute to a panel on "accelerating infrastructure development", while the executive general manager of corporate strategy at Leighton Holdings, Patrick Brothers, observes. Westpac's chief financial officer, Phil Coffey, is attending.

The former president of the ACTU Sharan Burrow will also be speaking.

with Lucy Battersby

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