Donald Trump has praised Scott Morrison as a “man of titanium”, elevating the prime minister’s might above that of John Howard – and Superman.
At their first meeting in the Oval Office, the US president showered Mr Morrison with compliments, making reference to George W Bush’s “man of steel” label for Mr Howard.
“You know, titanium’s much tougher than steel,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday (local time) as Mr Morrison and their wives First Lady Melania Trump and Jenny Morrison looked on.
“He’s a man of titanium, believe me, I have to deal with this guy.
“You might think he’s a nice guy, OK, he’s a man of real, real strength and a great guy.”
The two leaders have been indulging their budding bromance since the Royal Australian Airforce jet dubbed ‘Shark One’ landed on US soil on Friday, talking of mutual admiration and respect between the two countries.
Mr Morrison is the first prime minister since John Howard in 2006 to be honoured with a full state visit to the United States.
In the weeks before the rare visit, Mr Morrison wanted the man he has reportedly referred to in the past as his “mentor”, Hillsong Church Pastor Brian Houston, to be part of his delegation to Washington.
The Wall Street Journal reported the White House declined to include Mr Houston, saying he wasn’t on the invite list.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison will on Friday be welcomed at a luncheon for about 220 guests hosted by Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, and then an official state banquet in the gardens of the White House.
First Lady Melania Trump was in charge of the finer details of the state banquet which has been decorated in green and yellow floral table arrangements featuring yellow roses and golden wattles.
A string ensemble will serenade guests as they tuck into a first course of ravioli filled with roasted and pureed ‘sunchoke’ – a native American “earth apple”.
The main meal will feature Dover sole, a type of bottom-dwelling fish, served with a fennel “mousseline”.
During the visit, Mr Morrison and Mr Trump will hold high-level talks, discussing Australia’s involvement in joint action in the Strait of Hormuz, China trade tensions, space projects and rare earth exports.
However, climate change is reportedly not on the agenda, despite hundreds of thousands of Australians, followed by Americans, taking to the streets to protest climate change inaction.
Mr Morrison is expected to delve further into important economic ties at the State Department lunch, noting the US has had a trade surplus with Australia – selling more Down Under than it buys – since the Truman administration.
The joint operations in the waters south of Iran are another major topic of conversation for the leaders.
Australia has so far agreed to a limited contribution to the US-led freedom of navigation operation in the Strait of Hormuz.
Mr Trump told reporters at a joint news conference with Mr Morrison that the US had taken a “very measured and calibrated approach” towards the Middle Eastern nation.
Mr Trump then repeatedly suggested he could make the call to go to war against the Middle Eastern nation right then and there with Mr Morrison and the media pack in the room.
“The easiest thing I can do, in fact I can do it while you’re here, is say, ‘go ahead fellas, go to them’. And that would be a very bad day for Iran,” he said, after announcing stronger economic sanctions on Iran.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) September 20, 2019
Talks are also expected to encompass trade and the tensions with China, co-operation on the US plans for space missions to the moon and Mars, and rare earth exports.
Earlier at Mr Morrison’s official welcome, with full military pomp and circumstance on the South Lawn of the White House, the pair talked up the two countries’ enduring ties.
“For a century we have done what true friends do – stick by each other,” Mr Morrison said at the welcome ceremony.
“Whatever lies ahead in this century, I know that Australia and the United States will go on to meet it with the same courage, the same daring, and the same unbreakable bond that has defined the first century of mateship.”
He leaves a visual reminder of this long friendship, giving Mr Trump a statue of WWII soldier Leslie “Bull” Allen carrying a wounded American off the battlefields of Papua New Guinea.
The pair have spoken about Corporal Allen’s story twice previously and for Mr Morrison, it symbolises the indelible bonds that tie the nations together.