Difference between revisions of "Australia"

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Revision as of 23:20, December 5, 2009

Commonwealth of Australia
Australia rel 1999.jpg
Australia location.png
Flag of Australia.png
Australia coat-of-arms.jpg
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital Canberra
Government Constitutional monarchy
Language English (official)
Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
Prime minister Kevin Rudd
Area 2,988,888 sq mi
Population 2009 21.8 million
GDP 2009 A$1.17 trillion
GDP per capita A$36,000
Currency Australian dollar

The Commonwealth of Australia is an independent nation that occupies the continent of Australia, with its west coast on the Indian Ocean, east coast on the Pacific Ocean facing New Zealand, southern coast on the Southern Ocean facing Antarctica, and northern coast bordering Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Australia is considered geographically as part of Oceania, but has been establishing its place politically and commercially in South East Asia.


Australia is the only country to occupy an entire continent[1], the smallest of the planet's seven continents.[2] It is 2,400 miles, (3,860 km) from east to west and 2,000 miles (3,220 km) from north to south, and covers an area of 2,967,877 sq miles (7,686,810 sq km). The Australian coastline is 22,812 miles long (36,735 kilometers), roughly the size as the mainland 48 states of the USA.

Australia has six states and two internal territories. The states are New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. The internal territories are the Northern Territory (responsible government since 1978) and the Australian Capital Territory (responsible government since 1988) which is the location of Australia's capital city, Canberra. External territories include Christmas Island and the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Low density

80% of Australia's population, of just over 20,000,000 people, live on the coast line. It is one of the world's most sparsely populated countries (2.7 people per square kilometre)[3]. Water is scarce and some cities have some form of water restrictions in place.


Weather extremes are common in Australia with temperatures sometimes measured into the high 40s Celsius (45 degrees Celsius = 113 degrees Fahrenheit). The city of Darwin was heavily damaged by Cyclone Tracy on Dec. 25, 1974, killing 66 people, and destroying 80% of the buildings. Darwin's utilities were knocked out and 35,000 people were evacuated.

Bush fires often ravage the southern states - one of the worst occurring on Ash Wednesday in 1983 when over 2,000 homes were destroyed and over 70 people lost their lives in Victoria and South Australia. In 2009 severe fires hit much of Victoria, worsened by hot dry winds and a severe drought.

Flora and fauna

Australia is noted for its unique biodiversity. Many animals are found only in Australia, the most well known examples are the group of marsupials (kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and koalas), and the only two monotremes, the platypus and the echidna. Examples of plants that are native to Australia are the banksia, yellow wattle and gum tree.

Current evolutionary studies indicate that Australia's unique wildlife is the result of Australia becoming an island, being cut off from the Asian land bridge between 40,000 t0 250,000 years ago on the uniformitarian timescale.


Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders

Australia's indigenous inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people collectively referred to today as Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders, arrived more than 40,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained static--depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons--their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Indigenous population density ranged from one person per square mile along the coasts to one person per 35 square miles in the arid interior. When Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain in 1770, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. In 2006 the indigenous population was approximately 517,200, representing about 2.5% of the population. Since the end of World War II, the government and the public have made efforts to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs, most recently with Prime Minister Rudd's historic apology to the indigenous people in February 2008.


Immigration has been vital to Australia's development since the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations, most settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook similar to those of Americans. a "White Australia" policy operated from 1901 to the 1960s; it encourages immigration by Europeans and blocked almost all other immigration.

The Chinese who arrived in the late 19th century to work in the gold mines left voluntarily or were expelled. Likewise most of the "Kanakas" --Polynesians--who came to work in the sugar fields were expatriated after 1901. Many Germans settled in South Australia, but those without Australian citizenship were put in camps during World War I and most were sent back to Germany after the war.

Recent trends

Since the end of World War II, Australia's population has more than doubled.

Non British/Irish immigration has increased significantly since World War II through an extensive, planned immigration program. Since 1945 around 6.6 million migrants have settled in Australia, including 690,000 refugee and humanitarian entrants. About 80% have remained; 24%--almost one in four--of Australians are foreign-born. Britain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia were the largest sources of post-war immigration, but New Zealand is closing on Britain as the largest source country for permanent migrants to Australia.

The barriers against Asians fell in the 1970s and thousands of immigrants from the Chinese diaspora resettled in Australia. Immigrants from India and the Philippines were numerous as well. ===Refugees=== Australia's humanitarian and refugee program of about 13,000 per year is in addition to other immigration programs. In recent years, refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia have comprised the largest element in Australia's refugee program. Although Australia has scarcely more than three people per square kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries. Less than 2.5% of the population lives in remote or very remote areas.

