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Commonwealth of Australia

CAPITAL: Canberra

FLAG: The flag has three main features: the red, white, and blue Union Jack in the upper left quarter, indicating Australia's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations; the white five-star Southern Cross in the right half; and the white seven-pointed federal star below the Union Jack. The flag has a blue ground. Of the five stars of the Southern Cross, four have seven points and one has five points.

ANTHEM: God Save the Queen is reserved for regal and state occasions and whenever singing is appropriate; the national tune is Advance Australia Fair.

MONETARY UNIT: The Australian dollar (a$) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 and 2 dollars, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars. a$1 = us$0.76336 (us$1 = a$1.31) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Metric weights and measures are used. The Australian proof gallon equals 1.37 US proof gallons.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Australia Day, last Monday in January; Anzac Day, 25 April; Queen's Birthday, second Monday in June; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Numerous state holidays also are observed. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Saturday, and Easter Monday.

TIME: Western Australia, 8 pm = noon GMT; South Australia and Northern Territory, 9:30 pm; Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, 10 pm. Summer time is 1 hour later in all states except Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory.


Lying southeast of Asia, between the Pacific and Indian oceans, Australia, the world's smallest continent, is almost completely surrounded by ocean expanses. Australia is slightly smaller than the United States, with a total area of 7,686,850 sq km (2,967,909 sq mi). The five mainland states are New South Wales, 801,600 sq km (309,500 sq mi); Queensland, 1,727,200 sq km (666,900 sq mi); South Australia, 984,000 sq km (379,900 sq mi); Victoria, 227,600 sq km (87,900 sq mi); and Western Australia, 2,525,500 sq km (975,100 sq mi). The island state of Tasmania has an area of 67,800 sq km (26,200 sq mi); the Northern Territory, 1,346,200 sq km (519,800 sq mi); and the Australian Capital Territory, 2,400 sq km (900 sq mi). The country, including Tasmania, extends about 4,000 km (2,500 mi) ew and 3,180 km (1,980 mi) ns.

Australia is bounded on the n by the Timor and Arafura seas, on the ne by the Coral Sea, on the e by the Pacific Ocean, on the se by the Tasman Sea, and on the s and w by the Indian Ocean, with a total coastline of 25,760 km (16,007 mi). Neighboring areas include Irian Jaya (part of Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea to the north, New Zealand to the southeast, and Indonesia to the northwest.

Australia's capital city, Canberra, is located in the southeastern part of the country.


The continent of Australia is divided into four general topographic regions: (1) a low, sandy eastern coastal plain; (2) the eastern highlands, ranging from 300 to more than 2,100 m (1,0007,000 ft) in altitude and extending from Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland southward to Tasmania; (3) the central plains, consisting largely of a north-south series of drainage basins, including the Great Artesian Basin, which underlies about 1,751,480 sq km (676,250 sq mi) of territory and is the most extensive area of internal drainage in the world; and (4) the western plateau, covered with great deserts and "bigger plains" (regularly spaced sand ridges and rocky wastes), rising 300 to 600 m (1,0002,000 ft) high and constituting most of the western half of the continent.

Australian mountains have eroded over recent geological periods, and only about 6% of the continent is above 600 m (2,000 ft); the average elevation is less than 300 m (1,000 ft). The highest point is Mt. Kosciusko, 2,228 m (7,310 ft), in the Australian Alps of the southeastern corner of New South Wales; the lowest point is Lake Eyre in South Australia, 15 m (49 ft) below sea level. In 1983, grains of rock from Western Australia were dated at 4.14.2 billion years old, making them the oldest ever found on earth.

The most important river system, and the only one with a permanent, year-round flow, is formed by the Murray, Darling, and Murrumbidgee rivers in the southeast. The Murray River, Australia's largest, rises in the Australian Alps of New South Wales and flows some 2,600 km (1,600 mi) west and southwest to empty into the sea below Adelaide, South Australia. Several other rivers are important, but for the most part they carry great amounts of water in the wet season and are dry for the rest of the year. The largest lakes have no outlet and are usually dry. The coastline is smooth, with few bays or capes. The two largest sea inlets are the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, between Arnhem Land and the Cape York Peninsula, and the Great Australian Bight in the south. The Great Barrier Reef, the longest coral reef in the world, extends for about 2,000 km (1,243 mi) off the east coast of Queensland.


Although it has a wide diversity of climatic conditions, Australia is generally warm and dry, with no extreme cold and little frost, its temperatures ranging from comfortably mild in the south to hot in the central interior and north. July mean temperatures average 9°c (48°f) in Melbourne in the southeast and 25°c (77°f) in Darwin in the north. January mean temperatures average 20°c (68°f) in Melbourne and 30°c (86°f) in Darwin. Summer readings often reach 38°c (100°f) or more in almost any area of the continent and may exceed 46°c (115°f) in interior regions. Winds are light to moderate, except along the coasts, where severe cyclones have occurred. On 25 December 1974, a cyclone and flood devastated most of Darwin; at least 49 people were killed, and some 20,000 were left homeless.

The continent is subject to great variations in rainfall, but except for a few areas rainfall is insufficient, and the rate of evaporation is high. Mean annual rainfall is 42 cm (17 in), much less than the world mean of 66 cm (26 in). About 18% of the land area is desert. Only about 20% has more than 76 cm (30 in) of rain annually, but these areas suffer from a long dry season, while others have too much rain. Only Tasmania, Victoria, and parts of New South Wales have enough rainfall all year round. Droughts and floods occur irregularly but frequently over large areas. Drought conditions became very severe in the early 1980s, leading to dust storms, fires, and multibillion-dollar crop losses. Again in 199495, a severe drought devastated eastern agricultural regions.


Many distinctive forms of plant and animal life are found, especially in the coastal and tropical areas. There are some 500 species of eucalyptus and 600 species of acacia (wattle). Other outstanding trees are the baobab, blackwood, red cedar, coachwood, jarrah, Queensland maple, silky oak, and walnut. Native trees shed bark instead of leaves. Numerous types of wild flowers grow in the bush country, including boronia, Christmas bush, desert pea, flanner flower, Geraldton wax plant, kangaroo paw, pomaderris, and waratah. There are 470 varieties of orchids. About 200 kinds of mammals, 200 kinds of lizards, and 350 kinds of birds are indigenous. Apart from marsupials (bandicoots, kangaroos, koalas, possums, Tasmanian devils, tree kangaroos, and wallabies), the most unusual animals are the dingo, echidna, flying fox (fruit bat), platypus, and wombat. Birds include the anhinga, bellbird, bowerbird, cassowary, emu, galah, kookaburra (laughing jackass), lyrebird, fairy penguin, rosella, and many types of cockatoos, parrots, hawks, and eagles.

Many species of trees, plants, and domestic animals have been imported, often thriving at the expense of indigenous types. Herds of wild buffalo, camels, donkeys, horses, and pigs, descendants of stock that strayed from herds imported by pioneers, roam the sparsely settled areas. The proliferation of rabbits resulted in a menace to sheep, and in 1907, a thousand-mile-long fence was built to keep rabbits out of Western Australia. Subsequently, a similar fence was erected in the east to prevent the incursion of dingos.


The principal government institutions responsible for environmental matters are the Department of Home Affairs and Environment, the Australian Environment Council, and the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers. A national conservation strategy, developed by the states, the Northern Territory, and the federal government, in cooperation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the World Wildlife Fund, and the UNEP, became national policy in 1980.

The Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act of 1974 establishes procedures for ensuring that environmental impact is considered in governmental decision making. The Whale Protection Act of 1981 prohibits killing, capturing, injuring, or interfering with a whale, dolphin, or porpoise within Australia's 200 mi economic zone or, beyond the zone, by Australian vessels and aircraft and their crews. The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act of 1978 mandates the development of uniform safety standards for uranium mining and milling and for the transport of radioactive materials. The Protection of the Sea (Discharge of Oil from Ships) Act of 1981 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act of 1983 prevent or limit pollution from oil or noxious substances.

Water being a scarce resource in Australia, problems of water quality and availability are a constant concern. As of 2001, the country had only 352 cu km of renewable water resources, although safe drinking water was available to all urban and rural dwellers. A cause for concern has been the increased salinity in the Murray Valley, caused by diverting water inland from the coast for irrigation, as well as the rise in saline water tables in Western Australia, due to excessive land clearing for dry-land farming. Another significant environmental problem is inland damage due to soil erosion. The quality of the soil is also affected by salinization. In the mid-1990s Australia was among the top 20 world producers of carbon dioxide emissions from industry, which totaled 267.9 million tons per year, or 15.24 tons per capita. In 2000, the country produced 344.8, million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

As of 2000, about 20% of the total land area of Australia was forested. The country has the third most extensive mangrove area in the world, covering over one million ha. In 2003, about 13% of the total land area was protected, including 11 natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 64 Ramsar wetland sites.

In 2002, there were about 252 species of mammals, 497 species of birds, and over 15,500 species of higher plants. According to the 2004 IUCN Red List Report, the number of threatened species included 63 types of mammals, 60 species of birds, 38 types of reptiles, 47 species of amphibian, 74 species of fish, 176 types of mollusks, 107 other invertebrates, and 56 species of plants. Endangered species include the banded anteater, greater rabbit-eared bandicoot, Leadbeater's opossum, northern hairy-nosed wombat, woylie, bridled nail-tail wallaby, five species of turtle (western swamp, green sea, hawksbill, leatherback, and olive ridley), Tasmanian freshwater limpet, granulated Tasmanian snail, African wild ass, western ground parrot, paradise parakeet, helmeted honey eater, noisy scrub-bird, western rufous bristlebird, Lord Howe wood rail, Lord Howe currawong, small hemiphlebia damselfly, Otway stonefly, giant torrent midge, and Tasmanian torrent midge. Lord Howe stick insect, Gray's marble toadlet, the dusky flying fox, the Tasmanian wolf, and the banded hare wallaby are among the country's 42 extinct species.


The population of Australia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 20,351,000, which placed it at number 52 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 13% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 20% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 0.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 24,233,000. The population density was 3 per sq km (7 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 91% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.11%. The capital city, Canberra, had a population of 373,000 in that year.

The 2005 population totals of the six state capitals were estimated as follows: Sydney, New South Wales, 4,388,000; Melbourne, Victoria, 3,663,000; Brisbane, Queensland, 1,769,000; Perth, Western Australia, 1,484,000; Adelaide, South Australia, 1,137,000; and Hobart, Tasmania, 202,138. Four other large cities are Newcastle, New South Wales, 494,400; Gold Coast, Queensland, 469,214; Wollongong, New South Wales, 274,072; and Geelong, Victoria, 190,000.

One-third of Australia is virtually uninhabited; another third is sparsely populated. The total population is quite small compared to the large land mass. Most of the cities are located in the east and southeast, with many inhabitants living on the coast.


After World War II, the government promoted immigration of the maximum number of persons Australia could absorb without economic disequilibrium. In 1979, however, with the unemployment rate rising, the government tightened immigration requirements so that Australians would not lose jobs to the newcomers. Under the new system, assessments of applications are based on such factors as age, skills, and family ties, with priority given to reunion of families sponsored by Australian residents. In 2001, the Migration Program allowed 80,610 entry visas, most granted under the family and skill based categories.

Most of the 4.2 million immigrants to Australia between 1945 and 1985 were from the United Kingdom, Italy, and Greece. The government encouraged immigrants of working age to settle in rural areas, but many immigrants preferred to work in the cities. The record high for new settlers was 185,099, in 196970. The number of permanent settlers arriving in 1991 was 116,650, up from a postwar low of 52,748 in 197576. From World War II to 1991, over 460,000 refugees settled in Australia. These included more than 130,000 Indochinese. In 20032004 citizenship was granted to 788 onshore applications, the largest numbers granted to Iranians, Chinese, and Iranians, respectively. In 2003, the foreign labor force was 24.9% of the total labor force

As of the end of 2004, Australia had 63,476 refugees and 5,022 asylum-seekers, primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq, China, and Serbia and Montenegro. The majority of illegal immigrants are those who entered the country legally but remained beyond the expiration of their visas. From mid-year 2003 to mid-year 2004 there were 50,900 overstayers. The government is undertaking more stringent measures to identify and remove illegal aliens. Australia has also set up programs to assist the integration of migrants and refugees by providing services and education.

As of 2005 the estimated net migration rate was 3.91 per thousand. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Most Australians are of British or Irish ancestry. In 2005, approximately 92% of the population was Caucasian. The Asian-born population tally stood at 7% while aboriginal and other groups comprised only 1% of the population.

