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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 01:47 GMT
Crowds greet Queen in Australia
The Queen (right) greets Prime Minister John Howard
The Queen was met by Australian Prime Minister John Howard
The Queen has been welcomed by cheering crowds in Australia after arriving for a five-day tour, during which she will open the Commonwealth Games.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Governor-General Michael Jeffery - the Queen's representative in Australia - met her as she flew into Canberra.

About 300 people shouted "God save the Queen" to greet her and Prince Philip.

The monarch's visit will include meeting volunteers who fought bush fires in Canberra in 2003.

'Nothing illegal'

The crowds at Fairbairn airport stood against crash barriers and took pictures of the pair after they arrived in a British Airways 777 plane at 0900 local time on Sunday.

The Queen, who wore a white jacket, yellow skirt and matching hat, collected bouquets from well-wishers and spoke to others.

The Duke of Edinburgh also exchanged words with the crowd.

Bradley Vance, 44, who took his wife and two children to welcome the royals, said Prince Philip joked with his eight-year-old son, Benjamin, who was wearing a cap printed with the words "Quarantine Matters" - highlighting Australia's strict quarantine laws.

"He asked my son, 'do you work here?' and then he said as a joke, 'I didn't bring anything that was illegal'," said Mr Vance, from Canberra.

'Not a farewell tour'

The centrepiece of the tour will be the opening of the Commonwealth Games in front of thousands in Melbourne.

Many Australians recognise that it is no longer sensible for us to have a citizen of another country, who visits Australia only occasionally, as our head of state
Allison Henry, Australian Republican Movement
During the ceremony, the Queen will read out her message of welcome to the athletes, which has travelled to all 71 nations of the Commonwealth Games Federation during the past 12 months.

Republican campaigners said the visit was an opportunity to reopen the debate about replacing the Queen with a home-grown president.

"While the Queen is held in great affection by the Australian people, many Australians recognise that it is no longer sensible for us to have a citizen of another country, who visits Australia only occasionally, as our head of state," said Allison Henry, national director of the Australian Republican Movement.

The Queen last visited Australia in 2002 for the Commonwealth Heads of government Meeting in Queensland.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt says Sunday's arrival was deliberately low-key. The official formal welcome will be in Sydney on Monday.

Royal aides insist that despite her advancing age, this is not the Queen's farewell tour of Australia.

The Queen will fly to Singapore on Thursday for a two-day State visit.

She will meet the Republic's president SR Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.


SEE ALSO:
The big debate Down Under
28 Nov 05 |  Magazine
Australian republic debate revives
28 May 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Queen or country?
17 Mar 00 |  Asia-Pacific


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