Australia Considers Women in Combat

Australia's prime minister will consider a Defense Department report that recommended allowing women in combat if they meet the physical standards applied to male soldiers, a newspaper said Sunday.

"The report says there is no medical reason for women to be excluded from combat roles as long as they are of the same height, weight and fitness levels as the men," the Sunday Telegraph quoted a department official as saying. "Women can do anything men do."

Prime Minister John Howard said his government would consider the proposal, the newspaper reported. He said 95% of defense force positions are already open to women.

"I'm regularly flown by very talented female pilots in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force). I think they're terrific," Howard said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Scott said the government would have to consider the physical and practical aspects of the issue, as well as public opinion.

Currently, women in the Australian armed forces can carry weapons only for self-defense. Those rules were challenged by a three-year study carried out by the army's directorate of career management.

People's Daily Online ---