Introduction    Australia Top of Page
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 territorial 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 took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns include climate-change issues such as the depletion of the ozone layer and more frequent droughts, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
   Geography    Australia Top of Page
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
land: 7,617,930 sq km
water: 68,920 sq km
note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states
Land boundaries:
0 km
25,760 km
Maritime claims:
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
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
note: Australia is the world's largest net exporter of coal accounting for 29% of global coal exports
Land use:
arable land: 6.15% (includes about 27 million hectares of cultivated grassland)
permanent crops: 0.04%
other: 93.81% (2005)
Irrigated land:
25,450 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
398 cu km (1995)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 24.06 cu km/yr (15%/10%/75%)
per capita: 1,193 cu m/yr (2000)
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, 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
Geography - note:
world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; 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    Australia Top of Page
21,262,641 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 18.6% (male 2,026,975/female 1,923,828)
15-64 years: 67.9% (male 7,318,743/female 7,121,613)
65 years and over: 13.5% (male 1,306,329/female 1,565,153) (2009 est.)
Median age:
total: 37.3 years
male: 36.6 years
female: 38.1 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.195% (2009 est.)
Birth rate:
12.47 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate:
6.68 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
6.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
urban population: 89% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 81.63 years
male: 79.25 years
female: 84.14 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.78 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
18,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 200 (2007 est.)
noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian
Ethnic groups:
white 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%
Catholic 25.8%, Anglican 18.7%, Uniting Church 5.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 3%, Eastern Orthodox 2.7%, other Christian 7.9%, Buddhist 2.1%, Muslim 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 11.3%, none 18.7% (2006 Census)
English 78.5%, Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2%, Vietnamese 1%, other 8.2%, unspecified 5.7% (2006 Census)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 20 years
male: 20 years
female: 21 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
4.5% of GDP (2005)
   Government    Australia Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
conventional short form: Australia
Government type:
federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
name: Canberra
geographic coordinates: 35 17 S, 149 13 E
time difference: UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in October; ends last Sunday in March
note: Australia is divided into three time zones
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, Macquarie Island, Norfolk Island
1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)
National holiday:
Australia Day, 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorated as 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
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 Quentin BRYCE (since 5 September 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister Kevin RUDD (since 3 December 2007); Deputy Prime Minister Julia GILLARD (since 3 December 2007)
cabinet: prime minister nominates, from among members of Parliament, candidates who are subsequently sworn in by the governor general to serve as government ministers
elections: 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
Legislative branch:
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 preferential vote to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than 5 representatives)
elections: Senate - last held 24 November 2007 (next to be held no later than 2010); House of Representatives - last held 24 November 2007 (next to be called no later than 2010)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 37, Australian Labor Party 32, Australian Greens 5, Family First Party 1, independent 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Australian Labor Party 83, Liberal Party 55, National Party 10, independents 2
Judicial branch:
High Court (the chief justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general)
Political parties and leaders:
Australian Democrats [Lyn ALLISON]; Australian Greens [Bob BROWN]; Australian Labor Party [Kevin RUDD]; Country Liberal Party [Terry MILLS]; Family First Party [Steve FIELDING]; Liberal Party [Malcolm TURNBULL]; The Nationals [Warren TRUSS]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
other: business groups; environmental groups; social groups; trade unions
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dennis J. RICHARDSON
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
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert D. McCALLUM, Jr.
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 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
   Economy    Australia Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Australia has an enviable, strong economy with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Emphasis on reforms, low inflation, a housing market boom, and growing ties with China have been key factors over the course of the economy's 17 solid years of expansion. Robust business and consumer confidence and high export prices for raw materials and agricultural products fueled the economy in recent years, particularly in mining states. Drought, robust import demand, and a strong currency pushed the trade deficit up however, while infrastructure bottlenecks and a tight labor market constrained growth in export volumes and stoked inflation through mid-2008. The unwinding of the yen-based carry trade in late 2008 has contributed to a weakening of the Australian dollar. Tight global liquidity has challenged Australia's banking sector, which relies heavily on international wholesale markets for funding. The economy remains relatively healthy despite falling export commodity prices. The government plans to counter slowing growth in 2009 with fiscal stimulus efforts.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$800.5 billion (2008 est.)
$783.2 billion (2007)
$753.1 billion (2006)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.069 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.2% (2008 est.)
4% (2007 est.)
2.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$38,100 (2008 est.)
$37,700 (2007 est.)
$36,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.5%
industry: 26.4%
services: 71.1% (2008 est.)