  • Population (2009 est.): 21.8 million.
  • Annual population growth rate: 1.7%.
  • Ethnic groups: European 92%, Asian 6%, Aboriginal 2%.
  • Religions (2006): Catholic 26%, Anglican 19%, other Christian 19%, other non-Christian 1%, Buddhist 2.1%, Islam 1.7%, no religion 19%, and not stated 12%.
  • Languages: English.
  • Education: Years compulsory--to age 16 in all states and territories except New South Wales and the Northern Territory where it is 15, and Western Australia where it is 17. Literacy--over 99%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate--4.7/1,000. Life expectancy--males 78 yrs., females 83 yrs.
  • Work force (10.8 million): Agriculture--3.3%; mining--1.5%; manufacturing--9.8%; retail trade--11.3%; public administration, defense, and safety--6%; construction--9.2%


Australia is a secular nation, in that it has no established religion associated with the Government.

According to the 2006 census, 64% of citizens consider themselves to be Christian, including 26% Roman Catholic, 19% Anglican, and 19% other Christian. Buddhists constitute 2.1% of the population, Muslims 1.7%, Hindus 0.7%, Jews 0.4%, and all others professing a religion 0.5%. Of Australia's 21 million people, about 1.5 million attend weekly religious services [4].

In 1911, during the first census, 96% identified themselves as Christian. In recent decades traditional Christian denominations have seen their total number and proportion of affiliates stagnate or decrease significantly, although from 2001 to 2006, the total number of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians increased by 12.9%. Over the past decade, increased immigration from Southeast Asia and the Middle East considerably expanded the numbers of citizens who identify themselves as Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, and increased the ethnic diversity of existing Christian denominations. Between 2001 and 2006, the numbers increased for Buddhists by 17% (to 418,000), Muslims by 21% (to 340,393), Jews by 6% (to 89,000), and Hindus by 55% (to 148,131). In 2006 approximately 18.7% of citizens considered themselves to have no religion, up from 17% in 2001, and 11.2% made no statement regarding religious affiliation. According to a 2002 survey, 23% of adults had participated in church or religious activities during the previous 3 months.

The Australian public school system is "free, secular and compulsory" with the secular meaning without favour to any particular religion - most primary schools, however, do offer some form of non-compulsory religious education according to the parents' wishes. The state systems of a number of states offer studies in religion at the senior level.

There is a large Catholic school system in Australia with most parishes having their own primary school and many hundreds of Catholic high schools across the country. There are also a large number of independent schools founded by various religions or denominations of the Christian faith - some hold that religious background to be more important than others. None of the religious schools are funded by the government.

At the time of European settlement, aboriginal inhabitants followed religions that were animistic, involving belief in spirits behind the forces of nature and the influence of ancestral spirit beings. According to the 2006 census, 5,206 persons, or less than 0.03% of respondents, reported practicing aboriginal traditional religions, down from 5,244 in 2001. The 2006 census reported that almost 64% of Aborigines identify themselves as Christian and 20% listed no religion.


The Sydney Opera House, an iconic symbol of the nation

Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but distinctive Australian features have evolved from the environment, aboriginal culture, and the influence of Australia's neighbors. The vigor and originality of the arts in Australia--film, opera, music, painting, theater, dance, and crafts--have achieved international recognition.

Australian actors and comedians such as Nicole Kidman, Rachel Griffiths, Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman, the late Heath Ledger, and Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) have achieved enormous popularity in the United States. Directors such as Peter Weir, Philip Noyes, and Russell Mulcahy, the conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, and singers and musicians such as Olivia Newton-John, Men At Work, The Wiggles, AC/DC, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Nellie Melba, and Kylie Minogue are well known.

Australian artists with international reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Pro Hart, and Arthur Boyd. Writers who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, Peter Carey, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.


Australia is known as a sporting nation with success worldwide in swimming, tennis, rugby union, cricket, netball,and basketball. Australians are very keen horse racers with the Melbourne Cup [5] attracting up to 120,000 spectators at Flemington Race Course on the first Tuesday in November. There is a public holiday for the cup race in Melbourne, while the remainder of the country virtually pauses during the running.

Unique to Australia is a game known as Australian rules football or Aussie Rules, which is played on a cricket oval in winter. Australian rules football is the sport most attended in the states of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and most attended overall in Australia; in 2006 2.5 million people had attended at least one Aussie Rules game in the preceding 12 months.[1] Australian Rules Football was written by persons educated at the Rugby School in England and Cambridge University before the organisation of uniform football codes. It is not as popular in New South Wales and Queensland although premiership teams are based in these two states.

