Australian PM backs royal succession change

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has thrown her support behind David Cameron's plans to scrap the archaic laws of royal succession for the British throne.

The British prime minister has proposed changing the tradition that gives the first male heir precedence over his elder sisters, calling it "an anomaly".

He has written to the leaders of the 15 other Commonwealth realms which have Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state to propose allowing first-born daughters and heirs who marry Catholics to inherit the throne.

The subject will be discussed on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth this week and Gillard, Australia's first female leader, said she was in favour of the changes.

"You would expect me, as the first female prime minister of our nation, to say I believe women are equal to men in all regards," she said late Monday.

"And consequently to say that I do support a change to the Act of Succession which would enable the person who succeeds to the throne to be the oldest child, irrespective of gender."

In Australia, any changes would require not just support from Gillard, but also the country's state premiers.

"So their views are important and I have already written to them canvassing their views," said Gillard.

There has been a reluctance to press the issue in the past due to the legal complexities and concern that tinkering with the rules may encourage republican movements.

But the debate was intensified by the April wedding of William, the second in line to the throne, while the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth's 60 years as monarch next year may also be a chance to rally support.

Any change requires the agreement of all the Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and smaller nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

© 2011 AFP

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