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Tony Abbott's 'private dinner' with Barack Obama actually a lunch attended by dozens

Former prime minister Tony Abbott crossed paths with US President Barack Obama at an event attended by dozens of other people rather than having a "private dinner" as reported.

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Mr Abbott, who has been in the US for several days, met Mr Obama at a lunch of the Alfalfa Club, an informal gathering of high-powered businesspeople and politicians, according to multiple sources.

The impromptu meeting was reported in News Corp papers as the pair having "met privately", suggesting Mr Abbott was still being actively courted and received by the Obama administration in what would be a source of frustration for his successor Malcolm Turnbull.

Instead the meeting took place at a larger gathering believed to have been attended by about 50 Washington powerbrokers.

Mr Abbott's high-profile engagements in the US in the past week as well as those of former defence minister Kevin Andrews have underscored how the former prime minister and his supporters are determined to project influence as the spear-carriers of the Liberal Party's right wing.


The Alfalfa Club, which has existed for more than a century, has about 200 members.

Mr Abbott and Mr Obama are understood to have met at a club lunch on Saturday held at the mansion of the revered civil rights leader, lawyer and business executive Vernon Jordan.

Mr Abbott is understood to have also attended the club's main social event of the year, a dinner held on Saturday night at Washington's Capital Hilton hotel, though Mr Obama did not attend the dinner.

News Corp cited an anonymous source saying that the pair had a "very warm and intimate discussion" and that "it was obvious Obama was pleased to see him". It also quoted Mr Abbott saying the US wanted "senior Australians speaking strongly on important global issues".

Mr Abbott also reportedly met with US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and met senior senator John McCain.

Last week he gave a speech in New York to the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom in which he said that allowing same-sex couples to wed would contribute to "the erosion of family".

The Alfalfa Club is a weighty organisation, with members including Microsoft's Bill Gates, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and senior members of Congress from both sides of politics.

Mr Andrews is due on Wednesday morning Australian time to deliver a speech to the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation on defence and security, in a move that has irritated colleagues.

National security is one of the proxy wars still being fought in the Liberal Party with some supporters of Mr Abbott seeking to paint him as a stronger leader against the less hawkish Mr Turnbull.

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