Low-key welcome for Queen in Australia

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The Queen arrived in Australia today to a low-key welcome with no red carpet.

She smiled and waved at a small group of republican protesters outside a military base in Canberra where the Royal flight touched down.

It was a planned, non-ceremonial beginning to the Queen's first visit since Australians voted to keep the monarchy.

Travelling on a chartered Qantas jet and bringing with her three tonnes of luggage and an entourage of 30, the Queen of England - and Australia - flew into Sydney where she transferred to a Royal Australian Air Force plane for the short flight to the capital, Canberra.

With no members of the public there to see her, she stepped off her jet at RAAF Fairbairn, a military base which shares a runway with Canberra Airport.

There was no red carpet, no national anthem, no military guard of honour, no 21-gun salute. The only visible trappings of Royalty were the Queen's Royal Australian Standard, flying from a flagpole, and a black Rolls-Royce.

Australia's pro-monarchy Prime Minister John Howard and Governor-General Sir William Deane were at the air base to greet the Queen and bowed with apparent deference.

Their wives performed well-rehearsed and well-executed deep curtsies.

The Queen, wearing a lilac dress with matching hat and black gloves, beamed a broad smile before climbing into her chauffeur-driven Rolls for the journey to Government House where she is staying.

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

A group of eight Australian Republican Movement supporters from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) branch in Canberra were outside RAAF Fairbairn to "greet" the Queen.

They held a large banner which read: "Republic of the ACT welcomes the Queen of England".

"She saw us, gave a very cheerful smile and waved - but we didn't wave back," said spokesman Robin Poke.

"It would have been a touch of hypocrisy for us to wave," said Mr Poke, 56, a public relations executive who was born in Isleworth, west London, and emigrated to Australia in 1969.

"We think it's an anachronism that we have as head of state a very pleasant middle-aged woman who lives in several castles on the other side of the world."