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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Julia bows but she won't scrape: If this 6ft 8in woman basketball player can manage a curtsey to the 5ft 4in Queen why can't Australia's Prime Ministe

-Gillard appears unable to decide whether to bow or shake hands
-Elizabeth Cambage amuses the Queen and Prince Philip
-The Royal Couple are on their second day of their tour of Australia

By Richard Hartley-parkinson and Richard Shears

At 6ft 8in, basketball player Elizabeth Cambage towered over the Queen (and most other guests)

Few people manage to overshadow the Queen. But all Elizabeth Cambage had to do today was stand next to her.

At 6ft 8in in her bare feet and 7ft in her heels, the basketball player towered over the 5ft 4in monarch who had to look skywards to say hello.

The Queen met British-born Miss Cambage after a civic reception during her Australian tour and immediately saw the funny side.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard bows to Queen Elizabeth II before a reception in the Government Building in the Australian capital of Canberra

The Queen enjoyed meeting someone as tall as Miss Cambage and introduced her to Prince Philip

Bow or shake? In this picture Julia Gillard appears undecided between accepting the Queen's hand and bowing

It was in stark contrast to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who the day before had greeted the Queen as she arrived in the country with a handshake and a bow instead of following protocol with a curtsey.

And despite the row that ensued, Miss Gillard still refused to curtsey when she met the Queen today.

Instead she performed two shallow bows of her head, once as she entered a room at Parliament House, Canberra, and a second time as she approached the Queen whose hand was outstretched.

She quickly put her hand out to the monarch and shook it. She also stood with lips sealed as the British anthem was played at the start of the reception in the Monarch’s honour.

She did, however, sing the Australian anthem.

The Queen later met Miss Cambage who, without her shoes, is 6ft 8in tall.

'Oh,' exclaimed the Queen when she came across Elizabeth in the foyer of the Australian Parliament building after a civic reception, 'you must be a basketball player.'

'Yes, I am,' replied Elizabeth as, having no other choice, she made a very deep curtsey.

Then the younger woman asked the Queen, with a cheeky grin: 'What gave it away?'
'You are very tall,' said the Queen, looking up to make the comment. 'That must be an advantage.'

'It is a bit,' said Elizabeth.

Clearly amazed by Elizabeth's height, the Queen turned to Prince Philip, who was standing a short distance away 'This is an Australian basketball player,' she said, gesturing towards the sportswoman.

The Duke peered upwards. 'Yes,' he said,' that would be right.'

Dressed in a very long pink Carla Zampatti gown that reached down to her ankles, Elizabeth the sportswoman, who was born in Guys Hospital, London said later: 'The Queen is very sweet and Prince Philip seems like a lot of fun.

'He was grinning when he made his comment about the Queen being right when she guessed I played basketball' Elizabeth's Nigerian father stands at 6ft 4in and her mother is 6ft.

'I don't have any brothers and sisters so I expect I've inherited all the tall genes,' said the lanky basketballer.

Co-ordinated: The Queen and Prime Minister Julia Gillard stand next to one another in similar coloured clothes

Her parents met in a London nightclub but three months after Elizabeth was born her parents separated and her Caucasian mother moved to Melbourne with her.

It was there, after proving herself in her school's basketball team, Elizabeth became a professional member of Melbourne's Bulleen Boomers and also played for the Australian Opals. She also played for the Tulsa Shock in the US.

She doesn't have a boyfriend at present, she said, but it was obvious to everyone standing nearby after the Queen had been toasted at the civic reception that to avoid any awkwardness any suitor would need to have some high standing in the community.

And travelling around in cars? 'Not a problem,' she said. 'I just have to move the seat back a bit.'

Then, the sportswoman who without shoes still stands a soaring 6ft 8in in her bare feet, made her way for the door, a head and shoulders above all the other guests.

Earlier, British-born Prime Minister Julia Gillard added to the controversy already surrounding her following her decision not to curtsey before the Queen, when she stood with lips sealed as the British anthem was played at the start of the reception in the Monarch's honour.

She did, however, sing the Australian anthem.

Eventually the pair sat to discuss Australia's political situation and the precarious nature of a minority government

The Queen and Miss Gillard seemed to be getting along well as they chatted at a reception at Parliament House

One is amused: The Queen and Miss Gillard laugh together during a speech by the leader of the opposition

Miss Gillard, in a veiled reference to the possibility of Australia becoming a republic one day, told the Queen in her speech that 'we do not know where Australia's path of nationhood may lead in the times to come.'

But she added that she knew for a certain that the Queen's journey of service would continue.

Earlier in the day when the pair first met at Parliament House, the Queen offered a hand to the Australian premier who then reciprocated and shook it and performed a shallow bow.

Ms Gillard has faced criticism for deciding not to curtsey to the Queen when she greeted the monarch as she touched down in the country with Prince Philip.

As the pair shook hands the republican said: 'Good morning your majesty, its lovely to see you again.'

Referring to the bright sunshine blazing down on the grounds, conditions Canberra has enjoyed since the monarch arrived with the Duke of Edinburgh on Wednesday, the Queen replied: 'It's beautiful again.'

Ms Gillard said: 'It is a beautiful, beautiful day, and I'm glad the weather was so good for you yesterday.'

Young girls offer flowers to the monarch as she makes her way through the building in Australia's capital

Ahead of the reception the Queen walked among people in the Marble Foyer

While there she also met with Tony Abbott, the leader of the country's opposition Liberal Party, where they discussed the problems of forming minority governments.

She was referring to the experiences of Miss Gillard who had weeks of political wrangling before she formed a government after elections that produced no overall winner.

The Queen rarely speaks about her personal views in public and her words were recorded by the waiting media who were given access to the first few moments of the audience.

But her comments were also formed by recent experiences as there were a number of anxious days before David Cameron was able to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats last year.

Mr Abbott met the monarch for an audience in the morning room of Canberra's Government House after the sovereign had held discussions with Ms Gillard.

The Queen wasted no time raising the issue of the precarious state of Australian politics saying: 'It is an interesting time.'

Australia's minority government is the first in decades and commentators have said it could easily be threatened by a ministerial misdemeanour or by-election.

The Queen shakes hands with guests ahead of the reception at the Australian seat of power in Canberra

A toast is raised to the Queen as she sits next to Prince Philip at Parliament House

Mr Abbott replied to the Queen's opening statement saying: 'It is never dull, we play our politics tough in this country and give no quarter, Australian society is always dynamic.'

He made the Queen laugh when he added: 'We like to think we're the happening place your majesty.'

The monarch replied 'a minority government is always a difficult thing to organise', before the talks continued behind closed doors for almost 20 minutes, half the time the sovereign spent with the Prime Minister.

The Queen and the Prime Minister chatted about the previous day's events, when the royal couple toured Lake Burley Griffin in a VIP motor launch and attended the flower festival.

The Queen said: 'It was very popular, there were lots of people there to see the boat go past', and Ms Gillard replied: 'I suspect there were more people because you were there.'

The monarch added: 'It was very nice to be able to do that and see the flowers. I had no idea that they do that every year.'



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