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The BBC's Jennie Bond
"It seemed the history was repeating itself"
 real 28k

Monday, 27 March, 2000, 12:36 GMT
Australian PM denies touching Queen

John Howard insists there was no contact
Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, has denied making a protocol blunder by putting his arm around the Queen.

In an incident reminiscent of the one involving former Premier Paul Keating in 1992, the cameras caught Mr Howard giving the Queen a helping hand at Canberra's Parliament House.

Former PM Paul Keating was branded the "Lizard of Oz"
It was in the capital's Parliament building that Mr Keating earned the nickname "Lizard of Oz" with his touch of the Royal back during the Queen's last tour to Australia.

But Mr Howard is adamant that his hand did not touch the Queen as he was introducing her to MPs at a VIP reception.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said: "We firmly deny that there was any contact whatsoever."

Republican speech

The man who could be the next Australian prime minister also raised a touchy Royal subject.

At the same reception, Australia's pro-republican Opposition leader Kim Beazley indicated that the question of Australia becoming a republic was still very much on the agenda.

The Queen remembers Australia's war dead
He thanked the Queen for saying Australia's constitutional future was a matter for Australians to decide.

But went on: "When and if Australia does take its place among the republics of the Commonwealth, we will never forget your strong personal contribution as our head of state over nearly half a century to what has made this country a great one. You are very welcome here ma'am."

Australians voted last November to keep the monarchy.

Tribute to fallen heroes

Earlier the Queen paid a moving tribute to Australia's war dead.

"It is not difficult for those of us here of my age to remember," said the 73-year-old monarch at Canberra's Australian War Memorial.

"For older generations amongst the veterans and veterans' groups represented here today, those who died are not just names looking down from the walls around us, but comrades, loved ones, friends and relations.

The Queen admires a piece of Aboriginal art
"But this hall will ensure that those of future generations will also remember - and draw inspiration and commitment from doing so.

"Here amongst the mosaics and the symbolism, the virtues etched in glass, the incomparable view and above all the tranquillity, they too will be able to honour the dead as we do."

The Queen, at the start of the second week of her 16-day tour, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier and unveiled a plaque to mark the restoration of the War Memorial's Hall of Memory.

Among veterans at the War Memorial were two Australian holders of the Victoria Cross.

Keith Payne, VC, was honoured for outstanding courage and leadership in Vietnam and Ted Kenna, VC, displayed outstanding gallantry during the Second World War in New Guinea.

Cooking bush-style

Elsewhere in Canberra, the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, got a taste of Australian outback life.

A group of girls from Queensland state and Sydney showed the Duke of Edinburgh how to cook damper - traditional Australian bush bread - and tea brewed in a billy, a metal pan hung over a camp fire.

On Tuesday, the royal couple are to fly to the southern island state of Tasmania for two days.

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See also:

25 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Queen honours East Timor heroes
24 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: The Queen in Australia
22 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Queen visits 'back of beyond'
21 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Queen visits Olympic village
20 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Queen overcomes security scare
02 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Queen or country?
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