Praise and playtime for royals in Canberra

CANBERRA - Britain's Prince William and wife Catherine visited children at a playground and received warm praise from Australia's monarchist prime minister in the capital Canberra on Thursday, the penultimate day of their royal tour.

Tony Abbott, born in England and an ardent admirer of the Windsors, held a packed reception in parliament's Great Hall on what he said was the 50th British royal visit to the continent and would be "remembered as one of the very best." The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave Australia on Friday after a nearly three-week tour which began in New Zealand.

"With young children and with teenagers, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, with indigenous people, with Australians in all our diversity who have flocked to royal events, your dedication to all your future realms, Sir, and your grace and warmth, Ma'am, have been abundantly on display," Abbott told the couple.

"You have taken such obvious pleasure in this visit and that warmth has been amply reciprocated by the Australian people amongst whom you will always be most welcome.

"This visit has meant a lot to millions of Australians. Thank you for the joy you have given us," the prime minister said.

William in turn thanked Australians for their "warmth and generosity" during the tour, and joked about one of the soft toys received by his nine-month-old son Prince George.

"We go away with wonderful memories and George goes away with his cuddly wombat which he has taken to chewing so lovingly." Before the grand reception, the couple planted an English oak at the National Arboretum close to the Pod Playground in the capital.

Prince George was not brought along but Kate enthusiastically joined the youngsters at play, stooping to enter one of the giant pods.

Children - among 50 winners out of a ballot of 12,500 - lined up to hand over gifts and as one girl offered another soft toy, the duchess asked, "Is that for George?".

"His cot's going to be full of little teddy bears".

The royal couple will attend the Anzac Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Friday before flying home.