'pounds 10 Poms' still clinging to the mother country

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The Independent Online
AT THE top of a gravel driveway shaded by graceful silver gum trees, Barrie Hunt is chopping dead wood. He breaks off to give a guided tour of his spacious garden. There are tall eucalyptuses and wispy grevilleas. "I only plant Australian natives", he says.

Mr Hunt, who emigrated from Manchester in 1960, has taken the local flora to heart. But for the head of state for his adopted country, only the monarchy will do. "I've always been a patriot" he says. "The British way of life and British institutions have a lot to offer."

He is determined to vote "no" in Saturday's referendum asking Australians whether they want to break their country's 211-year-old link with Britain to become a republic with an Australian president.

So too will most of the million-plus Britons who have settled in Australia since the Second World War, many of them "pounds 10 Poms", enticed here by the offer of a pounds 10 passage from a government desperate for fresh blood.

The British migrants like Australia just as it is, and are horrified by the idea of waving goodbye to the mother country. Guernsey-born Mr Hunt, a research scientist with a government agency, explains: "When you come to Australia, you feel at home. The laws are very similar, they speak the same language and they drive on the correct side of the road"

Hell will freeze over before Mr Hunt abandons the monarchy. He is upset by the sniping at the Queen in Australia's press, particularly Rupert Murdoch's pro-republican newspapers. Mr Murdoch spoke out yesterday in favour of a "yes" vote, warning that Australia would suffer a "loss of self-respect" if it rejected a republic.

Pat Mathew, 61, a pounds 10 Pom who has been in Australia for 40 years, is laid-back about the prospect of change. "I've not made my mind up yet about which way to vote, but I don't think that life would be much different under a president" she says. "The only thing that I would miss about the Queen is the pomp and fanfare."

Alan Bouch, another British migrant, disagrees. "The Queen is like an umpire ... If someone misbehaves, she gives out a red card or a yellow card. If you take away the system we've got now, there'll just be politicians dictating to us".

Many Britons have become naturalised Australians, albeit some rather grudgingly. But another 300,000 British settlers have not taken Australian citizenship yet are eligible to vote because of a legal anomaly. Not surprisingly, republican campaigners are infuriated by this state of affairs.

Mr Hunt has a novel response to the argument that Australia needs its own head of state. "Why don't we start our own monarchy?" he says, straight- faced. "We could invite Princess Anne over. That would keep the feminists happy. And I believe her eldest son is a terrific young man, so there would be no problem with the succession."