Security tight as Clinton touches down in Melbourne

Hillary Clinton is greeted by Kevin Rudd after arriving in Melbourne.

Hillary Clinton is greeted by Kevin Rudd after arriving in Melbourne. Photo: AP

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Australia, making her first ever visit to Melbourne amid tight security.

Ms Clinton's arrival in the Victorian capital today called for the assistance of men in dark suits and saw scores of Federal and Victorian police officers in the air, on motorbikes and pacing the tarmac.

Tight security meant at least 14 vehicles - including an armoured van - were waiting to transport an entourage of press, diplomatic security and members of the Secretary of State's private office from the 757 US aircraft that touched down at Tullamarine just after 1.30pm (AEDT).

Ms Clinton eventually jogged down the steps to be greeted with a kiss from Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

Other dignitaries on hand to welcome her to Australia for talks at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) included Australian Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley and US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich.

US embassy spokeswoman Judy Moon said the Australian visit had been in the pipeline since January but meticulous preparations were stepped up when a date was announced during Mr Rudd's Washington meeting with Ms Clinton in July.

Ms Clinton's two-day visit is the final leg of her 10-day Asia-Pacific tour which has taken in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Shortly after she was ferried away in a black BMW, a jovial Mr Rudd told reporters Ms Clinton was a welcome guest for the AUSMIN talks in Melbourne.

"She just said to me just now how much she's looking forward to spending time here, never having been in this city before," Mr Rudd said.

The foreign minister emphasised that Australia's alliance with the US remained as important as ever.

"Throughout life there are friends who stick with you through thick and thin," Mr Rudd told reporters.

"Our American friends have done that for 70 years.

"That's why this alliance has been important in the past and why it will be important in the future."

Ms Clinton is expected to enjoy some leisure time in Melbourne before her formal engagements on Sunday.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised to show Ms Clinton a good time in Melbourne when the pair spoke briefly at the 16-nation East Asia Summit in Vietnam last week.

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne on Saturday, Ms Gillard said there was a range of ways the most powerful woman in the US could spend her time enjoying Victoria's capital.

"Melbourne is a very good place to have a good time.

"So, whether it's sauntering on Melbourne's streets, grand boulevards, or in our back lanes, whether it's shopping, whether it's talking to our great sporting identities, or just enjoying beautiful Victorian weather, there's a lot for Secretary Clinton to do here in Melbourne."

Ms Clinton will be joined by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates for AUSMIN with Mr Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith on Monday.

But before she meets the federal ministers, Ms Clinton will take questions from an audience of under 35s at a public forum for ABC television on Sunday.


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