After the coming of the Europeans, the aboriginal population declined drastically, from about 300,0001,000,000 to some 60,000 by the early 1920s. By the 1950s, however, the decline was reversed. In the 1991 census 265,492 people identified themselves as being of aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, or 1.5% of the population. (Of these, the latter numbered 26,902.) Many of them live in tribal conditions on government reservations in the north and northwest; some 39,918 were in the Northern Territory in the 1991 census and 41,792 in Western Australia. Queensland had 70,130, and New South Wales, 70,020. Their social organization is among the most complex known to anthropologists. They do not cultivate the soil but are nomadic hunters and food gatherers, without settled communities. Anthropologists believe the aboriginals, also known as Australoids, are relatively homogeneous, although they display a wide range of physical types. Their serological, or blood-group, pattern is unique, except for a faint affinity with the Paniyan of southern India and the Veddas of Sri Lanka. The aboriginals probably originated from a small isolated group subject to chance mutation but not to hybridization. There seems to be a sprinkling of Australoid groups in India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Timor, and New Guinea. In 1963, aboriginals were given full citizenship rights, although as a group they continued to suffer from discrimination and a lower living standard than European Australians generally.

Beginning in the 1960s, the government abandoned its previous policy of "assimilation" of the aboriginals, recognizing the uniqueness of aboriginal culture and the right of the aboriginals to determine their own patterns of development. From the passage of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in 1976 to mid-1990, aboriginals in the Northern Territory were given ownership of about 34% of territorial lands (461,486 sq km or 178,180 sq mi). The South Australia state government and its aboriginals also signed a land-rights agreement, and similar legislation was developed in other states during the 1980s. In all, aboriginals held 647,772 sq km (250,104 sq mi) of land under freehold in mid-1989 and another 181,800 sq km (70,193 sq mi) under leasehold. A reservation in Western Australia consisted of 202,223 sq km (78,078 sq mi). By the mid-1990s, however, more than two-thirds of the aboriginals had left rural lands to settle in urban areas.


According to a 2001 census, about 79% of the population speaks English. Chinese is spoken by about 2% of the population and Italian is spoken by another 2%. About 11% listed other languages and nearly 6% of respondents were unspecified.

Many languages or dialects are spoken by the aboriginal tribes, but phonetically they are markedly uniform. There is no written aboriginal language, but the markings on "letter sticks," sometimes carried by messengers from one tribe to another, are readily understood by tribal headmen. Aboriginal languages are in use in certain schools in the Northern Territories and, to a lesser extent, in schools of other states.


According to the 2001 census, 67% of citizens were nominally Christians, including 26% Roman Catholic and 20% Anglican. About 15% of Australians consider themselves to have no religion, an increase of over 35% from 1991. About 2% of the population were Buddhist, 1.5% Muslim, and less than 1% were Hindu and Jewish. A 1996 census indicated that almost 72% of Aborigines practiced some form of Christianity with indigenous beliefs. The 2001 census did not provide comparable updated information.

Constitutionally, there can be no state religion or state aid to any religion; the exercise of any religion cannot be prohibited, and a religious test as qualification for public office is forbidden. However, in a 1998 report on freedom of religion in Australia by the federally funded but independent Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), the Commission reported that many Australians have complained that the dominance of Christianity has marginalized large numbers of citizens in public life. Since then the HREOC and a Parliamentary Committee have been working on antidiscrimination measures and legislation. Though the HREOC recommended that the government enact a specific federal religious freedom act, the government refused to do so in 2002.

Organizations promoting tolerance and mutual understanding between faiths include the Columbian Center for Christian-Muslim Relations, the National Council of Churches in Australia, and the Australian Council of Christians and Jews.


As of 2004, Australia's total railway trackage (both government and private) totaled 54,439 km (33,861 mi) of which 33,819 km (21,015 mi) was government owned as of 2002. Private railways are primarily used by the iron ore industry in Western Australia. Australia's railway systems do not interconnect well because the system is made up of three track gauges: standard (1.435-m); broad (1.600-m); and narrow(1.067-m). Of the three, the majority is standard gauge with 34,110 km (21,216 mi) of track, followed by narrow gauge track at 14,895 km (9,265 mi), and by broad gauge at 5,434 km (3,380 mi). As a result, rail travel between principal cities can involve changing trains. Modern equipment is gradually replacing older stock. As of August 1991, all interstate freight movements by rail were brought under the control of the National Rail Corporation (NRC).

Inland water transport is limited to about 2,000 km (1,241 mi) of navigable waterways, mainly on the Murray and Murray-Darling river systems, and is mostly used for recreational purposes. However, ocean shipping is important for domestic and overseas transport. Most overseas trade is carried in non-Australian ships, while most coastwise vessels are of Australian registry. Although the fine natural harbors of Sydney and Hobart can readily accommodate ships of 11 m (36 ft) draft, many other harbors have been artificially developed. Other international shipping ports include Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport, Fremantle, Geelong, Launceston, Mackay, Melbourne, and Townsville. All main ports have ample wharfage, modern cargo-handling equipment, and storage facilities. There are some 70 commercially significant ports. The nation's merchant marine in 2005 included 55 vessels of 1,000 GRT or over, with a combined GRT of 1,531,461. Highways provide access to many districts not served by railroads. As of 2002, there were 811,601 km (504,816 mi) of roads, of which some 316,524 km (196,877 mi) were paved. Motor vehicles in 2003 totaled about 12,305,000, including 10,100,000 passenger cars and 2,205,000 commercial vehicles.

In 2004, Australia had an estimated 448 airports. As of 2005, a total of 308 had paved runways, and there was also a single heliport. Principal airports include Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne International at Melbourne, Perth International at Perth, and Kingsford International at Sydney. In 1997, the government began privatizing many of the country's airports. The first round of such sales early in 1997 included the Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth airports, which raised a$3.34 billion (us$2.5 billion)far exceeding government projections. The main Sydney airport was explicitly excluded from the privatization plan. Domestic air services are operated primarily by the privately owned Ansett Airlines. The Australian overseas airline, Qantas, carries more than three million passengers per year to and from Australia, nearly 40% of the total carried by all airlines serving Australia. The Commonwealth government owned the airline until it was privatized in 1995. In 2003 Australian air carriers had 41.386 million passengers and carried 1.355 million freight ton km.


Stone objects that were found in 1978 but are still only tentatively dated suggest that human beings may have inhabited what is now Australia as long as 100,000 years ago. The Aboriginals migrated to Australia from Southeast Asia at least 40,000 years before the first Europeans arrived on the island continent. In 1999, scientists estimated a male skeleton found at Mungo Lake in 1974 to be between 56,000 and 68,000 years old. Covered in red ochre, this skeleton presents the first known use of pigments for religious or artistic purposes. Living as hunters and gatherers, roaming in separate family groups or bands, the Aboriginals developed a rich, complex culture, with many languages. They numbered approximately 300,000 by the 18th century; however, with the onset of European settlement, conflict and disease reduced their numbers.

Although maps of the 16th century indicate European awareness of the location of Australia, the first recorded explorations of the continent by Europeans took place early in the 17th century, when Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish explorers sailed along the coast and discovered what is now Tasmania. None took formal possession of the land, and not until 1770, when Capt. James Cook charted the east coast and claimed possession in the name of Great Britain, was any major exploration undertaken. Up to the early 19th century, the area was known as New Holland, New South Wales, or Botany Bay.

The first settlementa British penal colony at Port Jackson (now Sydney) in 1788was soon enlarged by additional shipments of prisoners, which continued through the mid-1800s, until approximately 161,000 convicts had been transported. With the increase of free settlers, the country developed, the interior was penetrated, and six colonies were created: New South Wales in 1786, Van Diemen's Land in 1825 (renamed Tasmania in 1856), Western Australia in 1829, South Australia in 1834, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859.

Sheep raising and wheat growing were introduced and soon became the backbone of the economy. The wool industry made rapid progress during the period of squatting migration, which began on a large scale about 1820. The grazers followed in the wake of explorers, reaching new pastures, or "runs," where they squatted and built their homes. Exports of wool increased from 111 kg (245 lb) in 1807 to 1.1 million kg (2.4 million lb) in 1831. With the increased flow of immigrants following the Ripon Land Regulations of 1831, the population grew from about 34,000 in 1820 to some 405,000 in 1850. The discovery of gold in Victoria (1851) attracted thousands, and in a few years the population had quadrupled. Under the stimulus of gold production, the first railway lineMelbourne to Port Melbournewas completed in 1854. Representative government spread throughout the continent, and the colonies acquired their own parliaments.

Until the end of the 19th century, Australia's six self-governing colonies remained separate. However, the obvious advantages of common defense and irrigation led to the federation of the states into the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. (The British Parliament had approved a constitution in the previous year.) The Northern Territory, which belonged to South Australia, became a separate part of the Commonwealth in 1911. In the same year, territory was acquired from New South Wales for a new capital at Canberra, and in 1927, the Australian Parliament began meeting there. Liberal legislation provided for free and compulsory education, industrial conciliation and arbitration, the secret ballot, female suffrage, old age pensions, invalid pensions, and maternity allowances (all before World War I). Child subsidies and unemployment and disability benefits were introduced during World War II.

Australian forces fought along with the British in Europe during World War I. In World War II, the Australian forces supported the UK in the Middle East between 1940 and 1942, and played a major role in the Pacific theater after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, a period of intense immigration began. The Labour government was voted out of office in 1949, beginning 23 years of continuous rule by a Liberal-Country Party (now known as the National Party) coalition. During that period, Australian foreign policy stressed collective security and support for the US presence in Asia. Australian troops served in Vietnam between 1965 and 1971.

When Labour returned to power in December 1972, it began the process of disassociating Australia from US and UK policies and strengthening ties with non-Communist Asian nations; in addition, it established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. In 1975 a constitutional crisis resulted when Senate opposition successfully blocked the Labour Party's budgetary measures, thereby threatening the government with bankruptcy. The governor-general dismissed the Labour prime minister, Gough Whitlam, and called for new elections. The Liberal-National Party coalition swept back into power, where it remained until 1983. The Australian Labour Party (ALP) returned to power in 1983, following a campaign in which such economic issues as unemployment and inflation predominated.

In 1993, the Mabo Ruling on Native Title recognized the land rights of the indigenous people (Aborigines) inhabiting Australia prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The Mabo Ruling did not void existing leases, but could allow the Aborigines to reclaim land when the leases granted by the national or state governments expired. The Mabo Ruling applied only to non-pastoral leases, but the Wik Judgment of 1996 extended the land rights of indigenous people to include their use of pastoral land for religious purposes.

In the March 1996 elections, the ALP was unseated by a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party, who chose Liberal MP John Howard to be prime minister. The newcomer Howard pledged to change the government, to make it more "rational." To that end, he cut ministries and cabinet posts, made budget cuts affecting higher education, Aborigine affairs, and jobs, and instituted an a$15 billion privatization program. Many government employees opposed these changes; violent demonstrations took place when the budget was made public. While the revised budget was less radical, social unrest continued through 19971998, and the October 1998 election found Howard's coalition party's majority greatly reduced, while the ALP gained in influence, winning 18 more seats than it did in the 1996 election.

In July 1998, after twice being rejected by the Senate, the government passed amendments to the 1993 Native Title Act. The amendments removed the time limit for lodging native claims, but weakened the right of Aboriginal groups to negotiate with non-Aboriginal leaseholders concerning land use. In 1999 the government issued an official expression of regret for past mistreatment of Aborigines, but has opposed issuing the formal national apology sought by Aborigine leaders, fearing that would encourage claims for compensation.

In September 1999, Australian troops led the United Nations-sanctioned peacekeeping forces into East Timor, to protect civilians and control the militia violence following East Timor's referendum decision to seek full independence from Indonesia. Australian civilian and military personnel form part of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), which was established to ensure the security and stability of East Timor after it became an independent nation-state on 20 May 2002. After 2002, unresolved maritime boundary disputes between Australia and East Timor, over unexploited petroleum resources in the Timor Sea, hampered revised maritime boundary disputes with Indonesia. Regional concerns were incorporated into these disputes when Australia declared a 1,000-nautical mile-wide maritime identification zone, and asserted land and maritime claims to Antarctica in 2004.

Parliamentary elections held on 10 November 2001 saw Howard's coalition increase its strength by over 3%. The ALP recorded its lowest primary vote since 1934. The Australian Greens recorded a substantial increase in strength. Two events stood out in the election campaign that swung the vote to the Liberal Party-National Party coalition. The first was the controversy over refugees and asylum-seekers. In August 2001, a Norwegian freighter that had rescued a boatload of asylum-seekers was denied permission to land the human cargo in Australia. The Howard government also tightened its border protection laws since then, making it nearly impossible for any asylum-seeker landing in the remote island outposts of Australia to claim refugee status. Instead, the would-be refugees are either turned back to Indonesian waters or transported to detention centers on Pacific nations such as Nauru or Papua New Guinea. John Howard declared, "We will decide who comes to this country and under what circumstances." The ALP criticized the government for this policy, which remained a major campaign issue. The terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, and the subsequent US-led bombing campaign on the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, also were issues that dominated the Australian election campaign.

Asylum and detention issues continued to make headlines, as in December 2002 a Sydney center had an attempted mass breakout and riot, another had an armed standoff, and fires burned at two other centers. In November 2003, an Indonesian fishing boat, the Minasa Bone, with 14 Kurds aboard sought asylum on Melville Island, but was forced to return to Indonesia. However, between July and October 2003, in "Operation Helpem Fren" an Australian-led peacekeeping force headed on a mission to restore law and order in the Solomon Island.

