Trump hosts Australian prime minister Scott Morrison

Trump hosts Australian prime minister Scott Morrison

Michael Collins


Published 8:42 PM EDT Sep 20, 2019

WASHINGTON – What a difference a couple of years – and a couple of elections – can make.

President Donald Trump, who famously hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a protocol-shattering phone call just a week after taking office, gave the red-carpet treatment to Turnbull’s successor, Scott Morrison, at the White House on Friday.

Morrison and his wife, Jennifer, were feted with a formal state dinner – only the second of Trump’s presidency.

Dinner was served al fresco-style on the South Lawn and included ravioli drizzled with a lemony Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese emulsion and topped by shavings of carrots, baby kale and sunchoke chips. The main course was roasted Dover sole accented with fennel mousseline. Dessert was a Lady Apple tart with ice cream.

Here are five things you should know about Morrison’s visit:

Who is Scott Morrison?

Morrison, 51, is Australia’s 30th prime minister. He took office in 2018, succeeding Turnbull, and held onto power after his center-right government scored an astounding win in an election that pundits and pollsters had predicted it was certain to lose.

Sound familiar? Morrison’s upset victory has drawn comparisons to Trump’s unexpected win against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Morrison and his wife arrived on the White House South Lawn Friday morning to a 19-gun salute and were greeted by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. After the traditional inspection of the troops, the two leaders spoke of what Trump called “the unbreakable bond” between the two countries.

“Australians and Americans understand each other like few other people,” Morrison said.

Before he became prime minister, Morrison served in the Australian parliament, where he once carried a chunk of coal onto the Parliament floor and proclaimed: “This is coal! Don’t be afraid!” Morrison was using the prop – against Parliament rules – to attack the Labor Party, which wanted to phase out coal power and press for more renewable energy.

He also previously served as Australia’s immigration minister, where he helped develop a hardline policy to keep asylum-seekers from entering the country through its seaports.

Is Morrison Australia’s Trump?


Though Morrison’s political views are in line with Trump’s on issues like immigration and energy, they are very different people, said Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute, an independent think tank based in Sydney.

Morrison is a lifelong politician, a devout Christian (he’s Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister) and an “everyman figure,” Fullilove said.

“Australian political values – including a belief in alliances and free trade – deviate from (President Trump’s) brand,” Fullilove said. “But they are both conservative figures. Prime Minister Morrison made his name as a tough immigration minister, which would appeal to the president.”

While they aren’t from the same mold, the American press tends to cast them that way, “which probably flattered and pleased the president,” Fullilove said.

“So President Trump was primed to like Prime Minister Morrison, and the (prime minister) has used that to his advantage,” he said.

More: Trump greets Australian prime minister in attempt to revive ‘mateship’ with U.S. ally

What brings Morrison to the U.S.?

Morrison said in a statement released by his office that he will be visiting the U.S. from Sept. 19-27. Besides Washington, he also will travel to Chicago, Ohio and New York.

“There is no deeper friendship than that which exists between Australia and the United States,” he said. “We see the world through the same eyes, with shared values and a deep commitment to promoting peace, liberty and prosperity.”

Morrison described his visit as “a valuable opportunity to further strengthen our security and economic partnership.”

At the White House, he held a bilateral meeting with Trump. The meeting was followed by a news conference with the two leaders and, Friday night, the formal state dinner.

On Sunday, Trump and Morrison will tour a new Pratt Industries paper-recycling mill in Wapakoneta, Ohio. The plant is owned by Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt, who has been a prominent Trump supporter.

More: Think America can ditch Trump in 2020? The world says otherwise

What did Morrison and Trump discuss?

At a news conference following their meeting, Trump said they talked about the military, trade and “everything you can talk about.”

China is Australia’s leading trade partner and the U.S. is one of its closest allies, so the Aussies are uncomfortably caught in the middle of Trump’s trade war with Beijing.

The trade war “hasn’t had a big impact yet in Australia, except maybe to dampen some business confidence,” said Alan Tidwell, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies. “The Australian economy was beginning to show a little fatigue even before the trade war got under way.”

Australia has agreed to join U.S.-led operations patrolling the Strait of Hormuz following Iran’s seizure of tankers passing through the critical waterway earlier this summer, so that likely was a discussion, along with last weekend’s crippling drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, Tidwell said.

More: France’s Emmanuel Macron hopes to set up meeting between Donald Trump and Iran in ‘coming weeks’

Who’s attending the state dinner?

The guest list for the dinner — the first for an Australian prime minister since George W. Bush hosted one for then-Prime Minister John Howard in 2006 — included a number of prominent Australians and Americans.

Golfer Greg Norman attended, as did Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman and chief executive officer of the Fox Corp. Also on the guest list were Australian astronaut Andy Thomas came, who chatted with reporters about moon travel; Joseph Hockey, Australia’s ambassador of Australia to the United States; and 

Arthur Culvahouse, the U.S. ambassador to Australia.

Several members of the Trump administration and Congress were on the guest list, including Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

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