Australia [Country Flag of Australia]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Australia]



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Background: Australia became a British commonwealth in 1901. Blessed by rich natural resources, the country enjoyed rapid gains in herding, agriculture, and manufacturing and made a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Australia subsequently developed its minerals, metals, and fossil fuel markets, all of which have become key Australian exports. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney will host the 2000 summer Olympics.


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Location: Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean

Geographic coordinates: 27 00 S, 133 00 E

Map references: Oceania

total: 7,686,850 sq km
land: 7,617,930 sq km
water: 68,920 sq km
note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than the US

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 25,760 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north

Terrain: mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m
highest point: Mount Kosciusko 2,229 m

Natural resources: bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum

Land use:
arable land: 6%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 54%
forests and woodland: 19%
other: 21% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 21,070 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: cyclones along the coast; severe droughts

Environment—current issues: soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; desertification; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; limited natural fresh water resources

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification

Geography—note: world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer


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Population: 18,783,551 (July 1999 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 21% (male 2,023,569; female 1,926,901)
15-64 years: 66% (male 6,317,045; female 6,172,735)
65 years and over: 13% (male 1,022,485; female 1,320,816) (1999 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.9% (1999 est.)

Birth rate: 13.21 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 6.9 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: 2.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (1999 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 5.11 deaths/1,000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.14 years
male: 77.22 years
female: 83.23 years (1999 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.81 children born/woman (1999 est.)

noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian

Ethnic groups: Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%

Religions: Anglican 26.1%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%

Languages: English, native languages

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (1980 est.)


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

Data code: AS

Government type: democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign

Capital: Canberra

Administrative divisions: 6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Dependent areas: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island

Independence: 1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies)

National holiday: Australia Day, 26 January (1788)

Constitution: 9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901

Legal system: based on English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir William DEANE (since 16 February 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister John Winston HOWARD (since 11 March 1996); Deputy Prime Minister Timothy Andrew FISCHER (since 11 March 1996)
cabinet: Cabinet selected from among the members of Federal Parliament by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general for a three-year term

Legislative branch: bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats—12 from each of the six states and two from each of the two territories; one-half of the members elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives (148 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve three-year terms; no state can have fewer than five representatives)
elections: Senate—last held 3 October 1998 (next to be held by October 2001); House of Representatives—last held 3 October 1998 (next to be held by October 2001)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—Liberal-National 35, Labor 29, Australian Democrats 9, Greens 1, One Nation 1, independent 1; House of Representatives—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—Liberal-National 80, Labor 67, independent 1

Judicial branch: High Court, the Chief Justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general

Political parties and leaders:
government: coalition of Liberal Party [John Winston HOWARD] and National Party [Timothy Andrew FISCHER]
opposition: Australian Labor Party [Kim BEAZLEY]; Australian Democratic Party [Meg LEES]; Green Party [Bob BROWN]; One Nation Party [Pauline HANSON]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Australian Democratic Labor Party (anti-Communist Labor Party splinter group); Peace and Nuclear Disarmament Action (Nuclear Disarmament Party splinter group)

International organization participation: ANZUS, APEC, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MTCR, NAM (guest), NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, PCA, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNITAR, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Andrew Sharp PEACOCK
chancery: 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 797-3000
FAX: [1] (202) 797-3168
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Genta Hawkins HOLMES
embassy: Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600
mailing address: APO AP 96549
telephone: [61] (6) 6214-5600
FAX: [61] (6) 6214-5970
consulate(s) general: Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney

Flag description: blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant; the remaining half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars


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Economy—overview: Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP at the level of the four dominant West European economies. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. Commodities account for 57% of the value of total exports, so that a downturn in world commodity prices can have a big impact on the economy. The government is pushing for increased exports of manufactured goods, but competition in international markets continues to be severe. Australia has suffered from the low growth and high unemployment characterizing the OECD countries in the early 1990s, but the economy has expanded at reasonably steady rates in recent years. Canberra's emphasis on reforms is a key factor behind the economy's resilience to the regional crisis and its stronger than expected growth rate that reached 4.5% last year. After a slow start in 1998, exports rebounded in the second half of the year because of a sharp currency depreciation and a redirection of sales to Europe, North America, and Latin America.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$393.9 billion (1998 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 4.5% (1998 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$21,200 (1998 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 31%
services: 65% (1997 est.)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 24.8% (1989)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1% (1998)