In August 2002, Australia instituted a regional alliance with Malaysia to work together to fight suspected Islamic militants. On 12 October 2002, two popular nightclubs in Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali were bombed, killing 202 people, 88 of them Australians. The bombings have been linked to the terrorist organization Jamaah Islamiah. They have been referred to as "Australia's September 11th." Australia added four more Islamic groups to its list of banned "terrorist" organizations, groups that would be targeted by police and security forces. In November 2002, in this same climate of terror some 1,000 Australian protesters demonstrated against globalization and a possible war with Iraq. By January 2003, Australia deployed troops to the Gulf ahead of a possible war. Public protest was immediate and in the first-ever vote of no-confidence against a serving leader, the Senate passed the motion against Prime Minister John Howard over his handling of Iraq crisis. In early 2003, possible involvement in the war with Iraq spawned massive protests. Some were unprecedented, like the protest of 750 women in Byron Bay who formed a heart around the words "No War." A senior intelligence analyst resigned in protest over the government's uncompromising policy on Iraq. Although claiming respect for the views of the protesters, Howard said his government would commit 2,000 military personnel to any US-led strike aimed at disarming Iraq. In October 2003, US president George W. Bush was heckled at his appearance in Australia's Parliament. Anti-Iraq war protests continued in 2004. However, in an online message in July 2004, a group representing itself as al-Qaeda's European branch threatened to turn Australia into "pools of blood" if troops were not withdrawn from Iraq. In September 2004, a car bomb exploded outside the gates of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 8 people and wounding more than 160. Australia continued to bolster its security with a US cruise missile program that provided the "most lethal" air combat capacity in the region.

In October 2004, Prime Minister John Howard achieved a strong victory in Australia's federal election, winning a historic fourth term. Results of the Senate elections of 9 October 2004 were: Liberal Party-National Party coalition, 39; Australian Labor Party, 28; Democrats, 4; Australian Greens, 4; and Family First Party, 1. The next Senate elections were scheduled for no later than June 2008. Results of the House of Representatives election held 9 October 2004 were: Liberal Party-National Party coalition, 87; Australian Labor Party, 60; and independents, 3. The next House of Representatives election was scheduled for no later than November 2007.

In January 2005, Australia's free-trade agreement with the United States that had been in the making for over a year became effective. In February 2005, Howard continued the government's support of the war in Iraq promising 450 extra troops to help reinforce Iraq's transition to democracy. By July 2005, 150 special forces troops were sent back into Afghanistan to resist rebel attacks. In 2005 Australia further bolstered regional security with a NATO agreement to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism, weapons proliferation and other global military threats, and with a security pact with Indonesia.

In the mid-2000s various natural disasters struck Australia. In 2003, after a 10-year drought in New South Wales, the lower reaches of the Great Anabranch of the Darling River ran dry. Between 2002 and 2005, brush fires devastated acreage, destroyed more than 380 homes, and killed 13 people. In 2004, locusts devastated crops as they swarmed through the Outback. In 2004, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of the island state of Tasmania. This, the world's biggest earthquake in almost four years, caused no injury or damage. In 2005, tropical cyclone Ingrid ruined a tourist resort built to show off the beauty of northern Australia. Also between 2002 and 2005, massive accidental and purposeful animal kills occurred. About 60 beached, false killer whales died or were euthanized. The Australian military killed nearly 15,000 kangaroos to prevent overgrazing of an army base. To reduce their numbers, thousands of wild camels in the Outback were shot from helicopters. In 2002, Matilda, Australia's first cloned sheep died unexpectedly of unknown causes.

In 2004, Australia's Great Barrier Reef became the most protected reef on earth when Parliament passed a law putting a new zoning plan, banning commercial and recreational fishing, into effect. Increasing protection of the reef system, from 4.6 % to 33 % of the existing Marine Park and World Heritage area, adding more than 109,000 sq km (42,000 sq mi) to the current setting, the park became the world's largest marine protected area.

Australian authorities seized several major drug shipments. In 2003, an Australian navy vessel captured a us$48 million heroin shipment transported on a North Korean ship. In 2005, authorities made a world-record haul of the party drug, ecstasy, with the seizure of 5 million tablets worth us$14 million. In that same year a shipment of heroin packed in containers of plastic chairs from China was seized worth us$46 million and weighing 253 pounds.

In 200304 gay and lesbian issues were politicized. In May 2003, the resignation of Governor-General Peter Hollingworth followed his revelation that, as an Anglican archbishop in the 1990s, he permitted a known pedophile to remain a priest. In July of that same year, a congregation protested an Australian Christian church vote to allow homosexuals to become priests. In May 2004, the government introduced legislation to prohibit same-sex marriages and sought immigration rules to prevent gays and lesbians from adopting foreign children. The government also announced that same-sex partners would be recognized for the first time by federal authorities as dependents.


The Commonwealth of Australia, an independent, self-governing nation within the Commonwealth of Nations, has a federal parliamentary government. The federation was formed on 1 January 1901 from six former British colonies, which thereupon became states. The constitution combines the traditions of British parliamentary practice with important elements of the US federal system. Powers of the federal government are enumerated and limited.

The government consists of the British sovereign, represented by a governor-general, and the Australian Parliament. Major General (Retired) Michael Jeffery became the new governor-general in August 2003, succeeding The Reverend Dr. Peter John Hollingsworth, who had held the post since 2001. Nominally, executive power is vested in the governor-general and an executive council, which gives legal form to cabinet decisions; in practice, however, it is normally exercised by a cabinet chosen and presided over by a prime minister, representing the political party or coalition with a majority in the House of Representatives. The number of cabinet ministers is variable.

Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, which is composed of a 76-member Senate, representing the states and territories, and a 150-member House of Representatives, representing electoral districts. Members must be Australian citizens of full age, possess electoral qualification, and have resided for three years in Australia. Twelve senators are elected by proportional representation from each state voting as a single electorate, and two senators each from the Northern Territory and Capital Territory. They are elected for six years, with half the members retiring at the end of every third year. House membership is not quite double that of the Senate, with a minimum of five representatives for each state. House members are elected according to population by preferential voting in specific electoral districts; they serve for three years, unless the House is dissolved sooner. There are two members each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory; they have been able to vote on all questions since 1968. Parliament must meet at least once a year. Taxation and appropriation measures must be introduced in the lower house; the Senate has the power to propose amendments, except to money bills, and to defeat any measure it may choose.

The parties in the House elect their leaders in caucus. The party or coalition with a majority of seats forms the government. The leader of the majority party becomes prime minister and selects his cabinet from members of his party who are members of Parliament, while the leader of the principal minority party becomes leader of the official opposition. The party in power holds office as long as it retains its majority or until the governor-general decides that new elections are necessary; he exercised this inherent constitutional power during the 1975 crisis when he dismissed Prime Minister Whitlam and called for new elections.

In the 1990s, the Labour Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Paul Keating, proposed a referendum to change Australia to a republican form of government. The idea gained wide support. After the 1996 federal elections, the coalition majority decided to host a constitutional convention to decide the issue. The constitutional convention met in February 1998, and voted in favor of replacing the British monarch as the head of Australia's government (73 voted in favor, 57 against), and Australia becoming a republic by the year 2001 (89 voted in favor, 52 against). But in November 1999's popular referendum, the proposal to convert Australia to a republic failed to carry even a single state.

Suffrage is universal for all persons 18 years of age and older, subject to citizenship and certain residence requirements. Voting is compulsory in national and state parliamentary elections.


Since most Australians have been shaped by the same language and by a similar cultural and religious heritage, their internal differences are largely based on economic issues. Attachments to the United Kingdom are compounded of sentiment, tradition, and economic advantage. Australian nationalism has been associated more closely with the Australian Labour Party (ALP) than with its rivals, who tend to regard Australian interests as almost identical with those of the United Kingdom. Because of Australia's geographical position as a "European people on an Asian limb," the economic element in its nationalism has been mixed with the fear of external conquest or domination.

Except in 192931, when a Labour government was in office, interwar governments were dominated by non-Labour groupings. When war seemed certain in 1939, the government was resolutely imperial, considering Australia to be at war automatically when the UK went to war. The Laborites challenged this view. While they did not oppose a declaration of war on Germany, they wanted the step to be taken so as to show Australia's independence.

Labour was in office from 1941 to 1949. The Liberal and Country Parties were in office as a coalition for a long period afterward, from 1949 to 1972, and again beginning in December 1975 (by that time, the Country Party had become the National Country Party, and it later became the National Party).

In the general elections of 13 December 1975, a caretaker government, formed the preceding month by the Liberal-National Country Party coalition after the dismissal of the Labour government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, obtained large majorities in both houses of the legislature. Although its majorities were eroded in the elections of December 1977 and October 1980, the coalition remained in power until March 1983, when Labour won 75 out of 147 seats in the House of Representatives. Robert Hawke, leader of the Labour Party, took office as prime minister; he was reelected in 1984, 1987, and 1990. Paul Keating replaced Hawke as Labour's leader, and as prime minister, in December 1991. This was the first time an Australian prime minister had been ousted by his own party. Keating led the ALP to an unprecedented fifth consecutive election victory in the 1993 general election, increasing both its percentage share of the vote and its number of seats in the legislature. In 1996, a Liberal-National Party coalition headed by John Howard ousted the ALP from the majority, with the Liberal-National coalition winning 94 seats compared to the ALP's 49 seats. John Howard was reelected prime minister in 1998, 2001, and 2004.

A direct descendant of the governments of the 1920s and 1930s, the Liberal-National coalition is principally linked with business (Liberal) and farming (National) and is officially anti-socialist. In economic and foreign affairs, its outlook is still involved with the Commonwealth of Nations, but it supports the United Nations, as well as the alliance with the United States in the ANZUS pact. It is sympathetic toward the new Asian countries and values the link with these countries afforded by the Colombo Plan. The Labour Party is a trade-union party, officially socialist in policy and outlook. It initially maintained an isolationist posture, but since the early 1940s, its policy has been a mixture of nationalism and internationalism.

Smaller parties include the Democratic Labour Party, the Communist Party, the Australian Democrats Party, the Green Party, and the One Nation Party. Since its formation in 1997, the One Nation Party's platform has featured racial issues. In the 1998 Queensland state elections, it won 11 of 89 seats. In the federal elections of that same year, the One Nation Party called for an end to Asian immigration and a restriction to Aboriginal welfare programs, but failed to win any seats. The Green Party increased its strength by 2.3% in the 2001 elections, while the One Nation Party lost 4.1% of its strength.


Powers not specifically granted to the federal government in the constitution are reserved to the states, although some powers (such as health, labor, and social services) are held concurrently. Each state has an appointed governor who serves as the representative of the sovereign. Except for Queensland, which has a unicameral legislature, the parliament in each state is composed of two houses. The lower housesthe dominant legislative bodiesare popularly elected; the upper houses are elected by franchise limited to property holders and to those with certain academic or professional qualifications. The state prime minister achieves office and selects his cabinet in the same fashion as does the Commonwealth prime minister. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have unicameral legislative assemblies.

Local communities (variously designated as boroughs, cities, district councils, municipalities, road districts, shires, and towns) have limited powers of government, but they are responsible for some health, sanitation, light, gas, and highway undertakings. Even the largest cities do not provide their own police protection, nor do they conduct or support education; these are state functions. Local aldermen or councilors ordinarily are elected on a property franchise, and mayors are elected annually or biennially by the aldermen from among their own number or by taxpayers. State departments of local government regulate the organization of local government. State governments directly control some large interior areas.


The constitution vests federal jurisdiction in a High Court of Australia which consists of a chief justice and six associate justices appointed by the governor general. The High Court has the authority to conduct constitutional review of state and federal legislation and is the supreme authority on constitutional interpretation. The High Court also has original jurisdiction over interstate and international matters.

Until 1985, in certain cases involving state law, appeals from courts below the High Court could be taken to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, the final court of the Commonwealth of Nations. Special cases may be referred to a 25-member federal court that deals with commercial law, copyright law, taxation, and trade practices. There is also a family court.

States and territories have their own court systems. Cases in the first instance are tried in local or circuit courts of general and petty sessions, magistrates' courts, children's courts, or higher state courts. Capital crimes are tried before state supreme courts.

The state and federal courts are fully independent. The High Court ruled that indigent defendants have a right to counsel at state expense. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent, and a plethora of due process rights include the right to confront witnesses and the right to appeal. In 2002 the High Court ruled on various Aboriginal cases. Aborigines were denied rights to oil or minerals found under tribal land now being used by mining companies. Two long running land claim cases were settled: in the northwest a remote area slightly larger than Greece was granted to an Aboriginal tribe; however, a claim in eastern Australia in the Murray River area, land now occupied by farmers, was denied.

