THE result of the referendum in Australia over whether to drop Queen Elizabeth as head of state will surprise few people who have monitored opinion polls. But the outcome of the vote provides no solace to the pro-monarchist camp. The fact that Australia's electorate rejected the notion of a republic by no means makes it pro-monarchist. What the voters rejected was not republicanism, but the particular republican model they were offered. In many ways it is extremely strange that Australia did not become a republic many years ago. The concept of the country's head of state living on the other side of the world and having little in common with multi-cultural Australia - a country that prides itself on its classless society - is bizarre to many people. It would seem to be a natural progression to maturity for a country to free itself of such an anachronism. For most Australians it is probably true to say that there is no sense of antipathy towards the British monarchy, simply a feeling that it does not truly represent the country. What the voters made clear yesterday was that they wish to be the ones to choose the country's head of state. Quite wisely, they do not trust the politicians to do the job for them. The patronising implication of the republicanism on offer seemed to be that the electorate could not be trusted to choose an appropriate figure as head of state. The fact is that the republican model put before voters was simply not democratic enough for an electorate with a long and proud tradition of parliamentary democracy. For this reason the debate is unlikely to vanish now that the referendum has been held. It is linked to feelings of nationhood and a sense of the country's place in the world, both issues that Australians do not appear to have fully resolved. Under the premiership of Paul Keating, the nation attempted to regard itself as linked more to Asia than the West. After the country's experiences in East Timor, and the hostility to what some described as Australian imperialism, that view may have to be revised. Indeed, under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, John Howard, it already has been. What is certain is that it is only a matter of time before Australians vote to sever constitutional links with Britain. It is just a question of when voters are offered a truly democratic alternative to selecting their head of state.