The other national football code is rugby league. Rugby league football is the most attended sport in New South Wales and Queensland with its premier club competition being the National Rugby League.


Most tourists visit places such as Sydney Harbour, Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia and the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Other favourite destinations are the wine making areas of South Australia and northern Victoria, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, the natural wonders of Tasmania and the huge outback expanses of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Some cattle stations in Australia rival Texas in size and the distance between towns in some areas is enormous.


Australia became a federated nation on January 1, 1901 under the Constitution of Australia, and all former British colonies became states. The parliament met in Melbourne until the infrastructure was built for the capital city, Canberra.

Australia has a parliamentary system of government based on the British system with a bicameral system meeting as the Parliament of Australia, consisting of the Australian House of Representatives and the Australian Senate. Each state and territory also has its own parliament.

The two other branches of government under the Constitution are the Executive (Governor-General of Australia taking advice from the Ministers) and the High Court of Australia.

Australia is a democracy which has allowed men of European descent to vote since federation, with women gaining the vote in 1902 and Aboriginal men and women gaining suffrage in 1962. Voting is compulsory for all citizens who are 18 years old and over (with a few exceptions.)

Australia's Head of Government is the Prime Minister of Australia. The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd, the leader of the parliamentary wing of the Australian Labor Party which won the federal election on 24 November 2007. The Deputy Prime Minister is Julia Gillard, the first woman to hold the position, and the first woman to be Acting Prime Minister (during the temporary absence of Rudd on his first overseas trip.)

The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Australia (who is the same person, but a different title, as the Queen of Great Britain.) Under the Constitution, and in practice, the authority of the Head of State is vested in the Governor-General of Australia, currently Quentin Bryce AC, Previously Governor of Queensland, who assents to acts of parliament, is the Commander in Chief of the military forces, and appoints all Ministers of the Government; all these various powers are normally exercised on advice from the Prime Minister.

The Government of Australia is exercised, day-to-day, by the Ministers through their various Departments of State.


For a more detailed treatment, see Voting in Australia.

Australia has preferential voting, and voting is compulsory for adults (18 years and over), unless they have been deemed unfit to vote, either by mental illness or conviction for serious offences. Preferential voting encourages a multiplicity of parties and independent candidates, and counting the votes and allocating preferences can take some time where the results are close.


There is no limit on the time a person can be a Member of Parliament (MP) (elected, notionally, for 3 years, but the timing of elections is decided by the Prime Minister) or a Senator (elected for two cycles of the House of representatives.) The Prime Minister is normally a member of the House of Representatives, and the tenure is not limited by statute. Ministers may continue to serve for up to three months when not a Member or Senator, but must in that time be elected in order to continue. (John Gorton was a Senator when appointed leader of his party after the death of his predecessor. He immediately resigned from the Senate and stood for election to the House of Representatives, while remaining Prime Minister throughout.)

Parliamentary political parties

Currently, the main political parties in Australia are:

Despite the US connotation associated with the name, the Liberal Party is conservative in political stance. Robert Menzies helped found the Liberal Party in 1944 and was the Prime Minister from 1939 until 1941 and then again from 1949 until 1966.[6] The term "liberal" refers to the party's predominantly-free-market approach to economic management.

The party currently in power is the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party is also in government in all of the states and territories. The Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd.

Conservative Queensland polititian and businesswoman, Pauline Hanson formed the One Nation party to give a conservative voice to voters that were not being effectivly represented by the major partys. One Nation has held seats in both the Federal Senate and Lower House, and have been the subject of ridicule by left-leaning media commentators.

Though the Labor party is "social democratic" and the Liberals are "liberal conservatives", some of the smaller parties are more left leaning or more conservative than Labor and Liberal respectively.

See also a list of Prime Ministers of Australia.

The Prime Minister of Australia is the most senior elected person in the country. The role is normally filled by the parliamentary leader of the party which forms the government.