The law provides for the right to a fair trial. In local courts, the magistrates sit alone. In the higher courts, trials are usually conducted by judge and jury. The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence.


The Australian armed forces numbered 52,872 active personnel in 2005. The Army consisted of 26,035 active members, whose weaponry included 101 main battle tanks (30 are in storage), 619 armored personnel carriers, 566 artillery pieces, and 22 attack helicopters. The Navy had 13,167 active personnel, including 990 naval aviation personnel. Major naval units included six tactical submarines, 10 frigates, 15 patrol/coastal vessels, two amphibious land ships (with a helicopter landing platform), and 27 amphibious landing craft of various types. The Navy's aviation arm operated 23 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. The Air Force in 2005 had 13,670 active personnel. The service operated 140 combat capable aircraft, that included 22 bombers and 104 fighter ground attack aircraft. Reserve forces numbered 20,800 for all three services. Australia contributed to peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Egypt, and the Middle East.

Australia's defense budget in 2005 was us$13.2 billion.


Australia is a charter member of the United Nations, to which it gained admission on 1 November 1945. It belongs to ESCAP and all the nonregional UN specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IFC, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, and the World Bank. Australia became a member of the WTO on 1 January 1995. The country participates in the Commonwealth of Nations and ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Treaty).Other regional memberships include the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum, Colombo Plan, OECD, South Pacific Commission, the Pacific Community, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, the Pacific Island Forum, and the Paris Club (G-10). Australia also has a position on the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The country belongs to the Australia Group, the Nuclear Energy Agency (of the OECD), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Zangger Committee, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Australia sent troops as part of the coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War (1991), in Afghanistan (2002), and in Iraq (2003). The country has also supported UN efforts in Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000) and East Timor (est. 2002).

In environmental cooperation, Australia is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Marine Life Conservation; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; the International Tropical Timber Agreement; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy with a high per capita gross domestic product (GDP), on par with the four dominant Western European nations of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Economic activity is focused on the country's eastern seaboard, where most of the population lives. New South Wales generates about 35% of Australia's GDP, while Victoria generates 26% and Queensland 17%. There is a clear divide in economic performance between the states: typically, growth in South Australia and Tasmania is considerably below the overall national rate, and Western Australia is heavily dependent upon the volatile mining industry.

Since the late 1980s, the government has been engaged in a program to transform the economy's orientation from import substitution industrialization (ISI) to export-driven, high-tech globalization. This helped introduce an economic expansion from 1991 that as of 2005 had continued uninterruptedthe longest economic expansion in Australia since 1945despite slowdowns occasioned by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 200102 global economic downturn, and one of Australia's worst-ever droughts in 2003. Strong consumption growth provided the momentum for Australia to withstand the Asian financial crisis, as the buoyant domestic economy offset the deterioration in regional demand for Australian exports. Together with a large increase in spending on private housing, consumption growth also served to cushion the economy against the effects of the 200102 economic downturn and the 2003 drought.

As in most developed countries, the service sector accounts for the largest portion of GDP, at nearly 70% in 2004. The largest service industry is finance, property, and business services. Other major service industries include retail and wholesale trade, transportation and communications, and construction. The most rapidly growing service industry from 200005 was communications (with an average annual growth rate of 6.4%), while the construction sector showed great volatility. The largest segment of the manufacturing sector is production of machinery and equipment. Mining and agriculture account for most exports.

Australia's flexible exchange rate regime has helped the economy rapidly adjust to the vicissitudes of international commodity markets. It is the world's largest wool-producing country. The country is one of the great wheat exporters, and also exports large quantities of dairy and meat products. In minerals, Australia is a major world supplier of iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, and copper; coal, beach sand minerals, and nickel have become major industries as well. Since the 1960s manufactured goods have provided an ever-increasing share of the country's exports, with elaborately transformed manufactures (ETMs), like automobiles, high-speed ferries, and telecommunications equipment, making up a significant percentage of exports (approximately 20%).

Australia's last economic recession was in 1990, from which it began to recover in mid-1991. Economic growth, supported by rising consumption and higher export demand, reached 4% in the fourth quarter of 1993. However, the unemployment rate of about 11% was near a postwar record. From this high point, unemployment has been on a steady decline in Australiato 8.5% unemployment in 1995, 7.5% in 1999, and 6.3% in 2000, albeit with an increase in 2001 to 6.7%. The unemployment rate fell, from 6.3% in 2002 and 5.9% in 2003, to an estimated 5.1% in 2004. Real GDP growth fell to 3.7% in 1997, but recovered in 1998 and 1999 to an average of 5%, helped by reforms that included currency depreciation and a redirection of exports to non-Asian countries. Real GDP growth fell to 3.1% in 2000 and 2.6% in 2001. It climbed to 3.6% in 2002, before falling to 2.7% in 2003. GDP was expected to increase by a healthy 3.8% in 2005 and by 3.6% in 2006. The inflation estimate for 2005 was 2.8%up from 2.3% in 2004which reflected the increased price of petroleum that year. Inflation was forecast to average 2.7% in 2006 and 2.6% in 2007.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Australia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at us$642.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at us$32,000. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 4% of GDP, industry 26.4%, and services 69.6%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled us$2.259 billion or about us$114 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Australia totaled us$245.91 billion or about us$12,357 per capita based on a GDP of us$522.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.6%.


As of 2005, the Australian workforce numbered an estimated 10.42 million people. In 2004, the occupational pattern was estimated as follows: services 70%, industry 26.4%, and agriculture 3.7%. The unemployment rate stood at an estimated 5.2% in 2005.

As in many other highly developed industrial nations, union membership has declined significantly: from around 53% of the workforce in 1980 to 22.7% as of 2005. The drop has resulted in a consolidation of labor unions: there were 300 unions in 1989, but only 188 in 1993. The traditionally de facto right to strike was legalized in 1994. The Federal Workplace Relations Act (WRA) puts limits on strikes and unfair dismissal.

Although there is a standard minimum wage (us$362.35 per week as of 2005), 80% of workers have their pay determined by minimums that apply to their particular industry or profession. All of these wages are sufficient to support a family. The standard workweek is under 40 hours, generally from Monday through Friday. Nearly all Australian workers receive four weeks of annual vacation, many at rates of pay 17.5% above regular pay. There is no nationally mandated minimum age for employment, but state-imposed compulsory education effectively precludes children under 16 years old from full-time work.


Australia is an important producer and exporter of agricultural products and a major world supplier of cereals, sugar, and fruit. Arable land in 2002 comprised about 48.6 million ha (120 million acres), representing about 6.3% of total land area. However, approximately 90% of the utilized land area is in its natural state or capable of only limited improvement and is used largely for rough grazing. Droughts, fires, and floods are common hazards. The area actively cultivated for crops is 6.9% of all land area. Lack of water is the principal limiting factor, but unsuitable soil and topography are also important determinants. As of 2002, some 4.9% of cropland was irrigated. Agriculture has declined from 20% of GDP in the 1950s to about 4% in 2002. Agricultural exports, which accounted for 60% of Australia's exports in the 1960s, now account for 25%. Gross farm product in 2003 was a$32.9 billion. New South Wales and Queensland account for half of the total crop value.

Grain crops have been cultivated since the first year of European settlement. In November 1790, plantings around Sydney of wheat, barley, and corn totaled 34 ha (84 acres). Today, winter cereals are cultivated in all states. Three cereals are often grown on one farm for grain, green fodder, and hay for livestock. Most wheat, barley and about half the oats are grown for grain. The estimated wheat area sown for grain increased from 11,135,000 ha (27,515,000 acres) in 1986/87 to 13,800,000 ha (34,000,000 acres) in 2004/05. Production of wheat in 2004/05 was an estimated 22.6 million tons. Western Australia and New South Wales are the chief wheat-producing states. In 2004/05, Australia produced 7.7 million tons of barley, 1.3 million tons of oats, and 2.2 million tons of sorghum. In 2003, 1.2 million tons of potatoes were produced.

Sugarcane is grown along a 2,000 km (1,200 mi) stretch of coastal land in New South Wales and Queensland. About 95% of sugar production comes from Queensland. A normal crushing season is from June to December. The estimated 2005 harvest from 441,000 ha (1,090,000 acres) yielded about 38.6 million tons of sugar cane. The industry faces problems of excessive supply and price elasticity; sugar is sold primarily to Japan, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Malaysia, China, and Singapore. In 2005, some 1,350 ha (3,340 acres) were planted with canola (rapeseed), and about 1,500 tons were produced.

Cotton has been grown in the coastal river valleys of Queensland for more than a century but on a limited scale, and it has provided only a small percentage of Australia's lint requirements. In the 1980s, however, successful development of cotton-growing areas in New South Wales and Western Australia resulted in spectacular production increases. In 1985/86, 685,000 tons of cotton were produced (almost triple the amount in 1979/80); in 2004, production amounted to 490,000 tons.

Australia's wide climate differences permit the cultivation of a range of fruits, from pineapples in the tropical zone to berry fruits in the cooler areas of temperate zones. Orchard fruit trees included orange, 7.1 million; apple, 8.4 million; pear, 1.3 million; and mango, 1.0 million. About 11 million ha (27 million acres) are cultivated for bananas. Production of fruit in 2004 included (in thousands of tons): oranges, 407; bananas, 265; pineapples, 105; pears, 150; peaches, 115; tangerines, 97; lemons and limes, 31; apricots, 20; grapefruit, 13; mangoes, 39; and plums, 30. Australia's wine industry is also growing; viticulture engaged 143,000 ha (353,400 acres) and produced 1,497,000 tons of grapes for winemaking, drying, and other uses in 2003.


About 52% of Australia's land is used in stock raising. Animal husbandry is concentrated in the eastern highlands, but it spreads across the wide interior spaces and even to low-rainfall areas, in which up to 12 ha (30 acres) are required to support one sheep and from which cattle must be taken overland hundreds of miles to coastal meat-packing plants.

Sheep raising has been a mainstay of the economy since the 1820s, when mechanization of the British textile industry created a huge demand for wool. In 1800, there were 6,124 sheep in Australia; by 1850 there were 17.5 million; by 1894, some 100 million; and in 1970, a record high of some 180 million. Sheep numbers fell to 120 million in 1994/95 (the lowest since 1953/54) due to severe drought. Australia's flocks, some 102.7 million in 2005, now constitute approximately 10% of the world's sheep but produce about 25% of the world's wool supply. That year, New South Wales and Western Australia accounted for 35% and 25% of the nation's sheep, respectively. Wool production, the largest in the world, was an estimated 528,000 tons in 2004. About 95% is exported (mostly to China); nevertheless, wool, which represented 50% of Australia's merchandise exports (by value) in 1957/58, constituted only 6% by the mid-1990s. Since 1990, wool production has fallen by 35%, due in part to declining world demand. Australia accounts for 75% of the world's exports of wool apparel. During periods of great drought, such as the early 1980s, the number of sheep has diminished by 40 million or more. (A drop of 60 million occurred in the droughts of 1993/94.) In the better lands, however, animal husbandry ranks high on a world scale. Large, scientifically managed stations have produced some of the world's finest stock. Sheep of the Merino breed, noted for its heavy wool yield, make up about three-quarters of Australian flocks.

In 2005 there were an estimated 2.5 million hogs and 24.7 million head of beef cattle and 3 million head of milk cattle. In 2004, meat production totaled an estimated 3,750,000 tons. Of these, beef and veal constituted 2,033,000 tons; poultry, 681,000 tons; mutton and lamb, 561,000 tons; and ham, pork, and bacon, 406,000 tons. Butter production in 2004 (in factories) amounted to an estimated 130,000 tons; whole milk was estimated 10.4 million tons; and cheese (factory production) was about 364,000 tons. In 2000, the government implemented a dairy deregulation plan removing price supports. Egg production is around 155,000 tons per year, predominantly for domestic consumption. Australia produces some 25,000 to 30,000 tons of honey per year, half of which is exported. Beef exports in 2003 were a$3.9 billion. Nearly 60% of total beef production is exported annually, most of it going to the United States, South Korea, and Taiwan.


Fishing is relatively unimportant, even though the Australian Fishing Zone is the third-largest in the world. Even with a low per capita fish consumption, Australia must import about half its normal requirements. Pearl and other shell fishing are relatively significant. The 2003 catch of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks totaled 258,032 tons, 99% from marine waters. Exports of fishery products in 2003 were valued at us$894.6 million.


Forests and woodlands cover 162.7 million ha (402 million acres), or about 21% of the total land area; most timberland is neither exploited nor potentially exploitable. Native forests cover 50.2 million ha (124 million acres), 31% of the forested area, of which 23% is privately owned and 77% is state forest, crown land, and permanent national parks or reserves. National parks and wildlife preserves occupy about 3.8 million ha (9.4 million acres), or 9% of the total forestlands. About 60% of the state forest areas are available for sustainable logging; crown lands are mostly leased for cattle grazing with limited timber production. Native forests consist principally of hardwood and other fine cabinet and veneer timbers; eucalyptus dominates about 35 million ha (86.5 million acres). Limited softwood resources had become seriously depleted, but new plantations were established in the 1980s at a rate of 33,000 ha (81,500 acres) annually. Plantation forests cover 1,666,000 ha (4,117,000 acres), of which 59% is softwood. Softwood plantations supply more than half the timber harvested annually. Since 1990, plantings have shifted from primarily softwood to mostly hardwood. About 90% of the standing hardwood plantations have been planted since 1990. Although Australia is a net importer of forest products, the forest and wood products industries contribute 2% to GDP.

