Morrison toasts Trump as an ‘unconventional’ president – as he tries to dismiss ‘gossip’ he wanted to bring Hillsong boss to the state dinner

Trump and Morrison ahead of their meeting. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Scott Morrison has toasted Donald Trump as the most unconventional US president since Teddy Roosevelt at a glittering State dinner tinged with claims the White House rejected a request by the Prime Minister that his friend and religious mentor attend.

Mr Morrison sought to dismiss as “gossip” reports that Brian Houston, the founder of the Hillsong church, was excluded from the guest list.

The Wall Street Journal had reported Mr Morrison asked for him to be invited.

Mr Morrison’s office did not reject the story.

“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,” a spokesman said.

Later when asked, Mr Morrison said “I don’t comment on gossip.”

Mr Houston said neither he nor his church had ever had a discussion with Mr Morrison or anyone else about his availability for the dinner.

“As far as I’m concerned this is baseless rumour and totally false news. It is extremely disappointing that media outlets spread these unfounded rumours, and attempts to link this untrue story to the royal commission are unconscionable,” he said.

Mr Houston was criticised in the findings of the 2014 royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse for failing to alert 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.

The dinner capped off a big day at the White House. The Morrisons, Trumps and about 100 guests, including leading Australian business figures Lachlan Murdoch, Anthony Pratt, Kerry Stokes, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest, dined under the stars in the Rose Garden.

One of the guests, Henry Kissinger, is said to have remarked that it was the finest reception he could remember being hosted at the White House.

In toasting the President, Mr Morrison likened him to Roosevelt, whom Mr Morrison greatly admires, so much so that he will visit the house in which he lived in New York before flying home on Thursday.

“He was also a New Yorker, he was also unconventional,” Mr Morrison said of Roosevelt.

“He was no captive of the establishment. He was also accomplished, indeed some might say a maverick. He was his own man.

“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 do-er and above all he was inspired by the great character of the American people. There is nothing he believed his nation could not do.”

Conspicuously absent from the dinner was Rupert Murdoch. He was also a late withdrawal from a lunch at at the State Department the same day.

The White House dinner followed a long and arduous day that included a ceremonial welcome on the South Lawn of the White House, two press conferences and two high-level meetings.

Mr Morrison had earlier presented Mr Trump with a small bronze statue of of Les ‘Bull’ Alan, an Australian soldier carrying a wounded Marine off the battlefield on steep slopes in New Guinea in 1943. For his gallantry, he was awarded the US Silver Star and the Military Medal.

He asked Mr Trump if the Australian government could fund the erection of a life-size version of statue in Washington DC.

In his toast, Mr Trump quoted a song penned in 1940 by journalist Mary Gilmore, who was also Mr Morrison’s great-great aunty.

The night ended with rendition of Waltzing Matilda by the military band.