Principal Government Officials

  • Governor General--Quentin Bryce
  • Prime Minister--Kevin Rudd
  • Deputy Prime Minister--Julia Gillard
  • Treasurer--Wayne Swan
  • Foreign Minister--Stephen Smith
  • Defense Minister--John Faulkner
  • Trade Minister--Simon Crean

Political Conditions

Three political parties dominate the center of the Australian political spectrum. The Liberal Party (LP), nominally representing urban business interests, and its smaller coalition partner, The Nationals, nominally representing rural interests, are the more conservative parties. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) nominally represents workers, trade unions, and left-of-center groups. While the ALP, founded by labor unions, traditionally had been moderately socialist in its policies and approaches to social issues, today it is best described as a social democratic party. All political groups are tied by tradition to welfare programs. Over the last decade, Australia has increased welfare payments to families while imposing obligations on those receiving unemployment benefits and disability pensions. There is strong bipartisan sentiment on many international issues, including Australia's commitment to its alliance with the United States.

The ALP, under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, defeated the Liberal/National coalition, led by then-Prime Minister John Howard, in the November 24, 2007 election. The ALP now holds 83 seats in the House of Representatives, against 64 for the Liberal/National coalition, and 3 independents. The composition of the Senate is 37 seats for the coalition, 32 for the ALP, five seats for the Greens, one for Family First, and one independent.

Rudd and the ALP won the election with a message promising "new leadership" after 11 years of the Howard government. Rudd portrayed himself as an "economic conservative," while criticizing unpopular Howard government policies on workplace relations reform, climate change, and the war on Iraq. The Rudd government ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is working with the international community on combating climate change. It is undoing some labor market reforms instituted by the Howard government, such as statutory individual contracts. The Australian government's foreign policy shows strong continuity with that of its predecessors, stressing relations with four key countries: the United States, Japan, China, and Indonesia. The Rudd government strongly supports U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and increased Australia’s troop contribution in Afghanistan. It withdrew Australia's combat troops from Iraq in 2008; it intends to end its military mission in Iraq on July 31, 2009.

Australia has been an active participant in international affairs since federation in 1901, and Australian forces have fought beside the United States and other Allies in every significant conflict since World War I. On January 8, 1940, the governments of the United States and Australia announced the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. In 1944, Australia concluded an agreement with New Zealand dealing with the security, welfare, and advancement of the people of the independent territories of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact). After World War II, Australia played a role in the Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported Indonesian independence during that country's revolt against the Dutch. Australia was one of the founding members of the United Nations, the South Pacific Commission, and the Colombo Plan. In addition to contributing to UN forces in Korea--it was the first country to announce it would do so after the United States--Australia sent troops to assist in putting down the 1948-1960 communist revolt in Malaya and later to combat the 1963-1965 Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand signed the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, which remains Australia's pre-eminent formal security treaty alliance. Australia sent troops to assist South Vietnamese and U.S. forces in Vietnam, and joined coalition forces in the Persian Gulf conflict in 1991, in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq in 2003.

Australia has been active in the Australia-New Zealand-U.K. agreement and the Five-Power Defense Arrangements--successive arrangements with Britain and New Zealand to ensure the security of Singapore and Malaysia.

One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm support to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. It was last a member of the Security Council in 1985-86, a member of the Economic and Social Council for 1986-89, and a member of the UN Human Rights Commission for 1994-96 and 2003-2005. Australia recently declared its intention to seek a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2013-2014. Australia takes a prominent part in many other UN activities, including peacekeeping, nonproliferation and disarmament negotiations, and narcotics control. Australia also is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Regional Heads of Government and the Pacific Islands Forum, and has been a leader in the Cairns Group--countries pressing for agricultural trade reform in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations--and in founding the APEC forum. In 2002, Australia joined the International Criminal Court.

Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the island states of the South Pacific. Australia is an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which promotes regional cooperation on security issues, and has been a member of the East Asia Summit since its inauguration in 2005. In September 1999, acting under a UN Security Council mandate, Australia led an international coalition to restore order in East Timor upon Indonesia's withdrawal from that territory. In 2006, Australia participated in an international peacekeeping operation in Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor). Australia led a regional mission to restore law and order in Solomon Islands in 2003 and again in 2006. Australia is part of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which also includes the United States.

The government is committed to increasing official development assistance to 0.5% of gross national income by 2015-2016. Australia budgeted A$3.79 billion (U.S. $3.03 billion) for FY 2008-2009 and has budgeted A$3.82 billion (U.S. $3.05 billion) for FY 2009-2010. The Australian aid program is currently concentrated in Southeast Asia (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are the largest recipients) and the Pacific Islands. Selected aid flows are allocated to Africa, South Asia, and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq. Contributions to multilateral organizations and other expenses account for about one-third of the foreign assistance budget.

ANZUS and Defense

The Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) security treaty was concluded at San Francisco on September 1, 1951, and entered into force on April 29, 1952. The treaty bound the signatories to recognize that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of them would endanger the peace and safety of the others. It committed them to consult in the event of a threat and, in the event of attack, to meet the common danger in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The three nations also pledged to maintain and develop individual and collective capabilities to resist attack.