Roundwood production in 2003 totaled about 29.9 million cu m (1.06 billion cu ft), with exports of 1,374,000 cu m (48.5 million cu ft). Softwood log production in 2004/05 was estimated at 16.5 million cu m (582 million cu ft). Softwood log production grew over 5% during 19952005, as a response to historically high levels of building activity driven by strong economic growth and low interest rates. Australia's leading forest products are softwood logs and chips. Whereas all of the softwood log production is consumed at home, all commercial woodchip production is exported.


Australia is one of the world's leading producers of minerals, ranking among the world's top nations in terms of economic demonstrated resources (EDR) for lead, mineral sands, nickel, silver, tantalum, uranium, and zinc. In addition, its EDR ranked the country among the top six for bauxite, black coal, brown coal, cobalt, copper, gem and near-gem diamonds, gold, iron ore, lithium, manganese ore, and rare-earth oxides, The country is virtually self-sufficient in mineral commodities, commercially producing more than 60 minerals and metals. In 2003, Australia was the world's leading exporter of alumina, bauxite, coal, diamond, ilmenite, iron ore (the country's fourth-largest minerals earner), refined lead, rutile, and zircon.

Gold production in 2003 was 282,000 kg, down from 296,410 kg in 2000. Western Australia was the largest gold producer. Australia has around 8% of the world's gold resources, and in terms of output ranks third in the world, behind the Republic of South Africa and the United States, respectively.

In 2002, Australia produced 16,382,000 tons of alumina and 54,135,000 tons of bauxite (for the 30th consecutive year). Bauxite deposits in northern Queensland were among the world's largest; those in the Northern Territory were also in production.

Australia also ranked second in iron ore (with 15% of world production), mined cobalt, and mined zinc; ranked third in mined gold (with 10% of the world's output) and mined nickel; and was fourth in mined copper. Australia produced 2,077 metric tons of mined silver in 2002.

In 2002, Australia produced 15,136,000 carats of gem diamond (14,656,000 carats in 1998), and 18,500,000 carats of industrial diamond (11,992,000 carats in 1998). Reserves were estimated at 82.4 million carats of gem and near-gem diamond, and 85.5 million of industrial diamond. Argyle's principal diamond ore body, the AK-1 lamproite pipe, near Kununurra, Western Australia, produced nearly twice the amount of diamond as any other in the world, able to supply 42 million carats a year, including some of the highest diamond gradesabout 5% was of gem quality, including a small number of very rare pink diamonds; 40% was of near gem quality; and 55% was of industrial quality.

The value of opal produced in 2002 was a$62 million. Lightning Ridge, in New South Wales, was the world's major source of black opal. Australia also produced 30% of the world's rough sapphire, valued at a$1 million in 2002; commercial production came from alluvial deposits. Jade was discovered in the form of nephrite, at the world's largest identified resource, in the Eyre Peninsula. Australia produced most of the world's chrysoprase, known as Australian jade. Other gemstones produced in the country include agate, amethyst, chiastolite, emerald (aquamarine), garnet (25,000 metric tons annually, from 1999 through 2002), rhodonite, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, and zircon.

Iron ore production in 2002 was 187,219,000 tons, 97% percent of iron ore came from the Pilbara region. Reserves were estimated to be 15,500 million tons.

The country produced 883,000 tons of contained copper in 2002, up from 560,000 in 1997. Reserves were estimated to be 22.2 million tons. WMC's Olympic Dam underground mine, in South Australia, was the country's largest copper mine, and a us$1.1 billion expansion program was expected to increase production from 200,000 tons per year to 245,000 tons. Production of gold and silver at the mine in 1999 was 2,426 kg and 26,438 kg, respectively.

Zinc output in 2002 was 1,469,000 tons, 16% of world output, with reserves of 32 million tons. The McArthur River base-metal mine, in the Northern Territory, had record-setting tonnages of bulk concentrate.

In 2002, the country produced 2,187,000 tons of manganese ore (48% manganese content), with reserves of 134 million tons. Groote Eylandt Mining Co. mined about 10% of the world's manganese at its 2.4-millionton capacity Eylandt open cut operations, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Lead output, 683,000 tons (reserves of 14.6 million tons); nickel, 208,000 tons, all from Western Australia, with reserves of 10.6 million tons; and tin, 6,268,000 tons, all by Australia's only producer, Renison Bell Mine, in Tasmania, with reserves of 100,900 tons.

Australia had a substantial portion of the world's mineral sand resourcesabout 29% for ilmenite, 31% for rutile, and 46% for zirconand in 2002 produced 28% of the world's ilmenite (1,917,000 tons, with reserves of 180.9 million), 55% of the world's rutile (218,000 tons, with reserves of 19.8 million), and 42% of the world's zircon, with reserves of 26.3 million tons. The dominant producer of zircon was Iluka Resources, with a capacity of 300 tons per year. Australia was also one of the world's leading producers of titanium and zirconium (373,000 tons in 2000). Gwalia Consolidated was the world's largest producer of lithium minerals (spodumene) and of tantalum in the form of concentrates, supplying a quarter of the world's annual tantalum requirements. Reserves were estimated at 156,000 tons lithium and 24,700 tons of tantalum. In 2000, the Greenbushes Mine, south of Perth, was the world's largest and highest-grade resource for spodumene, 64,983 tons of which was produced in the country, down from 117,094 in 1996. Gwalia controlled the world's largest stock of tantalum resources and produced 415 tons from two operations in Western Australia.

Other industrial minerals produced in Australia in 2002 included clays, diatomite, gypsum (3.8 million tons), limestone (20 million tons), magnesite (484,314 metric tons, with reserves of 246 million tons), phosphate rock (2,024,580,000 tons), salt, sand and gravel, silica (4.5 million tons), and dimension stone (120,000 tons).


Between 1982/83 and 1993/94, energy consumption increased 36% for industrial, commercial, and residential use, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Because of its relatively scant hydroelectric resources and only recently discovered oil, Australia has had to rely on coal-burning steam plants for about three-quarters of its public power requirements. The remainder has been supplied by hydroelectricity, gas turbines, and internal combustion generators. In 2002, electricity generation totaled 209.616 billion kWh, of which 91.2% came from fossil fuels, almost 7.1% from hydropower, none from nuclear energy, and 1.2% from other sources. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 194.943 million kWh. Total capacity in 2002 was 45.267 million kW.

Major electric power undertakings, originally privately owned and operated, were by 1952 under the control of state organizations. In the early 1990s however, many of the Australian state governments began privatizing sections of their energy utilities. Manufacturing has been developed most extensively in or near coal areas, and distribution of electricity to principal users is therefore relatively simple. All major cities except Perth use 240-volt, 50-cycle, three-phase alternating current; Perth has 250-volt, 40-cycle, single-phase alternating current.

The Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme in southeast New South Wales, Australia's most ambitious public works project, comprises 7 power stations, a pumping station, 16 large and many smaller dams, and 145 km (90 mi) of tunnels and 80 km (50 mi) of aqueducts. It provides electricity to the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, and Victoria. The project took 25 years to complete and has a generating capacity of 3,740 MW (about 10% of Australia's total generating capacity). The Snowy Mountains scheme and other large power projects in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania have greatly increased the nation's aggregate installed capacity. The only state with water resources sufficient for continuous operation of large hydroelectric power stations is Tasmania, which possesses about 50% of Australia's hydroelectric energy potential. Production and use of such power is on the increase throughout the country, however.

As of 2002 Australia was the world's fourth-largest coal producer. Since 1986, it has been the world's largest exporter of coal. In that time exports have doubled, reaching 162 million tons by 1997. Exports of black coal alone totaled about 85 million tons in 2001. In that year exports account for more than half of total coal production. The major market is Japan, which imports about 50% of Australia's coal exports. At home, coal supplied 44% of the country's energy as of 2002. Production in 2002 amounted to 376.8 million tons; around 80% of Australia's coal was bituminous and 20% was lignite. New South Wales and Queensland account for more than 95% of Australia's black coal production and virtually all its exports. Australia has over 55 billion tons of recoverable reserves of bituminous coal, an amount that could satisfy production levels for about 260 years at current levels of demand.

In early 1983, Alcoa Australia signed a contract with the Western Australian State Energy Commission, at an estimated cost of a$11.2 billion, to supply natural gas from the Northwest Shelf (the North West Gas Shelf ProjectNWGSP). In 1985, eight Japanese companies agreed to buy 5.84 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year from 1989 to 2009. Capacity has continued to increase thanks to completion of additional offshore platforms and onshore facilities. The a$4 billion expansion of the North West Shelf LNG Project added seven million tons to LNG production when it began operation in 2003. Proven natural gas reserves totaled 2.46 trillion cu m (86.9 trillion cu ft) as of end 2004. In early 1992, petroleum exploration began in the Timor Sea; the area had been off limits for over a decade in order to establish a zone of cooperation with Indonesia. In 2001 Australia, Phillips Petroleum, and the newly independent state of East Timor renegotiated arrangements for development of the Bayu Undan oil field in the Timor Sea, with 90% of the royalties going to East Timor.

Oil production, which began in 1964, totaled 541,000 barrels per day in 2004; proven reserves at the end of 2004 totaled 4 billion barrels. Commercially exploitable uranium reserves are estimated at 474,000 tons. Rapid increases in demand for oil have outpaced supply, leaving Australia with a growing oil deficit. It is estimated that self-sufficiency in oil could plummet to only 40%.


In proportion to its total population, Australia is one of the world's most highly industrialized countries. The manufacturing sector has undergone significant expansion in recent years and turns out goods ranging from traditional textiles and processed foodstuffs to automobiles, chemicals, specialty steels and plastics, to elaborately transformed manufactures (ETMs), such as high speed ferries, telecommunications equipment and motor vehicles. The leading manufacturing industries are food and beverage processing; machinery and equipment manufacturing; metal product manufacturing; and petroleum, coal, chemical and associated product manufacturing. In 1995, manufacturing accounted for us$48.8 billion, or about 15% of GDP. By 2000, the value of manufactures had fallen in absolute and relative terms, to us$45.5 billion, or about 13% of GDP, continuing 20 years of post-industrial transformation to a services-dominated economy. In 2000, however, manufacturing grew by 4%, above the overall economy's rate of 3.2%. In 2004, industry accounted for 26.4% of GDP, and the industrial growth rate was 1.9%.

Australia is self-sufficient in beverages, most foods, building materials, many common chemicals, some domestic electrical appliances, radios, plastics, textiles, and clothing; in addition, most of its needed communications equipment, farm machinery (except tractors), furniture, leather goods, and metal manufactures are domestically produced. Recent years have seen the rapid growth of high-tech industries including aircraft, communications and other electronic equipment, electrical appliances and machinery, pharmaceuticals, and scientific equipment, and the government has supported the growth of these new sectors. High-tech industry contributes a substantial amount to the economy, with an annual growth rate of 20% expected until 2010. Many manufacturing companies are closely connectedfinancially and technicallywith manufacturers in the European Union, the United States, or Asia.


Two organizations support most of Australian government research and development. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), headquartered in Melbourne and founded in 1926, is an independent government agency that supports research and development in all fields of the physical and biological sciences except defense science, nuclear energy, and clinical medicine. The Defense Science and Technology Organization (DSTO), headquartered in Canberra, supports military research and development by providing scientific and technological assistance to the Australian Defence Force and Department of Defence.

Several issues dominate current Australian science and technology policy: the concentration of research and development (R&D) in national research centers; tensions among and between university researchers over allocation of R&D funding resources; effective communication between industry, government, and university researchers; the growing role which industry is playing in support of national R&D development; and the role which Australia is playing in international science and technology collaboration. High-technology exports totaled us$2.945 billion in 2002 or 16% of manufactured exports.

In 2000, R&D spending totaled us$7,759.748 million, or 1.55% of GDP, of which the government funded 45.7% of all R&D and industry about 46.3%. Higher education accounted for 4.8%, with 3.3% coming from foreign sources. In 1996, there were 73 agricultural, medical, scientific, and technical professional associations and societies, the foremost of which is the Australian Academy of Science, founded in 1954 by royal charter. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering was founded in 1976. The Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC) provides an independent source of counsel for the Australian Prime Minister; its role was augmented in 1986 by the creation of a post for a Minister Assisting the Prime Minister with portfolio for science and technology.

In 1996, Australia had 36 universities offering courses in basic and applied science. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 24% of college and university enrollments. In 2001, 23.1% of all bachelor's degrees awarded were in science (natural sciences, mathematics and computers, and engineering). The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the largest museum complex in Australia, has 25 exhibitions in the areas of science, technology, social history, and decorative arts.


