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The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The red carpet will be rolled out but many Australians will be blowing a gentle raspberry"
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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 10:45 GMT
Low-key Australian welcome for Queen

The Queen arrives for her first visit since monarchy vote
The Queen has received a low-key welcome in Australia on the start of her two-week visit to the country.

There was no red carpet, national anthem, no military guard of honour and no 21-gun salute in the planned, non-ceremonial start to her first visit since Australians narrowly voted to keep the monarchy.

The Queen was met at Canberra airport by Prime Minister John Howard, at whose invitation she is to have a "first-hand look at the changes in Australia" since she was last there eight years ago.

The Duke of Edinburgh is arriving separately after an official trip to The Bahamas and America.

No members of the public were there to greet her, apart from eight supporters of the Australian Republican Movement.

The Queen smiled and waved at the group.

There will be difficulties...She must obviously be wondering about the reception she will be getting

Australian Monarchist League
More than 54% voted against replacing the Queen last November, but many Australians still want independence.

A palace spokeswoman said the Queen would meet "Australians of all ages and walks of life".

These will include leading politicians who are avowed republicans, including New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, his counterpart in Victoria Steve Bracks and Federal Treasurer Peter Costello.

Back of Beyond

At grassroots level, the queen may have her hands full during visits to rural sites, including Ballarat, a gold rush town near Melbourne that was the scene of Australia's only armed uprising against the British crown, in 1854.

There, republicans have pledged to unfurl the navy and white Southern Cross, a symbol of defiance.

But royal supporters the Australian Monarchist League is trying to encourage its 15,000 members to get out and welcome the Queen, especially in the big cities where republican sentiment is strongest.

The AML's Philip Benwell said: "I think there will be difficulties...She must obviously be wondering about the reception she will be getting."

The Queen will even go to Bourke, a dusty town which is a byword in Australia for the remote outback - "Back o' Bourke" means the back of beyond or middle of nowhere in Aussie-speak.

Following the referendum vote, the Queen said she would stand by Australia - which gained independence in 1901 but still keeps the British monarch as its head of state - whatever its decision.

She said: "I respect and accept this result. I have always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means.

"My family and I would, of course, have retained our deep affection for Australia and Australians everywhere, whatever the outcome."

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