SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Prince William flew into Sydney on Tuesday for his first visit to Australia since he was a baby, with a poll showing Australians would prefer the young British prince as their next king over his father Prince Charles.
Prince William, who is second in line to the British throne, arrived from New Zealand amid tight security in the second stage of his first official solo tour overseas to represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.
The last time the 27-year-old prince visited Australia was in 1983 in the arms of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris nearly 13 years ago. Prince Charles went on to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Asked if the prince’s three-day visit could rekindle an affection for the monarchy, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said: “There’s an affection for the Queen herself, and there’s clearly an affection for Prince William.”
An poll by Newspoll for British media company ITN and Australia’s Seven Network found that 58 percent of about 1,200 Australians surveyed last weekend said William should be the next monarch after Queen Elizabeth while 30 percent backed Charles.
Prince William, who is training in the Royal Air Force, was particularly liked by women with 63 percent wanting to see him succeed the Queen and only 28 percent preferring Charles.
However Australians were in no rush for change, with only 29 percent saying the 83-year-old Queen Elizabeth should stand down to make way for a new monarch.
Australia’s republicans, who want to ditch the British monarch as head-of-state for a homegrown president, has the backing of most people in the country, a former British colony that is now an independent federation of states.
But the movement has made little headway since a 1999 vote on a republic failed because Australians could not agree on the type of republic.
Australia’s Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and many in his government are avowed republicans but Rudd has dismissed another vote on the issue anytime soon, saying it is not a priority for his government.
After arriving in Sydney, Prince William was whisked off to lunch with Governor-General Quentin Bryce, the Queen’s representative in Australia, and was scheduled to meet representatives of the Aboriginal community in inner-city Redfern
On Wednesday he will visit Sydney’s Holsworthy Barracks, Sydney Harbour and finally attend a barbecue in the Botanical Gardens then visit Melbourne on Thursday before returning to Britain on Friday.
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy