CHINA'S President Hu Jintao has singled out three former Australian Labor prime ministers for particular praise at a Sydney dinner marking 35 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and China.
New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma was hosting the formal state dinner at the Chinese delegation's APEC base, the five-star Sofitel Wentworth Hotel in Sydney's city centre.
But Mr Iemma was overshadowed at the dinner by the trio of Labor elders attending, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Indeed, Mr Whitlam and Mr Hawke drew additional, unscripted praise from members of an Aboriginal dance group who used their microphones to laud the men during their performance.
But it was the 65-year-old leader of 1.3bn people who gave the final bow to the former prime ministers – Liberal Party figures were hard to find at the dinner.
"I want to thank in particular Mr Whitlam, Mr Hawke and Mr Keating for attending tonight's dinner," Mr Hu told the audience.
"I admire and highly appreciate your contribution to the establishment and the development of China-Australia relations."