There are many small specialty shops, but in the larger cities department stores sell all kinds of items. Supermarkets have been widely established and telephone shopping and delivery services are becoming popular. The number of franchise companies is growing. Reports indicate that in 1988, there were 184 business-format franchised companies in the country. By 2004, there were about 850 business franchise systems, a 21% increase over 2002. In 2004, there were approximately 54,000 franchise units, 14% more than in 2002. Ninety-two percent of franchisee systems are of Australian origin. These franchised businesses are about 2.5 times more successful than non-franchised businesses. Installment selling, called hire purchase, is used in the sale of many products. In the past few years, direct marketing has grown at an annual rate of about 7%. Reliable commercial credit agencies cover all the main cities and many smaller towns.

The usual business hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, MondayFriday, with some businesses also open from 9 am to noon on Saturday. Retail shops generally stay open later, usually with evening hours at least one day a week. Restaurants and convenience stores are open to later hours. Many retail establishments are open on Saturday and Sunday. Banks are generally open from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. Travelers checks and credit cards are widely accepted. A 10% goods and services tax (GST) replaced wholesale and state sales taxes as of 1 July 2000. The GST applies to most goods and services with a few exceptions, including basic foods, education, and health care.

Most advertising is done through the press, radio, and television. Principal advertising agencies are in Sydney and Melbourne.


Measured by foreign trade volume per capita, Australia is one of the great trading nations, and it continues to show a steady rise in trade volume. Throughout the 1970s, exports regularly exceeded imports. In the early 1980s, however, there was a trade deficit, which continued into the 1990s and 2000s.

Australia is mainly an exporter of primary products and an importer of manufactured and semi-finished goods, although the export of manufactured goods increased by 10% per year during the 1990s. Transport or re-export trade is negligible. In recent years, Australia's foreign trade has tended to shift from European markets to developing Asian nations, which now account for nearly 60% of Australia's exports, compared with about 10% in 1975.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 70,246.0 84,492.2 -14,246.2
Japan 12,807.6 10,583.1 2,224.5
United States 6,154.6 13,561.6 -7,407.0
China 5,914.7 9,298.7 -3,384.0
New Zealand 5,308.2 3,265.2 2,043.0
Korea, Republic of 5,267.1 3,089.9 2,177.2
United Kingdom 4,821.6 3,558.3 1,263.3
Other Asia nes 2,421.7 2,169.9 251.8
Singapore 2,283.4 2,901.5 -618.1
India 2,170.4 637.8 1,532.6
China, Hong Kong SAR 1,870.0 749.4 1,120.6
() data not available or not significant.

Although mining and agriculture are small in terms of GDP (under 5% each), they account for a large share of exports. Rural and mineral exports (including processed goods) account for about two-thirds of total merchandise exports. Australia's commodity exports are dominated by fossil, mineral, and plant fuels, including coal, lignite, and peat (11%). Wool may only amount to a small percentage (2.5%) of Australia's exports, but Australia supplies the world with almost half of its imported wool. Food products such as wheat, sugar, and meat exports tie with fuel exports as one of the top commodities leaving the country.

In percentage terms, Australia's main exports in 2004 were: metal ores, minerals, and metals (20%); coal, coke, and petroleum (19%); machinery (12%); and gold (6%). Its major imports in 2004 were machinery (23%); consumer goods (23%); transportation equipment (20%); and fuels and lubricants (8%). Australia's leading markets in 2004 were Japan (18.9% of total exports); ASEAN (11.7%); the European Union (EU) (11.2%); China (9.3%); and the United States (8.1%). Leading suppliers in 2004 were the EU (23.7% of all imports); ASEAN (16.4%); the United States (14.5%); China (12.6%); and Japan (11.8%).


In 2004, merchandise exports rose to us$87.1 billion (balance-of-payments basis), but imports of goods grew much faster, to us$105.3 billion, widening the trade deficit to us$18.2 billion, from us$15.3 billion in 2003. This led to an increase in the current account deficit from us$30.4 billion (6% of GDP) in 2003 to us$40 billion (6.5% of GDP) in 2004. The current account balance over the period 200105 averaged5% of GDP. The current account deficit was expected to narrow to around 5.4% of GDP by 2007, from 6.5% of GDP in 2004.

Australia's exports in the early 2000s reflected the increasingly value-added direction of Australian industry. From 1993 to 2000,

Current Account -30,205.0
     Balance on goods -15,256.0
          Imports -85,852.0
          Exports 70,596.0
     Balance on services -319.0
     Balance on income -14,552.0
     Current transfers -78.0
Capital Account 767.0
Financial Account 36,719.0
     Direct investment abroad -14,707.0
     Direct investment in Australia 7,240.0
     Portfolio investment assets -8,455.0
     Portfolio investment liabilities 48,755.0
     Financial derivatives 738.0
     Other investment assets -6,343.0
     Other investment liabilites 9,491.0
Net Errors and Omissions -404.0
Reserves and Related Items -6,877.0
() data not available or not significant.

manufactured exports grew at an average rate of around 8% per year. Primary products remain the dominant export sector in value terms, however. Nearly half of services credits are accounted for by tourism, while services debits are dominated by transportation services and outbound tourism.


The Reserve Bank of Australia, the central bank reconstituted in 1960, functions as a banker's bank and financial agent of the federal and some state governments, issuing notes, controlling interest and discount rates, mobilizing Australia's international reserves, and administering exchange controls and government loans. It was formerly connected with the Commonwealth Trading Banka general bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the Commonwealth Development Bank. The banking system has undergone progressive privatization and foreign investment since the deregulation of financial markets in the 1980s under the Wallis Inquiry into the Australian financial system of 1981. In 1996, the government privatized the Commonwealth Banks in the Reserve Bank Act, separating the Commonwealth Banks from the Reserve Bank. Rural credits, mortgage banking, and industrial financing are now administered wholly by private-owned banks. Fifty banks operate in Australia, 35 of which are foreign-owned; the largest banks include National Australia Bank, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulates the banks and other financial institutions.

The Australian currency has floated freely since 1983, and was allowed to fall dramatically from 1984 to 1987. The Reserve Bank pointed to an expected upturn in economic activity in 1997 and anticipated a continuation of low inflation. It also indicated that firming economic growth, together with the uncertainties surrounding wage outcomes, made changes to monetary policy settings unlikely. Interest rate cuts were not on the bank's policy agenda, as it waited to see the impact of reductions made in late 1996. From 1996 to 2000, the Australian dollar fell by almost 30% against the US dollar, losing 12% in the first half of 2000 alone. The Reserve Bank increased interest rates a number of times in order to stave off inflation, but the introduction of the 10% GST in July threatened to raise inflation despite monetary policies. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to us$85.3 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas us$258.7 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 5.06%.

The Australian stock market is where equity (shares), units in listed trusts, options, government bonds, and other fixed-interest securities are traded. It is operated on a national basis by the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), which is responsible for the day-to-day running and surveillance of stock market trading. The ASX was established on 1 April 1987, with the passage of the Australian National Guarantee Fund Act through the Commonwealth Parliament. This Act converted the six former capital city Stock Exchanges into state subsidiaries of the ASX. As of 2004 there were 1,515 companies listed on the ASX. Market capitalization as of December 2004 stood at us$776.403 billion, with the ASX up 22.8% from the previous year at 4,050.6.


Australia has one of the most competitive insurance markets in the world, with a large number of insurers competing for business from a small population base. Established in 1987, the Insurance and Superannuation Commission (ISC) was the ultimate regulatory authority for the insurance industry in Australia. It was replaced by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Life insurance firms, through premiums on policies and interest earned on accumulated funds, account for substantial annual savings. The companies invest in government securities, in company securities (including shares and fixed-interest obligations), and in mortgage loans and loans against policies in force. Most loans (to individuals and building societies) are for housing.

Motorvehicle third-party liability, workers' compensation, professional indemnity for certain professions, and Medicare coverage are compulsory. As of 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled us$40.385 billion, with life premiums accounting for the largest portion at us$22.341 billion. The country's top non-life insurer that same year was QBE Group, with earned premium income from domestic business, including reinsurance (excluding public sector insurers) of us$3.919 billion, while the top life insurer that year was AMP, with gross life written premiums of us$4,908.7 million.


The fiscal year begins 1 July and ends 30 June. After World War II, the Commonwealth government assumed greater responsibility for maintaining full employment and a balanced economy, as well as for providing a wide range of social services. Social security and welfare payments are the largest category of government expenditure. The central government has financed almost all its defense and capital works programs from revenue and has made available to the states money raised by public loans for public works programs.

Revenue and Grants 213,386 100.0%
     Tax revenue 194,313 91.1%
     Social contributions 0.0%
     Grants 201 0.1%
     Other revenue 18,872 8.8%
Expenditures 206,858 100.0%
     General public services 55,023 26.6%
     Defense 13,448 6.5%
     Public order and safety 1,939 0.9%
     Economic affairs 12,776 6.2%
     Environmental protection 495 0.2%
     Housing and community amenities 1,413 0.7%
     Health 29,425 14.2%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 1,859 0.9%
     Education 19,211 9.3%
     Social protection 71,269 34.5%
() data not available or not significant.

Deficits are common. In the latter half of the 1980s, however, five consecutive years of significant surpluses occurred as a result of expenditure restraints. The late 1990s also saw consistent surpluses. In 2000, the government implemented a 10% goods and services tax (GST) on all items, while income tax and corporate tax rates were cut.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Australia's central government took in revenues of approximately us$249.8 billion and had expenditures of us$240.2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately us$9.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 16.2% of GDP. Total external debt was us$509.6 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues in millions of Australian dollars were a$213,386 and expenditures were a$206,858. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was us$32,733 and expenditures us$31,656, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of 6.519 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 26.6%; defense, 6.5%; public order and safety, 0.9%; economic affairs, 6.2%; environmental protection, 0.2%; housing and community amenities, 0.7%; health, 14.2%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.9%; education, 9.3%; and social protection, 34.5%.


The main taxes (personal and corporate income, payroll, and goods and services tax (GST) are levied by the federal government, but the states and municipalities impose other levies. Federal rates are determined in legislation that is foreshadowed in the budget, presented each August; rates apply to the fiscal year beginning in July, except for company tax rates, which apply to the previous year's income.

In July 2000, the Australian government implemented a complete tax system overhaul with the introduction of a 10% GST on most goods and services, with the exception of basic foods, education, health and some other sectors. The GST replaced most sales taxes and was followed in 2001 by a cut in the corporate tax rate to 30% for both public and private firms. Undistributed profits of private firms are taxed at a higher rate. Nonresident companies pay an additional tax of 5%. Both the federal government and states can levy land taxes, and states levy both stamp duties on various documents and payroll taxes. Excise taxes are levied on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, luxury cars, coal, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, and indigenous crude oil.

As part of the new tax system, federal, state, and territorial governments agreed to fund a First Home Owners Scheme (FHOS) to offset the impact of the new GST on first-time home buyers. A grant of a$7000 was made available for first-time purchases of new and existing housing. On 9 March 2001 the grant was extended to contracts entered into before 1 January 2002. In December 2001 the additional grant was extended to June 2002 but reduced to a$3000, but in July 2002, the grant reverted to its original amount of a$7000 as it was again extended.

Personal taxation is levied by the Commonwealth on a sharply progressive basis. The pay-as-you-earn system (called PAYE) is used. As of 2000, individual tax rates ranged from zero on income up to a$6,000 to 47% on income over a$60,001. Social security taxes are included as part of income taxes. Deductions are allowed for dependents, donations, medical expenses, and children's educational expenses, and for payment of life insurance or pension premiums. There is also a pensioner rebate that varies depending on income. There is also a 1.5% levy on residents to fund the nation's healthcare program, plus a 1% surcharge for those in high income brackets.

In early 1990, the Australian Taxation Office and the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) formalized a simultaneous audits agreement to investigate suspected noncompliance with tax laws in both countries.


Before the 1980s, federal policy was to use the tariff to protect local industries (especially the automobile industry), but a three-decade long program of tariff reduction led to tariff rates of 5% or below in 2000. Textiles and clothes (25%), shoes (15%), and automobile products (15%) had higher duties, but those were reduced to 17.5%, 10%, and 10%, respectively, in 2005. The GST of 10% applies for most imports and exports in addition to the duty. Tariffs on industrial machinery and capital equipment ordinarily are low where they do not compete with Australian enterprise and machinery and equipment required by new industries may be imported duty-free or at concessional rates under the Project-By-Law Scheme (PBS).

As a contracting party to GATT, Australia consented to a number of tariff reductions after 1947. Under the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), which went into effect on 1 January 1981, Australia and New Zealand offered the other South Pacific Forum members duty-free or concessional access to their markets. The Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA, abbreviated to CER) opened bilateral trade between the two countries in 1983. Australia is also a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

The only free-trade zone is the Darwin Trade Development Zone (TDZ), located in the Northern Territory. In 1997, the government introduced a Manufacturing-in-Bond (MIB) zone, allowing firms to import goods duty-free to a warehouse for further manufacturing and ultimate export. The first MIB site approved was the Steel River Facility in Newcastle.


