Morrison toasts ‘unconventional’ Trump – but Hillsong pastor reportedly rejected from guest list | Australia news

Scott Morrison capped-off a frenetic day in Washington, where he was feted and challenged in equal measure, by dining under the stars with Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, but without a special guest he had wanted at Friday night’s state dinner.

The Wall Street Journal revealed Morrison had wanted the Hillsong Church pastor Brian Houston to be a guest at the glittering black-tie function, which included special guests Lachlan Murdoch – but not his father, Rupert – the billionaire box magnate Anthony Pratt, miners Twiggy Forrest and Gina Rinehart, and the golfer Greg Norman.

But, according to the Journal, the White House declined Morrison’s request.

Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch arrive at the White House for the state dinner honouring Scott Morrison. Photograph: Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty Images

Houston, the founder of the evangelical Hillsong Church, failed to alert the police about allegations his father, Frank, had sexually assaulted children, and had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the accusations, according to the findings of the 2014 royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Frank Houston abused up to nine boys in Australia and New Zealand and, in its final report, the royal commission found multiple failings within the church executive – at the time led by Brian – in responding.

Morrison attended the opening session of the Hillsong annual conference with his wife, Jenny, shortly after the May federal election. They are regulars at the event. Morrison told worshippers this year Australia needed more prayer and more love.

A spokesman for Morrison said in a statement on Friday evening local time: “Invitations to the state dinner are entirely at the discretion of the White House and, as has been the case previously, is expected to include people from all walks of life from politics to sport to business, entertainment, science and technology and religion.”

At Friday night’s state dinner, Trump in his remarks raised his glass to a “very special people and a very, very special country” and quoted from the journalist Mary Gilmore, Morrison’s great-great-aunt, as part of a toast to his Australian guests.

Morrison was gratified by the personal reference, and compared Trump to Teddy Roosevelt – one of the prime minister’s political heroes – and someone he characterised as a “maverick” and a “doer”.

Greg Norman in the Rose Garden at the White House during the state dinner

Greg Norman in the Rose Garden at the White House during the state dinner. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

“He was also a New Yorker, he was also unconventional,” Morrison said. “He was no captive of the establishment. He was also accomplished. Indeed, some might say a maverick. He was his own man.

“He was a doer and above all he was inspired by the great character of the American people. There is nothing he believed his nation could not do, and this is the heart of American greatness.

“Mr president, your belief in America and its people echoes this great spirit of that great president and it’s backed up by your life’s experience and the passion and work of your presidency.”

The guests ate fish and apple pie, accompanied by Australian wine, and were entertained by military musicians who played Waltzing Matilda and What A Wonderful World.

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