Mr. Smith proposed dropping the restrictions in April amid the fallout from a series of military scandals at home and abroad. In the most notorious case a male cadet at the elite Australian Defense Force Academy was caught streaming video of himself having sex with a female cadet to his friends via Skype without her knowledge. The move is supported by Prime Minster Julia Gillard, the country’s first female leader.
“We have an Australian Army that’s been going for 110 years, an Australian Navy that’s been going formally for 100 years, and an Australian Air Force that’s been going for 90 years, and last night, we resolved to remove the final restrictions on the capacity of women to serve in frontline combat roles,” Mr. Smith said in the capital, Canberra. “In the future, your role in the defense force will be determined on your ability, not on the basis of your sex.”
Women already play a significant role in the Australian military, which sent more than 2,000 troops to fight in Iraq and currently makes up the largest contingent of any non-NATO member fighting in Afghanistan.