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Introduction Australia
Australia became a commonwealth of the British Empire in 1901. It was able to take advantage of its natural resources 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:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 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
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, Nuclear Test Ban, 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
19,546,792 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 20.4% (male 2,046,052; female 1,949,725)
15-64 years: 67% (male 6,610,840; female 6,480,354)
65 years and over: 12.6% (male 1,078,506; female 1,381,315) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.96% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
12.71 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
7.25 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
4.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 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: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
4.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80 years
female: 83 years (2002 est.)
male: 77.15 years
Total fertility rate:
1.77 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.15% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
14,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
100 (1999 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 ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter HOLLINGWORTH (since 29 June 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister John Winston HOWARD (since 11 March 1996); Deputy Prime Minister John ANDERSON (since 20 July 1999)
cabinet: Cabinet Parliament nominates, from among its members, a list of candidates to serve as government ministers; from this list, the governor general makes the final selections for the Cabinet
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed 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 November 2004); House of Representatives - last held 10 November 2001 (next to be held by November 2004)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 35, Australian Labor Party 28, Australian Democrats 8, Green Party 2, One Nation Party 1, Country Labor Party 1, independent 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 82, Australian Labor Party 65, 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 [Simon CREAN]; Country Labor Party [leader NA]; Australian Greens [Bob BROWN]; Liberal Party [John Winston HOWARD]; National Party [John ANDERSON]; One Nation Party [Pauline HANSON]
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; 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. Canberra's emphasis on reforms is another key factor behind the economy's strength. The stagnant economic conditions in major export partners and the impact of the worst drought in 100 years cast a shadow over prospects for 2003.
purchasing power parity - $528 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
3.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $27,000 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 26%
services: 71% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 25% (1994)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
35 (1994)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.8% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
9.2 million (December 2001 )
Labor force - by occupation:
services 73%, industry 22%, agriculture 5% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate:
6.3% (2002)
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:
4.3% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
202.68 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 90%
hydro: 8%
other: 2% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
188.49 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry
$66.3 billion (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
Exports - partners:
Developing countries 45.6%, Japan 19.7%, ASEAN 13.3%, EU 11.7%, US 9.7% (2001)
$68 billion (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
Imports - partners:
Developing countries 31.7%, EU 21.6%, US 18.9%, ASEAN 14.8%, Japan 13.0% (2001)
Debt - external:
$176.8 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $894 million (FY99/00 )
Australian dollar (AUD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.9354 (January 2002), 1.9320 (2001), 1.7173 (2000), 1.5497 (1999), 1.5888 (1998), 1.3439 (1997)
Fiscal year:
1 July - 30 June
Communications Australia
Telephones - main lines in use:
10.05 million (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
8.6 million (2000)
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: 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 Service Providers (ISPs):
571 (2002)
Internet users:
10.63 million (2002)
Transportation Australia
total: 33,819 km (2,540 km electrified)
broad gauge: 3,719 km 1.600-m gauge
narrow gauge: 14,506 km 1.067-m gauge
standard gauge: 15,422 km 1.435-m gauge
dual gauge: 172 km NA gauges (1999 est.)
total: 913,000 km
paved: 353,331 km (including 1,363 km of expressways)
unpaved: 559,669 km (1996)
8,368 km (mainly used by small, shallow-draft craft)
crude oil 2,500 km; petroleum products 500 km; natural gas 5,600 km
Ports and harbors:
Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport (Tasmania), Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart (Tasmania), Launceston (Tasmania), Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville
Merchant marine:
total: 55 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,469,362 GRT/1,869,262 DWT
ships by type: bulk 26, cargo 5, chemical tanker 4, container 1, liquefied gas 4, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 7, roll on/roll off 6, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: France 2, United Kingdom 2, United States 14 (2002 est.)
421 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 294
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
1,524 to 2,437 m: 126
914 to 1,523 m: 134
under 914 m: 13 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 150
1,524 to 2,437 m: 20
914 to 1,523 m: 116
under 914 m: 14 (2002)
Military Australia
Military branches:
Royal Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force
Military manpower - military age:
17 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,013,406 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,321,387 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 142,686 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$9.3 billion (FY01/02 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2% (FY01/02)
Transnational Issues Australia
Disputes - international:
Australia-East Timor-Indonesia are working to resolve maritime boundary and sharing of seabed resources in "Timor Gap"; Australia asserts a territorial claim to Antarctica and to its continental shelf
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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003