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Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession in the name of Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources in order to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. A referendum to change Australia's status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to a republic, was defeated in 1999.
Geography Australia
Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates:
27 00 S, 133 00 E
Map references:
total: 7,686,850 sq km
water: 68,920 sq km
note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island
land: 7,617,930 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states
Land boundaries:
0 km
25,760 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
contiguous zone: 24 NM
generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north
mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m
Natural resources:
bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum
Land use:
arable land: 6.88%
permanent crops: 0.03%
other: 93.09% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
24,000 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires
Environment - current issues:
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 fresh water resources
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, 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: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer
People Australia
19,913,144 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 20.1% (male 2,044,449; female 1,948,574)
15-64 years: 67.2% (male 6,747,687; female 6,623,995)
65 years and over: 12.8% (male 1,121,522; female 1,426,917) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 36.3 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 37.1 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.9% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
12.4 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
7.38 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
3.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 5.16 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.26 years
male: 77.4 years
female: 83.27 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.76 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
12,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2001 est.)
noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian
Ethnic groups:
Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%
Anglican 26.1%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%, other 12.6%
English, native languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (1980 est.)
Government Australia
Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
conventional short form: Australia
Government type:
democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign
Administrative divisions:
6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia
Dependent areas:
Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island
1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)
National holiday:
Australia Day, 26 January (1788)
9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901
Legal system:
based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen of Australia ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Michael JEFFREY (since 11 August 2003)
head of government: Prime Minister John Winston HOWARD (since 11 March 1996); Deputy Prime Minister John ANDERSON (since 20 July 1999)
cabinet: Parliament nominates and selects, from among its members, a list of candidates to serve as government ministers; from this list, the governor general swears in the final selections for the Cabinet
elections: none; the monarch 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
note: government coalition - Liberal Party and National Party
Legislative branch:
bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats - 12 from each of the six states and two from each of the two mainland territories; one-half of the members elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives (150 seats - this is up from 148 seats in 2001 election; members elected by popular vote on the basis of preferential representation to serve three-year terms; no state can have fewer than five representatives)
elections: Senate - last held 10 November 2001 (next to be held by NA February 2005); House of Representatives - last held 10 November 2001 (next to be held by NA February 2005)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 34, Australian Labor Party 28, Australian Democrats 7, Green Party 2, One Nation Party 1, Country Liberal Party 1, independent 3; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 81, Australian Labor Party 64, Green Party 1, Country Liberal Party 1, independent and other 3
Judicial branch:
High Court (the chief justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general)
Political parties and leaders:
Australian Democrats [Andrew BARTLETT]; Australian Labor Party [Mark LATHAM]; Australian Progressive Alliance [Meg LEES]; Country Liberal Party [Paul BUNKER]; Australian Greens [Bob BROWN]; Liberal Party [John Winston HOWARD]; The Nationals [John ANDERSON]; One Nation Party [Len HARRIS]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Australian Monarchist League [leader NA]; Australian Republican Movement [leader NA]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Michael J. THAWLEY
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
FAX: [1] (202) 797-3168
telephone: [1] (202) 797-3000
chancery: 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador J. Thomas SCHIEFFER
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
Flag description:
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 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; the remaining half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars
Economy Australia
Economy - overview:
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy has been offsetting the global slump, and business and consumer confidence remains robust. Australia's emphasis on reforms is another key factor behind the economy's strength. The impact of drought, weak foreign demand, and strong import demand pushed the trade deficit up to $14 billion in 2003 from $5 billion in 2002.
purchasing power parity - $570.3 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.8% (2003 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $28,900 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 25%
services: 72% (2003 est.)
Population below poverty line:
NA% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 25.4% (1994)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
35.2 (1994)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.7% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
9.2 million (37256)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 73%, industry 22%, agriculture 5% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate:
6.1% (2003)
revenues: $86.8 billion
expenditures: $84.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY00/01 est.)
mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel
Industrial production growth rate:
1.1% (2003 est.)
Electricity - production:
198.2 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 90.8%
hydro: 8.3%
other: 0.9% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
184.4 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
731,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
796,500 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
523,400 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
530,800 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - proved reserves:
3.664 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
33.08 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
23.33 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
9.744 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
2.407 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry
$68.67 billion (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
Exports - partners:
Japan 18.5%, US 9.6%, South Korea 8.3%, China 6.9%, New Zealand 6.5%, UK 4.7%, Singapore 4.1%, Taiwan 4% (2002)
$82.91 billion (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
Imports - partners:
US 18.3%, Japan 12.3%, China 10.1%, Germany 5.7%, UK 4.6% (2002)
Debt - external:
$193 billion (2003 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $894 million (FY99/00)
Australian dollar (AUD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.54 (2003), 1.84 (2002), 1.93 (2001), 1.72 (2000), 1.55 (1999)
Fiscal year:
1 July - 30 June
Communications Australia
Telephones - main lines in use:
10.59 million (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
12.579 million (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international service
domestic: domestic satellite system; much use of radiotelephone in areas of low population density; rapid growth of mobile cellular telephones
international: country code - 61; submarine cables to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia; satellite earth stations - 10 Intelsat (4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean), 2 Inmarsat (Indian and Pacific Ocean regions) (1998)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 262, FM 345, shortwave 1 (1998)
25.5 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
104 (1997)
10.15 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
2,564,339 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
571 (2002)
Internet users:
9.472 million (2002)
Transportation Australia
total: 44,015 km (5,290 km electrified)
broad gauge: 1,957 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 27,095 km 1.435-m gauge (2,828 km electrified)
dual gauge: 213 km dual gauge (2003)
narrow gauge: 14,957 km 1.067-m gauge (2,462 km electrified)
total: 811,603 km
paved: 314,090 km (including 18,619 km of expressways)
unpaved: 497,513 km (1999 est.)
8,368 km (mainly used by small, shallow-draft craft)
condensate 36 km; condensate/gas 243 km; gas 27,321 km; liquid petroleum gas 240 km; oil 4,779 km; oil/gas/water 104 km; water 40 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport (Tasmania), Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart (Tasmania), Launceston (Tasmania), Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville
Merchant marine:
total: 52 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,531,461 GRT/1,999,409 DWT
foreign-owned: United Kingdom 2, United States 12
registered in other countries: 60 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 20, cargo 5, chemical tanker 3, combination bulk 2, container 3, liquefied gas 4, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 7, roll on/roll off 6
444 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 297
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
1,524 to 2,437 m: 129
914 to 1,523 m: 133
under 914 m: 13 (2003 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 147
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 116
under 914 m: 14 (2003 est.)
Military Australia
Military branches:
Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, new Special Operations Command (announced in December 2002)
Military manpower - military age:
17 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,061,810 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,356,671 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 140,182 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$14,120.1 million (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.8% (2003)
Transnational Issues Australia
Disputes - international:
the 1999 maritime delimitation established partial maritime boundaries with East Timor over part of the Timor Gap but temporary resource-sharing agreements over an unreconciled area grant Australia 90% share of exploited gas reserves and hamper creation of a southern maritime boundary with Indonesia (see Ashmore and Cartier Islands disputes); Australia asserts a territorial claim to Antarctica and to its continental shelf (see Antarctica)
Illicit drugs:
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