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Heavy hitters jet off to talk the talk in Davos

WESTPAC boss Gail Kelly and 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 to brainstorm solutions, although the talkfest's predictions often fall short.

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

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

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

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

Leighton's Mr Tyrwhitt will contribute to a panel on "accelerating infrastructure development", while the executive general manager of corporate strategy at Leighton Holdings, Patrick Brothers, watches on. Westpac's chief financial officer, Phil Coffey, is attending. And a former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sharan Burrow, will also be speaking.