The United States accounts for the biggest share of total foreign investment; in 2004, total US investment in Australia (direct and portfolio) amounted to us$227 billion, which accounted for nearly 30% of total investment in Australia that year. The United Kingdom is second, followed by Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada. Other substantial foreign investors include France, Switzerland, Singapore, and New Zealand. In 2003, the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Australia was us$158.8 billion, or 31% of GDP. Over the period 200105, FDI inflows averaged 3.5% of GDP. In 2003, the level of Australian investment abroad was us$110.5 billion. Most Australian investment abroad goes to the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland.

Almost half of total foreign investment, has been in finance and insurance, with investments in manufacturing, other industries, and mining making up another third. The most recent focus of foreign investment has been the booming tourist industry, and commercial and residential property development. Hotels and resorts on the north New South Wales and Queensland coasts are attracting capital from abroad, as are large office block and hotel projects in the capital cities.

Australia prefers the inflow of long-term development capital to that of short-term speculative capital. It also welcomes the technical competence usually accompanying foreign investment. Investment incentives include tariff protection, and bounties for the manufacture of certain products. Total foreign ownership is permitted, but ownership in certain sectors is subject to restrictions. The Federal Department of the Treasury regulates foreign investment with the assistance of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), which screens for conformity with Australian law and policy. The major legislation governing foreign investment is the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act of 1975, as amended in 1989, and administered according to regulations issued in 1991, as the country was embarking on its program of economic liberalization.


Commonwealth and state governments devoted special attention to the production and marketing of main primary products, and after 1920, legislation provided subsidies or other marketing aids to certain commodities. Federal and state aid was given to industries established in approved fields of manufacture during the 1970s. The Export Market Development Grant Acts of 1974 provided government assistance in the development of export markets. Recipients were eligible for up to 50% reimbursement for expenses incurred establishing foreign markets for domestic goods. In 1975, the government set up the Export Finance and Insurance Corp. (replacing the Export Payments Insurance Corp.) to provide Australian exporters with insurance and other financial services not readily available commercially, to provide insurance against political risk.

The government endeavors to prevent undue fluctuation in the economy. Price controls were in effect during World War II and part of the postwar period and are now imposed on a few essential household items. As an alternative to price controls, the Commonwealth government, in mid-1975, introduced a policy of wage indexing, allowing wages to rise as fast as, but no faster than, consumer prices. Major labor unions, however, opposed this restraint, which was ended in 1981, in the wake of the second oil shock and the onset of global recession. Monetary policy supported recovery from the recession of the early 1980s by holding to a low inflation rate. From the mid-1980s, Australia's government embarked on a basic re-orientation of the economy from inward-looking import substitution industrialization (ISI) to outward-looking export-led growth and liberalization. Key reforms have been unilateral reduction of high tariffs and other protective barriers; letting the Australian dollar float; deregulating the financial services sector; rationalizing and reducing the number of trade unions; privatizing many government-owned services and public utilities, including establishing a fully competitive electricity market, one of only two (with the United Kingdom) among economically developed countries. The transformation and opening of the economy is credited with helping produce, as of 2006, 15 years of uninterrupted expansion exceeding in duration the expansions of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. After August 1993, the focus of fiscal policy shifted towards deficit reduction. During this period, the national debt declined from a peak of 19% of GDP in 199596, to less than 7% of GDP in 200001. However, by 2004, the public debt was estimated at 17.4% of GDP.

The government has been particularly aggressive in promoting Australia as an "information economy." It is second in the world after the United States in PC use. Australia has been ranked as second (only to the United States) among 60 countries surveyed in terms of providing an environment conducive to the development of e-business opportunities. In 2000, the new tax system aimed at increasing the government budget while stimulating economic growth in such sectors as tourism/services and high technology.

Although the Australian economy as of 2006 enjoyed healthy growth, low inflation, the lowest unemployment rate it had had for almost 30 years, negligible government debt, and regular budget surpluses, improvements to the economy may still be made. They include: more labor-market reform, tax reform, investment in people and infrastructure, and better relations between the federal government and Australia's six states and two territories. A growing current account deficit must be managed. Reform of the public health, higher-education, and welfare systems, and funded pension programs are also assuming greater importance.


Social Security measures have been in effect since 1908 and cover all residents. Old age pensions are payable to men 65 years of age and over, and to women 62.5years of age and over, who have lived in Australia continuously for at least 10 years at some stage in their lives. The continuous-residence requirement may be waived for those who have been residents for numerous shorter periods. Disability pensions are payable to persons 16 years of age and older who have lived at least five years in Australia and have become totally incapacitated or permanently blind. The family allowance legislation provides for weekly payments to children under 16 years of age. Widows' pensions are also provided. Employed persons are covered by workers' compensation, and unemployment assistance is provided for those aged 21 to 65. Youths aged between 16 and 20 are eligible for the youth training allowance, administered by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. Work-related sickness and maternity benefits are provided, as well as medical benefits for all residents. There are numerous programs in place for families of limited means, including child care and rent assistance.

The Sex Discrimination Act bars discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or pregnancy. The Office for Women was created to monitor the position of women in society. Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited by law, and is aggressively addressed by the government. Sex discrimination complaints were down in 2004 by seven percent. Domestic violence remains a problem, particularly in Aboriginal communities. The government has a strong commitment to the welfare of children.

Discrimination on the basis of race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin was prohibited in the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. Despite these measures, aboriginal Australians have poorer standards of living, are imprisoned more often, and die younger than white Australians.


Australia is one of the healthiest countries in the world. The common cold and other respiratory infections are the most prevalent forms of illness; arteriosclerosis is the most common cause of death. Water in most cities is good and safe for household purposes and garbage and trash are collected in cities and towns.

All levels of government are concerned with public health, with the municipalities functioning largely as agents for the administration of state policies. State health departments are responsible for infant welfare, school medical and dental services (provided free of charge), treatment and eradication of infectious and contagious diseases and tuberculosis, industrial hygiene programs, maintenance of food and drug standards, public and mental hospitals, and the regulation of private hospitals. The Commonwealth government makes grants for medical research, coordinates state health programs, and maintains specialist medical research institutions and laboratories.

Public sector funding accounts for over two-thirds of health care expenditure in Australia; some is allocated via the central government and some via local authorities. Since the introduction of Medicare (the national health insurance program) in 1984, the share of funding provided by the federal government has risen. Under the Medicare system, all Australians have access to free care at public hospitals. The plan also meets three-fourths of the bill for private hospital treatment, while patients pay the remainder (and can take out private health insurance to cover this, although comprehensive private medical insurance was abolished in the 1984 act). Total health care expenditure was estimated at 8.6% of GDP as of 1999.

Since 1950, certain drugs have been provided free of charge when prescribed by a medical practitioner. All patients other than pensioners must pay a set amount for every prescription supplied under the scheme; the remainder is met by the government. For those not eligible for free public health care and who have basic medical insurance, the government pays 30% of the scheduled benefit fee for each medical service. Such insurance, including the government contribution, covers 85% of scheduled fees. The federal government provides grants to the states and aboriginal organizations for the development of special health services for aboriginals. As of 1992, aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders had unacceptably low levels of health. Though, they have access to the same health care system as any other Australian, they are often reluctant to take full advantage of it. Unemployed persons, recent immigrants and refugees, and certain low-income persons are entitled to health care cards that entitle the bearer and dependents to free medical and hospital treatment.

Health services are efficient. Hospitals are generally modern and well equipped, but space often is at a premium. In 1998, there were more than 1,015 acute-care hospitals, of which 734 were public hospitals. As of 1999, there were an estimated 8.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people. Most private hospitals tend to be fairly small and there are a large number of private hospitals run by religious groups. Hospital facilities are concentrated in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, which together account for about half the country's hospitals and hospital beds.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 249 physicians per 100,000 people in Australia. Additionally, there were approximately 42 dentists, 60 midwives, and 775 nurses per 100,000 people. Competent general physicians and specialists are available in most cities and the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides medical care and treatment to people living in remote areas.

Infant mortality in 2005 was 4.69 per 1,000 live births, one of the lowest in the world. The under-five mortality rate has steadily decreased from 24 in 1960 to 7 in 2000. Approximately 67% of married women (ages 1549) used contraception. The 1999 birth rate was 13.2 per 1,000 inhabitants, and the fertility rate in 2000 was 1.8 per woman. The estimated life expectancy in 2005 was 80.39 years, the eighth-highest in the world. Estimated immunization of one-year-old children was as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 88%; and measles, 89%. In 1999, the incidence of tuberculosis was 6.2 per 1,000 people.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 14,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


According to 2001 national census figures, there were about 7,072,200 dwellings in the nation, representing over 7.3 million households. In Tasmania, there were about 208,704 dwellings. Nationwide, about 78% of all dwellings are separate, single-family houses (about 5.3 million houses). About 22% are classified as higher density housing, including row or terrace housing, town-houses, and apartment buildings. About 70% of all units are owner occupied. Central heating, formerly available only in the most modern and expensive homes and apartments, is now generally available in the coldest areas of the country. Most apartments and houses are equipped with hot-water service, refrigeration, and indoor bath and toilet facilities.


Education is compulsory for children from the age of 6 to 15 (16 in Tasmania). Most children attend pre-school or kindergarten programs. Primary education generally begins at six years of age and lasts for six or seven years, depending on the state. Secondary schools have programs of four to six years. Free education is provided in municipal kindergartens and in state primary, secondary, and technical schools. There are also state-regulated private schools, which are attended by approximately one-third of Australian children. Correspondence courses and educational broadcasts are given for children living in the remote "outback" areas and unable to attend school because of distance or physical handicap. One-teacher schools also satisfy these needs. Although most aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students use the regular school system, there are special programs to help them continue on to higher education.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 97% of age-eligible students; 96% for boys and 97% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 88% of age-eligible students; 87% for boys and 89% for girls. The pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was at about 18:1 in 2003. Also in 2003, private schools accounted for about 28% of primary school enrollment and 30.5% of secondary enrollment.

Although each state controls its own system, education is fairly uniform throughout Australia. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.9% of GDP. Education is the joint responsibility of the federal government and each state government and territory. The federal government directly controls schools in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory.

Australia has approximately 20 universities in addition to more than 200 technical institutes. There is a state university in each capital city and each provincial area; a national postgraduate research institute in Canberra and a university of technology in Sydney with a branch at Newcastle. There are also a number of privately funded higher-education institutions including theological and teacher training colleges. Adult education includes both vocational and non-vocational courses. Most universities offer education programs for interested persons. In 2003, it was estimated that about 74% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in higher education programs; 67% men and 82% women.


The National Library of Australia traces its origins back to 1902, but it was not until 1961 that it was legislatively separated from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and made a distinct entity. The National Library is now housed in modern facilities in Canberra and has over 4.7 million volumes. Three other libraries in Australia of comparable size are the library of the University of Sydney (over three million volumes), founded in 1852; the State Library of New South Wales (over 1.9 million volumes), founded in 1826; the State Library of Victoria (over 1.5 million), founded in 1854, and the Library Information Service of Western Australia (2.7 million). The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Library Service oversees nine public library branches and the ACT Government and Assembly Library. The state capital cities have large noncirculating reference libraries, as well as municipal public circulating libraries. The university libraries of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Monash, New South Wales, and Queensland all have sizable collections. Recent years have seen programs with increased cooperation between libraries, which has resulted in increased service. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Acton has a specialized collection of 15,000 volumes, and dozens of museums and cultural centers house other specialized collections.

There are about 2,000 museums in Australia, of which over 200 are art museums. A national art collection has been assembled in the Australian National Gallery at Canberra, which was opened to the public in October 1982. The National Museum of Australia, founded 1980 in Canberra, exhibits Australian history and social history. In 2001 the museum opened new facilities in a stunning architectural structure on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. There are eight other major museums, two each in Sydney and Melbourne and one in each of the other state capitals. Of note in Melbourne are a Performing Arts Museum (1978); the Ancient Times House (1954); and the Jewish Museum of Australia. The Melbourne Museum, completed in 2000, became the largest museum in the southern hemisphere. Sydney houses the Australian National Maritime Museum (1985), the Museum of Contemporary Art (1979) and the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities (1860). Some of the smaller cities also have museums. The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne has a fine collection of paintings and other artworks, and the South Australian Museum in Adelaide has excellent collections relating to Australian entomology, zoology, and ethnology. Botanical gardens are found in every capital city.


