Australia-Oceania :: Australia

Introduction ::Australia

    Prehistoric settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia at least 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession of the east coast in the name of Great Britain (all of Australia was claimed as British territory in 1829 with the creation of the colony of Western Australia). Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the Allied effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has become an internationally competitive, advanced market economy due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s and its location in one of the fastest growing regions of the world economy. Long-term concerns include aging of the population, pressure on infrastructure, and environmental issues such as floods, droughts, and bushfires. Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, making it particularly vulnerable to the challenges of climate change. Australia is home to 10 per cent of the world's biodiversity, and a great number of its flora and fauna exist nowhere else in the world. In January 2013, Australia assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.

Geography ::Australia

    Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
    27 00 S, 133 00 E
    total: 7,741,220 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 6
    land: 7,682,300 sq km
    water: 58,920 sq km
    note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island
    slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states
    0 km
    25,760 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
    generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north
    mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast
    lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
    highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m
    bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, rare earth elements, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum
    note: Australia is the world's largest net exporter of coal accounting for 29% of global coal exports
    arable land: 6.16% (includes about 27 million hectares of cultivated grassland)
    permanent crops: 0.05%
    other: 93.79% (2011)
    25,460 sq km (2006)
    492 cu km (2011)
    total: 22.58 cu km/yr (27%/18%/55%)
    per capita: 1,152 cu m/yr (2010)
    cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires
    volcanism: volcanic activity on Heard and McDonald Islands
    soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; limited natural freshwater resources
    party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
    world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; the only continent without glaciers; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; the invigorating sea breeze known as the "Fremantle Doctor" affects the city of Perth on the west coast and is one of the most consistent winds in the world

People and Society ::Australia

Government ::Australia

    conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
    conventional short form: Australia
    federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
    name: Canberra
    geographic coordinates: 35 16 S, 149 08 E
    time difference: UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins first Sunday in October; ends first Sunday in April
    note: Australia is divided into three time zones
    6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia
    Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Macquarie Island, Norfolk Island
    1 January 1901 (from the federation of UK colonies)
    Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorates the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)
    9 July 1900; effective 1 January 1901
    common law system based on the English model
    accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal and compulsory
    chief of state: Queen of Australia ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Quentin BRYCE (since 5 September 2008)
    head of government: Prime Minister Kevin RUDD (since 27 June 2013); Deputy Prime Minister Anthony N. ALBANESE (since 27 June 2013)
    cabinet: prime minister nominates, from among members of Parliament, candidates who are subsequently sworn in by the governor general to serve as government ministers
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the governor general
    bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats; 12 members from each of the six states and 2 from each of the two mainland territories; one-half of state members are elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms while all territory members are elected every three years) and the House of Representatives (150 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than 5 representatives)
    elections: Senate - last held on 7 September 2013; House of Representatives - last held on 7 September 2013 (the latest a simultaneous half-Senate and House of Representative elections can be held is 30 November 2016)
    election results: Senate NA; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - Liberal/National Coalition 53.18%, Australian Labor Party 46.82%; seats by party - Liberal/National Coalition 90, Australian Labor Party 55, Australian Greens Party 1, Katter's Australian Party 1, Palmer United Party 1, independents 2
    highest court(s): High Court of Australia (consists of 7 justices, including the chief justice); note - each of the 6 states, 2 territories, and Norfolk Island has a Supreme Court; the High Court is the final appellate court beyond the state and territory supreme courts
    judge selection and term of office: justices appointed by the governor-general in council for life with mandatory retirement at age 70
    subordinate courts: subordinate courts at the federal level: Federal Court; Federal Magistrates' Courts of Australia; Family Court; subordinate courts at the state and territory level: Local Court - New South Wales; Magistrates' Courts – Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory; District Courts – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia; County Court – Victoria; Family Court – Western Australia; Court of Petty Sessions – Norfolk Island
    Australian Greens Party [Christine MILNE]
    Australian Labor Party [Kevin RUDD]
    Country Liberal Party [Terry MILLS]
    Family First Party [Steve FIELDING]
    Liberal National Party of Queensland [Campbell NEWMAN]
    Liberal Party [Tony ABBOTT]
    National Party of Australia [Warren TRUSS]
    other: business groups, environmental groups, social groups, trade unions
    ADB, ANZUS, APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CD, CP, EAS, EBRD, EITI (implementing country), FAO, FATF, G-20, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club, PCA, PIF, SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), Sparteca, SPC, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNMIT, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    chief of mission: Ambassador Kim Christian BEAZLEY
    chancery: 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
    telephone: [1] (202) 797-3000
    FAX: [1] (202) 797-3168
    consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco
    chief of mission: Ambassador Jeffrey L. BLEICH
    embassy: Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600
    mailing address: APO AP 96549
    telephone: [61] (02) 6214-5600
    FAX: [61] (02) 6214-5970
    consulate(s) general: Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
    blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth or Federation Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; on the fly half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small, five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars
    Southern Cross constellation (five, seven-pointed stars); kangaroo; emu
    name: "Advance Australia Fair"