In 1984, the nature of the ANZUS alliance changed after the Government of New Zealand refused access to its ports by nuclear-weapons-capable and nuclear-powered ships of the U.S. Navy. The United States suspended defense obligations to New Zealand, and annual bilateral meetings between the U.S. Secretary of State and the Australian Foreign Minister replaced annual meetings of the ANZUS Council of Foreign Ministers. The first bilateral meeting was held in Canberra in 1985. At the second, in San Francisco in 1986, the United States and Australia announced that the United States was suspending its treaty security obligations to New Zealand pending the restoration of port access. Since 1985, U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and the Australian Foreign and Defense Ministers have held 20 Australia-U.S. Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN), alternating between Australia and the United States. The next AUSMIN is scheduled to take place in Australia in 2010.

The U.S.-Australia alliance under the ANZUS Treaty remains in full force. AUSMIN meetings are supplemented by consultations between the U.S. Combatant Commander, Pacific and the Australian Chief of Defense Force. There also are regular civilian and military consultations between the two governments at lower levels.

ANZUS has no integrated defense structure or dedicated forces. However, in fulfillment of ANZUS obligations, Australia and the United States conduct a variety of joint activities. These include military exercises ranging from naval and landing exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level special forces training to numerous smaller-scale exercises, assigning officers to each other's armed services, and standardizing, where possible, equipment and operational doctrine. The two countries also operate joint defense facilities in Australia.

Following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, then-Prime Minister Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush jointly invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time on September 14, 2001. Australia was one of the earliest participants in Operation Enduring Freedom. Australian Defense Forces participated in coalition military action against Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Australian combat forces began their withdrawal from Iraq in mid-2008 and forces are to be fully removed by July 2009. Australia has approximately 1,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan and also provides significant development and capacity building assistance to the country. Based on growing defense commitments, Australia decided to increase the Australian Army from 26,000 to 30,000 over the next several years. This will enable the reestablishment of two infantry battalions, as well as enabling troops, such as a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) unit.

The Australian Government has stated its intention to maintain its investment in future capability of the Australian Defense Force (ADF). To do so, the government has committed to a 3% annual growth in real defense funding through 2018--and 2.2% annual real growth beyond--to ensure the ADF can continue to meet capability and interoperability goals. The Australian Defense Force numbers about 54,000 active duty personnel, with planned increases to 57,000 within the next decade. The Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) front-line fleet currently includes 12 frigates, including 4 of the Adelaide class and 8 Australian-built ANZAC class. In August 2004, Australia selected the Aegis Combat Control System for its three air warfare destroyers (AWD), which will start coming into service in 2014. The F/A-18 fighter, built in Australia under license from the U.S. manufacturer, is the principal combat aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force, backed by the U.S.-built F-111 strike aircraft. In October 2002, Australia became a Level III partner in the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Additionally, the Australian Government signed the JSF Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development MOU in 2006. Australia is projected to buy up to 100 JSF aircraft with deliveries starting in 2013 and running through 2020. The F-111 strike aircraft are scheduled to exit service by 2010 and will be replaced by 24 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters as an interim strike capability with deliveries commencing in 2010. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) took delivery of the last aircraft in its buy of 4 Lockheed C-17 strategic airlift aircraft in 2008. In addition, Boeing will provide the Commonwealth of Australia's RAAF with an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system based on the Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft as the airborne platform. Recent U.S. sales to the Australian Army include the M1A1 AIM tank, as well as Hellfire and JAVELIN munitions. Future opportunities include CH-47 helicopter replacements, navy helicopter replacements, light and medium cargo aircraft replacements and artillery systems.

In May 2009, the Australian Government released its Defense White Paper, outlining Australia’s long-term strategic outlook. In addition to buying the JSF aircraft, the White Paper proposes to double Australia’s submarine fleet to 12, replace the ANZAC class frigates, and replace the army’s armored personnel carriers.


Since the 1980s, Australia has undertaken significant structural reform of its economy and has transformed itself from an inward-looking, highly protected, and regulated marketplace to an open, internationally competitive, export-oriented economy. Key economic reforms included unilaterally reducing high tariffs and other protective barriers to free trade, floating the Australian dollar, deregulating the financial services sector, including liberalizing access for foreign banks, increasing flexibility in the labor market, reducing duplication and increasing efficiency between the federal and state branches of government, privatizing many government-owned monopolies, and reforming the taxation system, including introducing a broad-based Goods and Services Tax (GST) and large reductions in income tax rates.

