Hon Bill English, the Deputy Prime Minister and Paul Kelly editor-at-large on The Australian are joining the list of noteable speakers at Aspiring Conversations presented by Milford Asset Management.

Bill English was MP for Clutha-Southland for 24 years until he became a list MP in 2014. He is also Minister of Finance and the Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation.

He joins the panel for ‘The New Zealand Project’ on Saturday 23 April alongside writer and Rhodes Scholar Max Harris and David Farrar, the editor of Kiwiblog who has also worked in Parliament and served two National Party Prime Ministers.

Paul Kelly is one of Australia’s most senior and respected journalists having covered the country’s political life for more than 40 years. He will discuss New Zealand’s shifting relationship with our closest neighbour in ‘Advance Australia fair?’ on Sunday 24 April. Fellow panellists are experienced New Zealand political journalist Colin James and Kiwi writer Stephanie Johnson who has a long-standing affinity with Australia and lived there for several years.

Kathryn Ryan, the presenter of Radio NZ National’s ‘Nine to Noon’ programme, will chair both ‘The New Zealand project’ and ‘Advance Australia fair?’.

Festival Director Philip Tremewan said the addition of two high profile and influential speakers was a reflection of the festival’s growing reputation.“There’s an increasing appetite for events like Aspiring Conversations where audiences can take an active part in debating the big issues we all face. Bill and Paul are both at the top of their respective professions and will bring powerful arguments to bear,” he said. “It will be fascinating to hear how Max’s progressive views on the welfare state and social democracy stand up against the more conservative outlook of Bill and David. And we couldn’t have a ‘fair dinkum’ discussion about our mates from across the Ditch without at least one Aussie on the panel!”