    lyrics/music: Peter Dodds McCORMICK
    note: adopted 1984; although originally written in the late 19th century, the anthem did not become used for all official occasions until 1984; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" is also played at Royal functions (see United Kingdom)

Economy ::Australia

    The Australian economy has experienced continuous growth and features low unemployment, contained inflation, very low public debt, and a strong and stable financial system. By 2012, Australia had experienced more than 20 years of continued economic growth, averaging 3.5% a year. Demand for resources and energy from Asia and especially China has grown rapidly, creating a channel for resources investments and growth in commodity exports. The high Australian dollar has hurt the manufacturing sector, while the services sector is the largest part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 70% of GDP and 75% of jobs. Australia was comparatively unaffected by the global financial crisis as the banking system has remained strong and inflation is under control. Australia has benefited from a dramatic surge in its terms of trade in recent years, stemming from rising global commodity prices. Australia is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food. Australia's abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive reserves of coal, iron, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. A series of major investments, such as the US$40 billion Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas project, will significantly expand the resources sector. Australia is an open market with minimal restrictions on imports of goods and services. The process of opening up has increased productivity, stimulated growth, and made the economy more flexible and dynamic. Australia plays an active role in the World Trade Organization, APEC, the G20, and other trade forums. Australia has bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and the US, has a regional FTA with ASEAN and New Zealand, is negotiating agreements with China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, as well as with its Pacific neighbors and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and is also working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam.
    $986.7 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    $952.6 billion (2011 est.)
    $930 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $1.542 trillion (2012 est.)
    3.6% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 94
    2.4% (2011 est.)
    2.6% (2010 est.)
    $43,300 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    $42,400 (2011 est.)
    $41,900 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    25.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 42
    25.1% of GDP (2011 est.)
    24% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 54.9%
    government consumption: 18.2%
    investment in fixed capital: 28.5%
    investment in inventories: 0.4%
    exports of goods and services: 20.2%
    imports of goods and services: -21.3%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 4%
    industry: 27.3%
    services: 68.8% (2012 est.)
    wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry
    mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel
    3.6% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 78
    12.15 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    agriculture: 3.6%
    industry: 21.1%
    services: 75% (2009 est.)
    5.2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 48
    5.1% (2011 est.)
    lowest 10%: 2%
    highest 10%: 25.4% (1994)
    30.3 (2008)
    country comparison to the world: 114
    35.2 (1994)
    revenues: $498.1 billion
    expenditures: $541 billion (2012 est.)
    32.3% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    -2.8% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 110
    29.3% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 117
    26.6% of GDP (2011 est.)
    1 July - 30 June
    1.8% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 37
    3.3% (2011 est.)
    3% (February 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 82
    4.35% (31 December 2010 est.)
    note: this is the Reserve Bank of Australia's "cash rate target," or policy rate
    6.98% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 118
    7.74% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $534.8 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 10
    $475.9 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.708 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    $1.501 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $2.255 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 12
    $2.061 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.4 trillion (31 January 2013)
    country comparison to the world: 13
    $1.198 trillion (31 December 2011)
    $1.455 trillion (31 December 2010)
    -$47.1 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 186
    -$29.5 billion (2011 est.)
    $258.8 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 23
    $271.6 billion (2011 est.)
    coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
    China 29.5%, Japan 19.3%, South Korea 8%, India 4.9% (2012)
    $239.7 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 21
    $242.3 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
    China 18.2%, US 11.6%, Japan 7.8%, Singapore 5.9%, Germany 4.6%, Thailand 4.2%, South Korea 4% (2012)
    $49.22 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    $46.83 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.497 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 13
    $1.383 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $618.9 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    $552.8 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $426.5 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    $378.7 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
    0.9658 (2012 est.)
    0.9695 (2011 est.)
    1.0902 (2010)
    1.2822 (2009)
    1.2059 (2008)