Australia enjoys a higher standard of living than any G7 country other than the United States. Australia's economic standing in the world is a result of a commitment to best-practice macroeconomic policy settings, including the delegation of the conduct of monetary policy to the independent Reserve Bank of Australia, and a broad acceptance of prudent fiscal policy where the government aims for fiscal balance over the economic cycle. Largely due to the fall in revenue as a result of the global economic downturn, net government debt is projected to reach about A$188 billion (U.S. $150.4 billion) in four years. The previous government, drawing from budget surpluses, created the “Future Fund” to provide for future liabilities resulting from the retirement of civil servants. The Government of Australia is predicting negative 0.5% growth in the 2009-2010 fiscal year; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted growth to be negative 1.4% for 2009.

Over 2008, unemployment has risen to around 5.5% from 4.2%, and the labor market participation has remained at around 65%. Both the federal and state governments have recognized the need to invest heavily in water, transport, ports, telecommunications, and education infrastructure to expand Australia's supply capacity. The largest river system in Australia, the Murray-Darling, and related coastal lakes and wetlands in South Australia are critically threatened and the government has developed a plan to improve irrigation infrastructure and efficiency and buy back unused water allocations along the river.

  • GDP (2009-2010 estimate): A$1.17 trillion (U.S. $893.6 billion).
  • Inflation rate (year to March 2009): 2.5% per annum.
  • Reserve Bank official interest rate (May 2009): 3.00%.
  • Trade: Exports ($178.9 billion, 2008 estimate)--coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment. Major markets--Japan, China, South Korea, U.S. ($10.7 billion), and New Zealand. Imports ($187.2 billion, 2008 estimate)--machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products. Major suppliers--China, United States ($23.96 billion), Japan, Singapore, and Germany.
  • Exchange rate (2009): U.S. $1 = A$1.25.


Australia is rich in natural resources with significant petroleum, natural gas and coal reserves. Australia’s energy consumption is dominated by coal, which fuels most of the country’s power generation. Petroleum accounts for a large share of energy consumption, but due to declining output, Australia is facing a growing dependence on petroleum imports. Over the past two decades, Australia has steadily consumed increasing amounts of natural gas, which is likely to continue over the medium term.[7]

Australia is one of the four countries (along with Norway, Canada and Mexico) belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that is a significant net energy exporter. Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and is the fifth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Australia’s prospects for expanding energy exports in the future are promising as Asian demand for both coal and LNG rises. However, Australia can expect increasing export competition from China (coal) and Indonesia (coal and LNG).

In July 2005, the Australian government formed the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). The AER is responsible for economic regulation in Australian energy markets. In addition, the AER promotes investment in the energy sector to ensure supply security, while monitoring prices faced by end users. In 2006, Australia’s 13 government bodies transferred energy regulation responsibility to the AER. The AER is seeking $23 billion in infrastructure investments over the next 15 years.

Comparing Australian and U.S. Economic and Health statistics

Whilst the Australian society is similar in many aspects to those of the U.S., a comparison of key economic (in $U.S.) and health indicators highlights some interesting fundamental differences:

Australia U.S.
GDP Per Capita $32,900.00 $43,500.00
Budget Deficit/Surplus
Per capita
$444.00 surplus.
Australia has had budget surpluses every year since 2001
$841.00 deficit
Public Debt 14.1% of GDP 64.7% of GDP
Military Expenditure 2.5 % of GDP 4.06% of GDP
Life Expectancy at Birth
(combined male and female)
80.5 years 77.85 years
Infant Mortality Rates
deaths/1,000 live births
4.63 6.43
HIV/AIDS Prevalence Rates 0.1% of population 0.6% of population

Australia has a universal health scheme and significant subsidies on most prescription medications.


see main article History of Australia

Australia was uninhabited until stone-culture peoples arrived, perhaps by boat across the waters separating the island from the Indonesia archipelago more than 40,000 years ago. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English explorers observed the island before 1770, when Captain Cook explored the east coast and claimed it for Great Britain. (Three American colonists were crew members aboard Cook's ship, the Endeavour).

On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day), the First Fleet landed at Sydney and the Colony of New South Wales was established. Many, but by no means all, of the first settlers were convicts, some condemned for offenses that today would often be thought trivial. From the mid-19th century convict transportation to Australia significantly declined; the last ship to arrive was in 1868. Many officers of the Royal Navy received grants and established large farms and ranches. Ranchers who used government lands for their herds of sheep were informally called "squatters"; despite the term, most were wealthy. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to increased immigration, wealth, and trade. A third of the new arrivals were Irish Catholics, and there emerged a political and cultural tension between them and the Protestant British.

