'Girl power' day on cards as Clinton heads Down Under
Wednesday January 13, 2010
WHEN Hillary Clinton last visited Australia, hot on the heels of her husband's second-term election as US president in 1996, she mused privately whether Australia would get a female prime minister before the United States had its first woman president."She had a view our prime ministerial system may well encourage people to treat women as equals and that they could rise to the top," senator Jocelyn Newman recalled shortly after she met Mrs Clinton at an afternoon tea hosted by Janette Howard €” who controversially snubbed women from the Labor side of politics in compiling the guest list."Mrs Clinton said it did not matter how long you served in the Congress €” it didn't mean you would become president. She saw the upside for women in our system was that the party picked the leader and that, if you were respected, you could be chosen."The topic of female advancement in politics is likely to be on Mrs Clinton's mind again this trip, 18 months after her bid to break that barrier in US politics was eclipsed by another first: a black president.On Tuesday, she is expected to join the woman widely expected to become Australia's first female prime minister for a "girl power" event in Melbourne.The Age believes Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard will host the US Secretary of State on a "very Melbourne" day of activities, which will include a trip to the Australian Open.Mrs Clinton often takes the stage at town hall-style meetings on her trips abroad, where she talks on a chosen topic and then takes questions from the audience.The Secretary of State flies into Canberra on Sunday, following stops this week in Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Although formal details of her program are yet to be released, she is expected to dine with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at The Lodge on Sunday night, after formal meetings earlier in the day and an afternoon function to promote US Fulbright Scholarships.She will spend Monday at AUSMIN, the regular bilateral meeting between the Australian and US foreign and defence ministers.US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates will also be there to meet Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Defence Minister John Faulkner.The talks will focus on strategies to curb the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and joint work on counter-terrorism and defence training exercises.Mrs Clinton impressed the Australian delegation at the last AUSMIN talks by staying for the entire day, rather than handing over to officials once the headline topics had been handled.