Energy ::Australia

Communications ::Australia

    10.57 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    24.49 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 43
    general assessment: excellent domestic and international service
    domestic: domestic satellite system; significant use of radiotelephone in areas of low population density; rapid growth of mobile telephones
    international: country code - 61; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable with links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; the Southern Cross fiber optic submarine cable provides links to New Zealand and the United States; satellite earth stations - 10 Intelsat (4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean), 2 Inmarsat, 2 Globalstar, 5 other) (2007)
    the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) runs multiple national and local radio networks and TV stations, as well as Australia Network, a TV service that broadcasts throughout the Asia-Pacific region and is the main public broadcaster; Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), a second large public broadcaster, operates radio and TV networks broadcasting in multiple languages; several large national commercial TV networks, a large number of local commercial TV stations, and hundreds of commercial radio stations are accessible; cable and satellite systems are available (2008)
    17.081 million (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 8
    15.81 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 25

Transportation ::Australia

    480 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 16
    total: 349
    over 3,047 m: 11
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 14
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 155
    914 to 1,523 m: 155
    under 914 m: 14 (2013)
    total: 131
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 16
    914 to 1,523 m: 101
    under 914 m:
    14 (2013)
    1 (2013)
    condensate/gas 637 km; gas 30,054 km; liquid petroleum gas 240 km; oil 3,609 km; oil/gas/water 110 km; refined products 72 km (2013)
    total: 38,445 km
    country comparison to the world: 7
    broad gauge: 3,355 km 1.600-m gauge
    standard gauge: 21,674 km 1.435-m gauge (650 km electrified)
    narrow gauge: 9,539 km 1.067-m gauge (2,067 km electrified); 3,877 km 1.000-m gauge (2008)
    total: 823,217 km
    country comparison to the world: 9
    paved: 356,343 km
    unpaved: 466,874 km (2011)
    2,000 km (mainly used for recreation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems) (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 43
    total: 41
    country comparison to the world: 75
    by type: bulk carrier 8, cargo 7, liquefied gas 4, passenger 6, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 5, roll on/roll off 5
    foreign-owned: 17 (Canada 5, Germany 2, Singapore 2, South Africa 1, UK 5, US 2)
    registered in other countries: 25 (Bahamas 1, Dominica 1, Fiji 2, Liberia 1, Netherlands 1, Panama 4, Singapore 12, Tonga 1, UK 1, US 1) (2010)
    major seaport(s): Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Fremantle, Geelong, Gladstone, Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Adelaide, Port Kembla, Sydney
    dry bulk cargo port(s): Dampier (iron ore), Dalrymple Bay (coal), Hay Point (coal), Port Hedland (iron ore), Port Walcott (iron ore)
    container port(s) (TEUs): Brisbane (1,004,983), Melbourne (2,467,967), Sydney (2,028,074)(2011)

Military ::Australia

Transnational Issues ::Australia

    In 2007, Australia and Timor-Leste agreed to a 50-year development zone and revenue sharing arrangement and deferred a maritime boundary; Australia asserts land and maritime claims to Antarctica; Australia's 2004 submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) extends its continental margins over 3.37 million square kilometers, expanding its seabed roughly 30 percent beyond its claimed exclusive economic zone; all borders between Indonesia and Australia have been agreed upon bilaterally, but a 1997 treaty that would settle the last of their maritime and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary has yet to be ratified by Indonesia's legislature; Indonesian groups challenge Australia's claim to Ashmore Reef; Australia closed parts of the Ashmore and Cartier reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing
    refugees (country of origin): 7,192 (Afghanistan) (2012)
    Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of licit opiate products; government maintains strict controls over areas of opium poppy cultivation and output of poppy straw concentrate; major consumer of cocaine and amphetamines