The six colonies that became the states of the Australian Commonwealth were established in the following order: New South Wales, 1788; Tasmania, 1825; Western Australia, 1829; South Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and Queensland, 1859. Settlement preceded these dates in most cases.

Negotiations between Australians and the government in London led Parliament to create the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900, effective January 1, 1901.

In 1911, control of the Northern Territory was transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth. Also that year, the Australian Capital Territory (where the national capital, Canberra, is located), was established. The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory were granted self-government in 1978 and 1988, respectively.

In May 1927, the seat of government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city designed by American Walter Burley Griffin. Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942 (with effect as of September 3, 1939), which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs and formalized a situation that had existed for years.[8]

In practice the monarch is only normally involved in the appointment and removal of the governor-general and governors. In 1998,republicans were givena free hand to choose the form of republic they wanted. This was put to the people in 1999, and enjoyed strong support among the politicans and in the mainstream media. But a campaign led by a group, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy resulted in the defeat of the referendum in all states and 72% of electorates. Republicans remain unable to agree on how to replace the present system--whether with a powerful elected president responsible directly to the people, or with a weak president chosen by the government (as in Germany), the model which was rejected in 1999 because of distrust of politicians.

See also



  • Bambrick, Susan ed. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Australia (1994)
  • Davison, Graeme, John Hirst, and Stuart Macintyre, eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian History (2001) online at many academic libraries; also excerpt and text search
  • O'Shane, Pat et al. Australia: The Complete Encyclopedia (2001)
  • Shaw, John, ed. Collins Australian Encyclopedia (1984)
  • Serle. Percival, ed. Dictionary of Australian Biography (1949) online edition


Economics and business

  • Kelly, Paul. The End of Certainty: Power, Politics and Business in Australia, (1994)
  • McLean, Ian W. "Consumer Prices and Expenditure Patterns in Australia 1850-1914." Australian Economic History Review(1999) 39(1): 1-28; includes a consumer price index (CPI) for the period 1850 to 1914. Issn: 0004-8992 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Moran, Anthony. Australia: Nation, Belonging, and Globalization Routledge, 2004 online edition
  • Robinson GM, Loughran RJ, and Tranter PJ. Australia and New Zealand: economy, society and environment.(2000)

Environment and Geography

  • Appleton, Richard, and Barbara Appleton. The Cambridge Dictionary of Australian Places (1993)
  • Dovers, Stephen. Australian Environmental History: Essays & Cases (1995) excerpt and text search
  • Garden, Don. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific: An Environmental Hisory. ABC-CLIO, 2005. 398 pp.
  • Hutton, Drew, and Libby Connors. History of the Australian Environment Movement (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Lines, William. Taming the Great South Land: A History of the Conquest of Nature in Australia (1992)
  • Powell JM . An Historical Geography of Modern Australia: The Restive Fringe. (1988)
  • Robinson GM, Loughran RJ, and Tranter PJ. Australia and New Zealand: economy, society and environment.(2000)


see History of Australia for more detaile guide

  • Atkinson, Alan. The Europeans in Australia: A History. Vol. 2: Democracy. (2005). 440 pp.
  • Barker, Anthony. What Happened When: A Chronology of Australia from 1788. Allen & Unwin. 2000. online edition
  • Basset, Jan. The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of Australian History (1998)
  • Bolton, Geoffrey. The Oxford History of Australia: Volume 5: 1942-1995. The Middle Way (2005)
  • Clarke, Frank G. The History of Australia (2002). online edition
  • Davison, Graeme, John Hirst, and Stuart Macintyre, eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian History (2001) online at many academic libraries; also excerpt and text search
  • Day, David. Claiming a Continent: A New History of Australia (2001);
  • Edwards, John. Curtin's Gift: Reinterpreting Australia's Greatest Prime Minister, (2005) online edition
  • Hughes, Robert. The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding (1988). excerpt and text search
  • Kemp, Rod, and Marion Stanton, eds. Speaking for Australia: Parliamentary Speeches That Shaped Our Nation Allen & Unwin, 2004 online edition
  • Kingston, Beverley. The Oxford History of Australia: Volume 3: 1860-1900 Glad, Confident Morning (1993)
  • Kociumbas, Jan. The Oxford History of Australia: Volume 2: 1770-1860 Possessions (1995)
  • Macintyre, Stuart. The Oxford History of Australia: Volume 4: 1901-42, the Succeeding Age (1993)
  • Macintyre, Stuart. A Concise History of Australia (2nd. ed. 2009) excerpt and text search
  • Martin, A. W. Robert Menzies: A Life (2 vol 1993-99), online at ACLS e-books
  • Megalogenis, George. The Longest Decade (2nd ed. 2009), politics 1990-2008
  • Schreuder, Deryck, and Stuart Ward, eds. Australia's Empire (Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series) (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Serle. Percival, ed. Dictionary of Australian Biography (1949)online edition
  • Taylor, Peter. The Atlas of Australian History (1991)
  • Welsh, Frank. ;;Australia: A New History of the Great Southern Land (2008)

