Sir John Key has been given Australia's highest honour in a ceremony in Canberra today, described by Australia's Governor General Peter Cosgrove as a "most admirable New Zealander" and a great friend of Australia.

Key was appointed an Honorary Companion in the Order of Australia - the highest ranked grade in the order and reserved to 35 people in any one year.

Australia's PM Malcolm Turnbull was at the ceremony, as well as Key's wife Lady Bronagh, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee and former Foreign Minister Murray McCully, both of whom were invited by Key.

Australia's Governor General Peter Cosgrove invested Key with the insignia of the Order at Government House, saying he was "the most admirable New Zealander,
a great leader, a great friend of Australia and a worthy recipient of this honour."

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Turnbull had recommended Key for the honour.