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By Location > Visit Detail > Country Facts for Australia
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Map of Australia
IntroductionTop
Background: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 its 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 1990's, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980's. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
GeographyTop
Location:Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates:27 00 S, 133 00 E
Map references:Oceania
Area: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
Coastline: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

Climate:generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north
Terrain: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: 6.55% (includes about 27 million hectares of cultivated grassland)
permanent crops: 0.04%
other: 93.41% (2001)

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; the invigorating tropical 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
PeopleTop
Population:20,090,437 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 19.8% (male 2,038,809/female 1,943,563)
15-64 years: 67.2% (male 6,815,600/female 6,695,189)
65 years and over: 12.9% (male 1,145,274/female 1,452,002) (2005 est.)

Median age:total: 36.56 years
male: 35.74 years
female: 37.4 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:0.87% (2005 est.)
Birth rate:12.26 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Death rate:7.44 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Net migration rate:3.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 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 (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:total: 4.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:total population: 80.39 years
male: 77.52 years
female: 83.4 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate:1.76 children born/woman (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:14,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality:noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian

Ethnic groups:Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%
Religions:Catholic 26.4%, Anglican 20.5%, other Christian 20.5%, Buddhist 1.9%, Muslim 1.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 12.7%, none 15.3% (2001 Census)
Languages:English 79.1%, Chinese 2.1%, Italian 1.9%, other 11.1%, unspecified 5.8% (2001 Census)
Literacy:definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (1980 est.)

GovernmentTop
Country name:conventional long form: Commonwealth of Australia
conventional short form: Australia

Government type:democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign
Capital:Canberra
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, Macquarie Island
Independence:1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)
National holiday:Australia Day, 26 January (1788)
Constitution:9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901
Legal system:based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: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 JEFFERY (since 11 August 2003)
head of government: Prime Minister John Winston HOWARD (since 11 March 1996); Deputy Prime Minister Mark VAILE (since 6 July 2005)
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: 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 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 voting to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than five representatives)
elections: Senate - last held 9 October 2004 (next to be held no later than June 2008); House of Representatives - last held 9 October 2004 (next to be called no later than November 2007)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party (for session beginning on 1 July 2002) - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 35, Australian Labor Party 28, Australian Democrats 7, Green Party 2, One Nation Party 1, Australian Progressive Alliance 1, independent 2; (for session beginning on 1 July 2005) - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 39, Australian Labor Party 28, Democrats 4, Australian Greens 4, Family First Party 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - Liberal Party-National Party coalition 87, Australian Labor Party 60, independents 3

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 Labor Party [Kim BEAZLEY]; Australian Progressive Alliance [Meg LEES]; Australian Greens [Bob BROWN]; Liberal Party [John Winston HOWARD]; The Nationals [Mark VAILE]; One Nation Party [Len HARRIS]; Family First Party [Steve FIELDING]
International organization participation:ANZUS, APEC, ARF, AsDB, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CP, EBRD, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MIGA, NAM (guest), NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, Paris Club, PCA, PIF, Sparteca, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMEE, UNMISET, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, WToO, ZC
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
EconomyTop
Economy - overview:Australia has an enviable Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy, robust business and consumer confidence, and rising exports of raw materials and agricultural products are fueling the economy. Australia's emphasis on reforms, low inflation, and growing ties with China are other key factors behind the economy's strength. The impact of drought, weak foreign demand, and strong import demand pushed the trade deficit up from $8 billion in 2002, to $18 billion in 2003, and to $13 billion in 2004. One other concern is the rapid increase in domestic housing prices, which have raised the prospect that interest rates will need to be raised to prevent a speculative bubble.
GDP:purchasing power parity - $611.7 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:3.5% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:purchasing power parity - $30,700 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:agriculture: 3.4%
industry: 28.2%
services: 68.4% (2004 est.)

Labor force:10.35 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:agriculture 3.6%, industry 26.4%, services 70% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate:5.1% (December 2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:NA
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):2.3% (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):25.3% of GDP (2004 est.)
Budget:revenues: $222.7 billion
expenditures: $221.7 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (2004 est.)