International Relations and Military

  • Bridge, Carl ed., Munich to Vietnam: Australia's Relations with Britain and the United States since the 1930s, Melbourne University Press 1991
  • Dennis, Peter, Jeffrey Grey, Ewan Morris, and Robin Prior. The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. 1996)
  • Firth, Stewart. Australia in International Politics: An Introduction to Australian Foreign Policy (2005) online edition
  • Grant, Ian. A Dictionary of Australian Military History - from Colonial Times to the Gulf War (1992)
  • Lee, David. Search for Security: The Political Economy of Australia's Postwar Foreign and Defence Policy (1995)
  • McLean, David. "From British Colony to American Satellite? Australia and the USA during the Cold War," Australian Journal of Politics & History" (2006) 52 (1), 64–79. Rejects satellite model. online at Blackwell-Synergy
  • McLean, David. "Australia in the Cold War: a Historiographical Review." International History Review (2001) 23(2): 299-321. Issn: 0707-5332
  • Murphy, John. Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia's Vietnam War (1993)
  • Watt, Alan. The Evolution of Australian Foreign Policy 1938–1965, Cambridge University Press, 1967

Culture and society

  • Bebbington, Warren. A Dictionary of Australian Music (1999)
  • Bennett, Bruce et al. The Oxford Literary History of Australia (1999)
  • Bennett, Tony, and David Carter. Culture in Australia: Policies, Publics and Programs (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Breward, Ian. A History of the Churches in Australasia. (2002). 474 pp.
  • Carey, Hilary. Believing in Australia: A Cultural History of Religions (1996)
  • Horton, David. The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History, Society and Culture (2001)
  • Huggan Graham. Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism (Oxford Studies in Postcolonial Literatures) (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Jupp, James, ed. The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, its People and their Origins (2nd ed. 2002) 960pp excerpt and text search
  • Jupp, James. The English in Australia (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Kleinert, Sylvia. and Margo Neale. The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture (2001)
  • Leitner, Gerhard. Australia's Many Voices: Australian English--the National Language (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Love, J.W. ed. Australia and the Pacific Islands (Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 9) (1998) excerpt and text search
  • McAllister, Ian, Steve Dowrick, Riaz Hassan; The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia Cambridge University Press, 2003 online edition
  • McCulloch, Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art 2 vol (1984)
  • McDonald, John. Federation: Australian Art and Society, 1901-2001. Natl. Gallery of Australia, 2002. 264 pp.
  • Moran, Albert. Historical Dictionary of Australian Radio and Television (2007)
  • Nile, Richard. The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination. (2002). 315 pp.
  • Rickard, John, Australia: A Cultural History (1988)
  • Webby, Elizabeth. The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Wilde, William H. et al eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (1995) online at OUP excerpt and text search
  • The Oxford Literary History of Australia.
  • Samuels, Selina, ed. Australian Writers, 1915-50. (2002). 510 pp.
  • Sayers, Andrew. Australian Art (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Webby, Elizabeth, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature (2006)
  • Wannan, Bill. A Dictionary of Australian Folklore: Lore, Legends, Myths and Traditions (1988)

Primary sources

External links


  1. This refers just to the Australian mainland. Some authorities now include Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and various other Pacific Ocean islands in the continent of "Oceania". See WorldAtlas.com.
  2. Some people count six, combining North and South America or Europe and Asia. See WorldAtlas.com.
  3. ABS
  4. National Church Life Survey 2004; U.S. State Department, "International Religious Freedom Report 2008" online
  5. Melbourne Cup
  6. History of the Liberal Party in Australia
  7. See Energy Information Administration, "Australia" (2009) online
  8. The Australia Act (effective March 3, 1986) eliminated almost all remaining vestiges of British legal authority, including the ability to appeal to the British Privy Council.
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Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [2].