Penny Wong has been elected unopposed as leader of the Australian Senate.

It makes her the third most powerful politician in Australia after the prime minister and deputy PM.

On 13 September 2010, she was sworn in as Minister for Finance and Deregulation in Julia Gillard’s cabinet.

She became the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate in February.

Ms Wong, a mother of one, first announced her support for equal marriage in November 2010.

Julia Gillard, a firm opponent of marriage equality, announced her resignation as Australia’s prime minister earlier on Wednesday after losing a leadership ballot to former Labor leader and prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd announced his support for equal marriage in May, having previously been against it.

LGBT campaigners have welcomed news of Ms Gillard’s political demise – although political commentators believe the Liberal Party, headed by equal marriage opponent Tony Abbott, is still likely to oust Labor in September’s federal election.

Mr Abbott refuses to allow his Liberal MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality, which makes implementing the reform unlikely in the near future.