Former prime minister John Howard was last night due to headline the 60th birthday celebrations for what arguably has become WA's most important company, Woodside Petroleum.
About 300 invited guests, including former Woodside directors and senior managers, joined an evening hosted by chairman Michael Chaney and chief executive Peter Coleman to reflect on a corporate life that began as Woodside (Lakes Entrance) Oil in Victoria in 1954 before the com- pany became the driver of Australia's LNG export industry.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who was a minister in the Howard government, was also due to address the crowd, along with Premier Colin Barnett.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a recorded video message. Entertainment was provided by two Woodside-sponsored organisations, the West Australian Ballet, which performed a specially commissioned piece, and the WA Youth Orchestra.
The celebrations coincided with another transformational phase for Woodside.
The company is in the throes of unshackling itself from erstwhile biggest shareholder Royal Dutch Shell, which failed in a second attempt in 2001 to take over Woodside when the Howard government blocked the deal because it felt it was not in Australia's best interest.
The six-decade milestone for Woodside comes as WA's biggest company, Wesfarmers, this year celebrates its centenary.