Responsibility for the nation's postal service is vested in the Australian Postal Commission and with the Australian Telecommunications Commission. Local and long-distance telephone services are rated highly. In 2003, there were an estimated 542 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 719 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The government administers and supervises broadcasting through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which operates a nationwide noncommercial radio and television service; the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, which licenses and regulates commercial broadcasters; and the Special Broadcasting Service, which prepares and broadcasts multilingual radio and television programs. Federal government stations are financed from budget revenues, and the private commercial stations derive their income from business advertising. The primary news services are the Australian Associated Press and ABC Newsonline. As of 1999 there were 262 AM and 345 FM radio stations and 104 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,996 radios and 722 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 76 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 565.1 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 567 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. In 2004, there were 8,224 secure servers in the country.

In general, news is presented straightforwardly, and political criticism is considered fair and responsible. The Australian, one of only two national newspapers, was established in 1964 and is published in all state capitals. It is independent and had an estimated daily circulation in 1999 of 153,000. The other national daily, the Australian Financial Review, had a MondayFriday average circulation of 78,000 in the same year. The Age is published in Melbourne with a daily circulation of 197,000 in 2004. The Sydney Morning Herald, a conservative daily, had a daily circulation of 225,861 in 2004. Major Sunday newspapers include the Sun-Herald (613,000) and the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney, and the Sunday Mail in Brisbane (598,070). The major news agency is the Australian Associated Press, founded in 1935; it has been associated with Reuters since 1946. Many international news services have bureaus in Sydney.

Though the Australian constitution does not have specific guarantees of freedom of expression, the High Court has, in two decisions, declared that freedom of political discourse is implied. The government is said to respect all such rights in practice.


Chambers of commerce and chambers of manufacture are active throughout Australia, especially in the state capital cities; the Australian Chamber of Commerce (1091) coordinates their activities. The Australian Consumers' Association is active. There are also trade unions and business associations in a wide variety of fields. Agricultural producers and industry workers are represented through the Australian Dairy Corporation, the Aus-Meat, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, and the Australian Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries, to name a few.

There are professional associations or scholarly societies in the fields of architecture, art, international affairs, economics, political and social science, engineering, geography, history, law, literature, medicine, philosophy, and the natural sciences. Many publish scholarly journals. Notable societies include the Australian Academy of Science,

The Australia Council (founded in 1943) encourages amateur activities in the arts and sponsors traveling exhibitions of ballet, music, and drama. Theatrical, musical, and dance organizations are present in the larger cities and towns. Other notable art and cultural groups are the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Film Institute, and the National Trust of Australia.

Health and welfare organizations include the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards, the Australian Dental Association, the Australian Medical Association, and the Australian Medical Council, among others. There are numerous associations for specialized fields of medicine and science.

Several sports organizations are present. Skiing and tobogganing clubs function in the mountainous areas. Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, and several other cities have large yacht clubs. Every state capital city has swimming and surfing clubs.

There are numerous youth organizations. One of the most prominent is the National Union of Students of Australia (NUSA), which was founded in 1987 by uniting the existing student unions in the Australian states. It now represents the concerns and interests of over 250,000 students. The President of NUSA has a position on the Higher Education Council, which advises the Australian Minister for Employment, Education, and Training. Other youth groups include the Australian Youth Hostel Association, Student Services of Australia, Tertiary Catholic Federation of Australia, the YMCA and YWCA, Young Liberal Movement, Young National Party, and Young Socialist League. Scouting organizations are also active throughout the country.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity, the Christian Children's Fund, Doctor's Without Borders, World Vision, Amnesty International, and UNICEF.


Among Australia's natural tourist attractions are the Great Barrier Reef, a mecca for scuba divers; the varied and unusual flora and fauna; and the sparsely inhabited outback regions, which in some areas may be toured by camel. Other attractions include Ballarat and other historic gold-rush towns near Melbourne; wineries, particularly in the Barossa Valley, 55 km (34 mi) northeast of Adelaide; Old Sydney Town, a recreation of the Sydney Cove Settlement north of Sydney as it was in the early 19th century; and the arts festivals held in Perth every year and in Adelaide every two years, featuring foreign as well as Australian artists.

The sports that lure tourists are surfing, sailing, fishing, golf, tennis, cricket, and rugby. Melbourne is famous for its horse racing (Australia's most celebrated race is the Melbourne Cup) and for its 120,000-capacity cricket ground, reputedly the biggest in the world.

Except for nationals of New Zealand, visitors must have a valid visa. Immunizations are required only of tourists coming from an infected area.

The government actively promotes tourism. In 2003, Australia attracted 4,745,855 foreign visitors. Typically, most visitors come from East Asia and the Pacific region. That year there were 204,461 hotel rooms with 580,252 beds and an occupancy rate of 60%. The average length of stay was two nights. Tourist receipts totaled over us$15 billion.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Melbourne at us$288 and in Sydney, at us$248.


The most highly regarded contemporary Australian writer is Patrick White (191290), author of The Eye of the Storm and other works of fiction and winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature. Other well-known novelists are Henry Handel Richardson (Henrietta Richardson Robertson, 18701946), Miles Franklin (18791954), Christina Stead (190283), and Thomas Michael Keneally (b.1935). Henry Lawson (18671922) was a leading short-story writer and creator of popular ballads. Germaine Greer (b.1939) is a writer on feminism. A prominent Australian-born publisher of newspapers and magazines, in the United Kingdom and the United States as well as Australia, is Keith Rupert Murdoch (b.1931).

Three renowned scholars of Australian origin are Sir Gilbert Murray, O.M. (18661957), classicist and translator of ancient Greek plays; Samuel Alexander, O.M. (18591938), influential scientific philosopher; and Eric Partridge (18941979), authority on English slang. Sir Howard Walter Florey (18981968) shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of penicillin. An outstanding bacteriologist was Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, O.M. (18991985), director of the Melbourne Hospital and co-winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize for medicine. Elizabeth Kenny (18861952) made important contributions to the care and treatment of infantile paralysis victims. Sir John Carew Eccles (19031997) shared the 1963 Nobel Prize for medicine for his work on ionic mechanisms of the nerve cell membrane. John Warcup Cornforth (b.1917) shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his work on organic molecules. Peter C. Doherty (b.1940) shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his work in immunology. Barry J. Marshall (b.1951) and J. Robin Warren (b.1937), both Australians, shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which causes stomach ulcers and gastritis.

Among Australia's most prominent film directors are Fred Schepisi (b.1939), Bruce Beresford (b.1940), George Miller (b.1943), Peter Weir (b.1944), and Gillian Armstrong (b.1950); film stars have included Australian-born Errol Flynn (190959), Paul Hogan (b.1940), and US-born Mel Gibson (b.1956). Leading Australian-born figures of the theater include the actors Dame Judith Anderson (18981992) and Cyril Ritchard (18981977) and the ballet dancer, choreographer, and stage actor and director Sir Robert Murray Helpmann (190986). Musicians of Australian birth include the operatic singers Dame Nellie Melba (18611931), John Brownlee (190169), Marjorie Lawrence (190779), and Dame Joan Sutherland (b.1926) and the composers Percy Grainger (18821961), Arthur Benjamin (18931960), Peggy Glanville-Hicks (19121990), and Peter Joshua Sculthorpe (b.1929). Popular singers include Helen Reddy (b.1941) and Olivia Newton-John (b.UK, 1948). Alfred Hill (18701960) is regarded as the founder of the art of musical composition in Australia. Albert Namatjira (190259), an Aranda aboriginal, achieved renown as a painter, as did Sir Sidney Robert Nolan (191792) and Arthur Boyd (192099), who was a sculptor as well as a painter. The aviator Sir Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith (18971935) pioneered flights across the Pacific Ocean. A popular figure of folklore was the outlaw Ned (Edward) Kelly (1855?80).

From about 1970 to 1990, the tennis world was dominated by such Australian players as Frank Sedgman (b.1927), Lewis Hoad (193494), Kenneth Rosewall (b.1934), Rod (George) Laver (b.1938), John David Newcombe (b.1944), and Evonne Goolagong Cawley (b.1951). Sir Donald George Bradman (19082001) was one of the outstanding cricket players of modern times. Record-breaking long-distance runners include John Landy (b.1930) and Herb Elliott (b.1938). Jon Konrads (b.1942) and his sister Ilsa (b.1944) have held many world swimming records, as did Dawn Fraser (b.1937), the first woman to swim 100 meters in less than a minute, and Murray Rose (b.1939).

A notable modern Australian statesman is Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (18941978), who served as prime minister from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966. Subsequent prime ministers have included Edward Gough Whitlam (b.1916), who held office from 1972 to 1975; John Malcolm Fraser (b.1930), who succeeded Whitlam late in 1975; Robert James Lee Hawke (b.1929), who served from 198391, Paul John Keating (b.1944), who succeeded Bob Hawke in 1991; and John Winston Howard (b.1939), who began his term as Australia's 25th prime minister in 1996; he has been the most electorally successful prime minister since Menzies.


Since 1936, Australia has claimed all territory in Antarctica (other than Adélie Land) situated south of 60°s and between 45° and 160°e, an area of some 6.1 million sq km (2.4 million sq mi), or nearly 40% of the continent. Three scientific and exploratory bases are now in operation: Mawson (established February 1954), Davis (established January 1957), and Casey (established February 1969).

Ashmore and Cartier Islands

The uninhabited, reef-surrounded Ashmore Islands, three in number, and Cartier Island, situated in the Indian Ocean about 480 km (300 mi) north of Broome, Western Australia, have been under Australian authority since May 1934. In July 1938, they were annexed as part of the Northern Territory. Cartier Island is now a marine reserve.

Christmas Island

Situated at 10°30s and 105°40e in the Indian Ocean, directly south of the western tip of Java, Christmas Island is 2,623 km (1,630 mi) northwest of Perth and has an area of about 135 sq km (52 sq mi). Until its annexation by the UK in 1888, following the discovery of phosphate rock, the island was uninhabited. The total estimated population in 2002 was 474, of whom 70% were Chinese and 10% were Malay. The only industry was phosphate extraction. The governments of Australia and New Zealand decided to close the mine in December 1987. Christmas Island was transferred from the UK to Australia on 1 October 1958. Abbott's booby is an endangered species on the island.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a group of coral atolls consisting of 27 islands with a total land area of 14 sq km (5 sq mi) in the Indian Ocean, at 12°5s and 96°53e, about 2,770 km (1,720 mi) northwest of Perth. The estimated population of the two inhabited islands was 632 in 2002. A British possession since 1857, the islands were transferred to Australia in 1955 and are administered by the minister for territories. In 1978, the Australian government bought out the remaining interests (except for personal residences) of the Clunies-Ross heirs on the islands. The climate is pleasant, with moderate rainfall. Principal crops are copra, coconut oil, and coconuts. The airport is a link in a fortnightly service between Australia and South Africa.

Coral Sea Islands

The Coral Sea Islands were declared a territory of Australia in legislation enacted during 1969 and amended slightly in 1973. Spread over a wide ocean area between 10° and 23°30s and 154° and 158°e, the tiny islands are administered by the minister for the Capital Territory and have no permanent inhabitantsalthough there is a manned meteorology station on Willis Island.

Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands

Heard Island, at 53°6s and 72°31 e, about 480 km (300 mi) southeast of the Kerguelen Islands and about 4,000 km (2,500 mi) southwest of Perth, is about 910 sq km (350 sq mi) in size. Bleak and mountainous, it is dominated by a dormant volcano, Big Ben, about 2,740 m (8,990 ft) high. There was a station at Atlas Cove from 1947 to 1955, but the island is now uninhabited and is visited occasionally by scientists. Just north is Shag Island, and 42 km (26 mi) to the west are the small, rocky McDonald Islands. The largest island of the group was visited for the first time, it is believed, on 27 January 1971, by members of the Australian National Antarctic Expedition. The territory was transferred from the UK to Australia at the end of 1947.

Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island, at 54°30s and 158°40e, is about 1,600 km (1,000 mi) southeast of Hobart. The rocky, glacial island, 34 km (21 mi) long and about 3 to 5 km (2 to 3 mi) wide, is uninhabited except for a base maintained at the northern end since February 1948. Macquarie Island has been a dependency of Tasmania since the early 19th century. At the most southerly point, the island has what is believed to be the biggest penguin rookery in the world. Two small island groupings are off Macquarie Island: Bishop and Clerk, and Judge and Clerk.

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island, with an area of 36 sq km (14 sq mi), is situated at 29°3s and 167°57e, 1,676 km (1,041 mi) east-northeast of Sydney. Discovered in 1774 by Capt. James Cook, it was the site of a British penal colony during 17881814 and 182555. In 1856, it was settled by descendants of the Bounty mutineers. As of 2002, the estimated permanent population was 1,866. Transport is almost exclusively by motor vehicle. The soil is fertile and the climate conducive to the growing of fruits and bean seed, as well as the famed Norfolk Island pine. Tourism is also important. As of 2003, endangered species on Norfolk Island included the gray-headed blackbird, Norfolk Island parakeet, the white-breasted silver-eye, the green parrot, the Morepork (Boobook owl), and the Bird of Providence (Providence Petrel). In 1996, Phillip Island was added to the Norfolk Island National Park.


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