Queen's visit to Australia is timed to avoid referendum

THE QUEEN will visit Australia in the first half of next year, Buckingham Palace said yesterday, well after the November referendum on whether the country should become a republic.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, said the timing of the visit meant the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would not become embroiled in any controversy surrounding the referendum on 6 November on whether to sever links with the British monarchy.

Buckingham Palace said the Australian government had advised the Queen on the timing. Mr Howard said: "By coming next year, she is free of the debate about the republic. I think all Australians, whether or not they want a republic, would welcome the visit."

Nevertheless, the Queen's trip is likely to generate a hostile response from the growing number of Australians who support the republican movement.

"This visit will show Australians very starkly that their head of state only visits every five to seven years, does not live here, has never lived here and will never live here," said Wayne Burns from the Australian Republican Movement. The Queen's last visit to this country was in 1992.

The Daily Telegraph, a Sydney tabloid newspaper, reported that Mr Howard will formally announce the outcome of the referendum to the Queen at a Commonwealth heads of government meeting in South Africa later that month. Final plans for the Australia visit will be made at that meeting.

The pro-monarchy movement sees the visit as a chance to cement the relationship between the Queen and Australian people. Kerry Jones of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy said: "We believe we will win the referendum soundly, therefore we hope it will be a celebration of a great victory against the republicans."

If November's vote goes in favour of a republic, Australia's first president will take office on 1 January 2001.

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