Labor force:
11.21 million (2008 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 3.6%
industry: 21.1%
services: 75% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate:
4.5% (2008 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 25.4% (1994)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
30.5 (2006)
Investment (gross fixed):
27.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
revenues: $343.6 billion
expenditures: $340.7 billion (2008 est.)
Public debt:
15.4% of GDP
note: the Commonwealth government eliminated its net debt in 2006, but continues a gross debt issue to support the market for risk-free securities (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
4.7% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
10.02% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money:
$298.5 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:
$667.2 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$1.312 trillion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.298 trillion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits, cattle, sheep, poultry
mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel
Industrial production growth rate:
3.5% (2008 est.)
Electricity - production:
244.2 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
220 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
600,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
966,200 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - exports:
337,400 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports:
615,000 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves:
1.5 billion bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas - production:
43.62 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
29.4 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
19.91 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
5.689 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
849.5 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance:
-$43.84 billion (2008 est.)
$178.9 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
Exports - partners:
Japan 18.9%, China 14.2%, South Korea 8%, US 6%, NZ 5.6%, India 5.5%, UK 4.2% (2007)
$187.2 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
Imports - partners:
China 15.5%, US 12.8%, Japan 9.6%, Singapore 5.6%, Germany 5.2%, UK 4.3%, Thailand 4.2% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$25.75 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.032 trillion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$333.1 billion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$301.1 billion (2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar - 1.2059 (2008 est.), 1.2137 (2007), 1.3285 (2006), 1.3095 (2005), 1.3598 (2004)
   Communications    Australia Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
9.76 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
21.26 million (2007)
Telephone system:
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 cellular 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 - 19 (10 Intelsat - 4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean, 2 Inmarsat - Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, 2 Globalstar, 5 other) (2007)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 262, FM 345, shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
104 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
11.134 million (2008)
Internet users:
11.24 million (2007)
   Transportation    Australia Top of Page
462 (2008)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 322
over 3,047 m: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
1,524 to 2,437 m: 144
914 to 1,523 m: 141
under 914 m: 14 (2008)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 140
1,524 to 2,437 m: 19
914 to 1,523 m: 107
under 914 m: 14 (2008)
1 (2007)
gas 27,105 km; liquid petroleum gas 240 km; oil 3,258 km; oil/gas/water 1 km (2008)
total: 38,550 km
broad gauge: 3,727 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 20,519 km 1.435-m gauge (1,877 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 14,074 km 1.067-m gauge (2,453 km electrified)
dual gauge: 230 km dual gauge (2006)
total: 812,972 km
paved: 341,448 km
unpaved: 471,524 km (2004)
2,000 km (mainly used for recreation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems) (2006)
Merchant marine:
total: 50
by type: bulk carrier 12, cargo 5, chemical tanker 1, container 1, liquefied gas 4, passenger 7, passenger/cargo 7, petroleum tanker 8, roll on/roll off 5
foreign-owned: 24 (Canada 9, France 1, Germany 2, Japan 1, Netherlands 2, Norway 1, Singapore 1, UK 5, US 2)
registered in other countries: 28 (Antigua and Barbuda 1, Belize 1, Bermuda 1, Dominica 2, Fiji 1, Marshall Islands 1, NZ 1, Panama 4, Singapore 12, Tonga 1, US 1, Vanuatu 2) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Brisbane, Dampier, Fremantle, Gladstone, Hay Point, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Hedland, Port Kembla, Port Walcott, Sydney
   Military    Australia Top of Page
Military branches:
Australian Defense Force (ADF): Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Special Operations Command (2006)
Military service age and obligation:
17 years of age for voluntary military service (with parental consent); no conscription; women allowed to serve in Army combat units in non-combat support roles (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 4,999,988
females age 16-49: 4,870,043 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 4,341,591
females age 16-49: 4,179,659 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 144,959
female: 137,333 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures:
2.4% of GDP (2006)
   Transnational Issues    Australia Top of Page
Disputes - international:
Timor-Leste and Australia agreed in 2005 to defer the disputed portion of the boundary for 50 years and to split hydrocarbon revenues evenly outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area covered by the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty; dispute with Timor-Leste hampers creation of a revised maritime boundary with Indonesia in the Timor Sea; regional states continue to express concern over Australia's 2004 declaration of a 1,000-nautical mile-wide maritime identification zone; Australia asserts land and maritime claims to Antarctica; in 2004 Australia submitted its claims to Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to extend its continental margins covering over 3.37 million square kilometers, expanding its seabed roughly 30 percent more than its claimed exclusive economic zone; since 2003, Australia has led the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to maintain civil and political order and reinforce regional security
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; major consumer of cocaine and amphetamines

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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