Labor force: 9.2 million (December 1997)

Labor force—by occupation: services 73%, industry 22%, agriculture 5% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 8.1% (1998)

revenues: $90.73 billion
expenditures: $89.04 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY98/99 est.)

Industries: mining, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing, chemicals, steel

Industrial production growth rate: 1.2% (1995)

Electricity—production: 166.683 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—production by source:
fossil fuel: 91.14%
hydro: 8.84%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.02% (1996)

Electricity—consumption: 166.683 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—exports: 0 kWh (1996)

Electricity—imports: 0 kWh (1996)

Agriculture—products: wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruits; cattle, sheep, poultry

Exports: $56 billion (f.o.b., 1998 est.)

Exports—commodities: coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment

Exports—partners: Japan 20%, ASEAN 16%, EU 10%, South Korea 9%, US 9%, NZ 8%, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China (1997)

Imports: $61 billion (f.o.b., 1998 est.)

Imports—commodities: machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products

Imports—partners: EU 25%, US 23%, Japan 13%, China, NZ (1997)

Debt—external: $156 billion (June 1997)

Economic aid—donor: ODA, $1.43 billion (FY97/98)

Currency: 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1—1.56 (February 1999), 1.5888 (1998), 1.3439 (1997), 1.2773 (1996), 1.3486 (1995), 1.3668 (1994)

Fiscal year: 1 July—30 June


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Telephones: 8.7 million (1987 est.)

Telephone system: excellent domestic and international service
domestic: domestic satellite system
international: submarine cables to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia; satellite earth stations—10 Intelsat (4 Indian Ocean and 6 Pacific Ocean), 2 Inmarsat (Indian and Pacific Ocean Regions)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 262, FM 345, shortwave 1 (Australia's only shortwave station, Radio Australia, broadcasts to the world in seven languages, using 23 frequencies) (1998)

Radios: NA

Television broadcast stations: 104 (64 of these stations are government-owned and 40 are commercial) (1997)

Televisions: 9.2 million (1992 est.)


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total: 38,563 km (2,914 km electrified)
broad gauge: 6,083 km 1.600-m gauge
standard gauge: 16,752 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 15,728 km 1.067-m gauge
dual gauge: 172 km NA gauges

total: 913,000 km
paved: 353,331 km (including 13,630 km of expressways)
unpaved: 559,669 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 8,368 km; mainly by small, shallow-draft craft

Pipelines: crude oil 2,500 km; petroleum products 500 km; natural gas 5,600 km

Ports and harbors: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport (Tasmania), Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart (Tasmania), Launceston (Tasmania), Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville

Merchant marine:
total: 57 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,767,387 GRT/2,426,710 DWT
ships by type: bulk 29, cargo 3, chemical tanker 4, container 4, liquefied gas tanker 4, oil tanker 8, passenger 1, roll-on/roll-off cargo 4 (1998 est.)

Airports: 408 (1998 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 262
over 3,047 m: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 11
1,524 to 2,437 m: 112
914 to 1,523 m: 120
under 914 m: 8 (1998 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 146
1,524 to 2,437 m: 19
914 to 1,523 m: 114
under 914 m: 13 (1998 est.)


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Military branches: Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force

Military manpower—military age: 17 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 4,882,693 (1999 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,212,272 (1999 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 130,570 (1999 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $6.9 billion (FY97/98)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.9% (FY97/98)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: territorial claim in Antarctica (Australian Antarctic Territory)

Illicit drugs: Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of licit opiate products; government maintains strict controls over areas of opium poppy cultivation and output of poppy straw concentrate