Public debt:17.4% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products:wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry
Industries:mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel
Industrial production growth rate:1.9% (2004 est.)
Electricity - production:210.3 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - production by source:fossil fuel: 90.8%
hydro: 8.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.9% (2001)

Electricity - consumption:195.6 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - exports:0 kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:0 kWh (2002)
Oil - production:537,500 bbl/day (2004 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)
Current account balance:$-38.3 billion (2004 est.)
Exports:$86.89 billion (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
Exports - partners:Japan 18.6%, China 9.2%, US 8.1%, South Korea 7.7%, New Zealand 7.4%, India 4.6%, UK 4.2% (2004)
Imports:$98.1 billion (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
Imports - partners:US 14.8%, China 12.7%, Japan 11.8%, Germany 5.8%, Singapore 4.4%, UK 4.1% (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:$35.14 billion (2004 est.)
Debt - external:$308.7 billion (3rd quarter, 2004 est.)
Economic aid - donor:ODA, $894 million (FY99/00)
Currency (code):Australian dollar (AUD)
Currency code:AUD
Exchange rates:Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.3598 (2004), 1.5419 (2003), 1.8406 (2002), 1.9334 (2001), 1.7248 (2000)
Fiscal year:1 July - 30 June
CommunicationsTop
Telephones - main lines in use:10.815 million (2003)
Telephones - mobile cellular:14.347 million (2003)
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)
Radios:25.5 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:104 (1997)
Televisions:10.15 million (1997)
Internet country code:.au
Internet hosts:2,847,763 (2003)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):571 (2002)
Internet users:9.472 million (2002)
TransportationTop
Railways:total: 54,439 km (3859 km electrified)
broad gauge: 5,434 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 34,110 km 1.435-m gauge (1,397 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 14,895 km 1.067-m gauge (2,462 km electrified)
dual gauge: 213 km dual gauge (2004)

Highways:total: 811,603 km
paved: 314,090 km (including 18,619 km of expressways)
unpaved: 497,513 km (1999 est.)

Waterways:2,000 km (mainly used for recreation on Murray and Murray-Darling river systems) (2004)
Pipelines:condensate/gas 492 km; gas 28,680 km; liquid petroleum gas 240 km; oil 4,773 km; oil/gas/water 110 km (2004)
Ports and harbors:Brisbane, Dampier, Fremantle, Gladstone, Hay Point, Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Hedland, Port Kembla, Port Walcott, Sydney
Merchant marine:total: 55 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,531,461 GRT/1,999,409 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 16, cargo 7, chemical tanker 3, container 1, liquefied gas 4, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 8, roll on/roll off 5
foreign-owned: 16 (France 1, Germany 3, Japan 1, Philippines 1, Saudi Arabia 1, United Kingdom 2, United States 7)
registered in other countries: 35 (2005)

Airports:448 (2004 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:total: 305
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
1,524 to 2,437 m: 131
914 to 1,523 m: 139
under 914 m: 13 (2004 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:total: 143
1,524 to 2,437 m: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 112
under 914 m: 14 (2004 est.)

MilitaryTop
Military branches:Australian Defense Force (ADF): Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Special Operations Command
Military manpower - military age and obligation:16 years of age for voluntary service (2001)
Military manpower - availability:males age 16-49: 4,943,676 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:males age 16-49: 4,092,717 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:males: 142,158 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:$16.65 billion (2004)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:2.7% (2004)
Transnational IssuesTop
Disputes - international:East Timor and Australia continue to meet but disagree over how to delimit a permanent maritime boundary and share unexploited petroleum resources that fall outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area covered by the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty; East Timor dispute hampers creation of a revised maritime boundary with Indonesia (see also Ashmore and Cartier Islands dispute); regional states express concern over Australia's 2004 declaration of a 1,000-nautical mile-wide maritime indentification zone; Australia asserts land and maritime claims to Antarctica (see Antarctica); in 2004 Australia submitted claims to UNCLOS to extend its continental margin from both its mainland and Antarctic claims
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



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