Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraHillsong church pastor Brian Houston has been charged over the alleged concealment of information relating to child sex offences.
Houston is a personal friend of Scott Morrison who wanted him invited to the White House state dinner President Donald Trump held in the prime minister’s honour in 2019.
But the White House rejected Houston.
A NSW Police statement issued late Thursday said: “In 2019, an investigation commenced by officers attached to The Hills Police Area Command into reports a 67-year-old man had knowingly concealed information relating to child sexual offences.
“Following extensive investigations, detectives requested the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) review their brief of evidence.”
Earlier this week, the ODPP gave its advice to police. After further inquiries, “detectives served a Court Attendance Notice for conceal serious indictable offence on the man’s legal representative” on Thursday afternoon.
“Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police.
“The man is expected to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday 5 October 2021,” the police statement said.
In 2015 the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which examined allegations against Houston’s father Frank, found neither the executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia nor Brian Houston referred the allegations to police.
It found Brian Houston “had a conflict of interest” in assuming responsibility for dealing with the allegations “because he was both the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and the son of Mr Frank Houston, the alleged perpetrator”.
The Wall Street Journal broke the story, during Morrison’s US trip, of the PM’s nomination of Houston for the dinner and the rejection.
Morrison dodged questions at the time and later about whether he had put Houston’s name up. He said the story was “gossip”.
It wasn’t until March 2020 that he confirmed it, telling 2GB “we put forward a number of names, that included Brian, but not everybody whose names were put forward were invited”. He said he had known Houston a long time.
In the 2GB interview, Morrison was asked whether he was not aware that Houston was under police investigation at the time.
“These are not things I follow closely,” Morrison said. “All I know is that they’re a very large and very well attended and well-supported organisation here in Australia.
“They are very well known in the United States – are so well known that Brian was actually at the White House a few months after I was. So the President obviously didn’t have an issue with it. And that’s why I think that’s where the matter rests.”
Houston has been living in the US for some time.
Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
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