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Charles 'ready for republic'

SYDNEY - In his most extensive remarks so far on Australia's republican debate, the Prince of Wales has made it clear he would not be troubled if the country dropped the monarchy, writes Robert Milliken.

Prince Charles also disclosed that he was asked to become governor-general of Australia, the Queen's representative, as recently as 1988, but the plan did not have bipartisan support. 'It was much discussed. But I think now it's too difficult,' he said.

The revelations are published today in an interview in the Australian, a daily owned by Rupert Murdoch, which was conducted at the weekend before he left Australia for New Zealand. The Prince expanded at length on his speech in Sydney 12 days ago in which he said the republican decision was one for Australians alone, and described the debate as the sign of a mature and self-confident nation.

Asked if he would be relaxed if Australia did opt for a republic, he replied: 'Well, put it this way, I'm not going to run around in small circles, tear my hair out, boo-hoo and throw a fit on the floor, as if somehow, like a spoilt child, your toy's been taken away.'

Prince Charles chided the media for their depiction of the Crown's role in Australia. 'The other thing I find extraordinary is the way in which the media . . . are always talking about an involvement in this country from the monarchy's point of view, as if somehow we owned the place and that to be denied the chance to be sovereign of Australia is something terrifyingly awful . . . We don't own this country, we're not making money out of it . . . We are merely doing what we consider to be, as a family, our duty here by the Australians.'