Factbook: Australia



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
signed, but not ratified : 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



Population: 18,438,824 (July 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 22% (male 2,018,363; female 1,921,252)
15-64 years: 66% (male 6,188,476; female 6,041,173)
65 years and over : 12% (male 987,092; female 1,282,468) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.96% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 13.73 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 6.89 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Net migration rate: 2.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years : 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 5.4 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.64 years
male : 76.69 years
female: 82.74 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (1997 est.)

noun: Australian(s)
adjective: Australian

Ethnic groups: Caucasian 95%, Asian 4%, aboriginal and other 1%

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

Languages: English, native languages

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



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

Data code: AS

Government type: federal parliamentary state

National 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 of the UK (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 queen is a hereditary monarch; governor general appointed by the queen; 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 2 March 1996 (next to be held NA 1999); House of Representatives – last held 2 March 1996 (next to be held NA 1999)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – Liberal-National 37, Labor 29, Australian Democrats 8, Greens 1, independent 1; note – subsequent to the election, there has been a change in the distribution of seats; the new distribution is as follows – Liberal-National 37, Labor 28, Australian Democrats 7, Greens 2, independents 2; House of Representatives – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – Liberal-National 94, Labor 49, independent 5

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, Cheryl KERNOT; Green Party, Bob BROWN

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: AG (observer), ANZUS, APEC, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, G- 8, 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, PCA, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, 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) 270-5000
FAX: [61] (6) 270-5970
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



Economy – overview: Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP above the levels in highly industrialized West European countries. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. Commodities account for about 60% 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. In addition to high unemployment, short-term economic problems include a balancing of output growth and inflationary pressures and the stimulation of exports to offset rising imports.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $430.5 billion (1996 est.)

GDP – real growth rate: 3.6% (1996 est.)

GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $23,600 (1996 est.)

GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.1%
industry: 27.7%
services: 69.2% (1994)

Inflation rate – consumer price index: 3.1% (1996 est.)

Labor force:
total: 8.4 million (December 1996)
by occupation : finance and services 34%, public and community services 23%, wholesale and retail trade 20%, manufacturing and industry 17%, agriculture 6% (1987 est.)

Unemployment rate: 8.5% (1996 est.)

revenues: $95.69 billion
expenditures : $95.15 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY95/96 est.)

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

Industrial production growth rate: 1.2% (1995)

Electricity – capacity: 38.83 million kW (1994)

Electricity – production: 173 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity – consumption per capita: 8,278 kWh (1995 est.)

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

total value: $59.5 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities : coal, gold, meat, wool, alumina, iron ore, wheat, machinery and transport equipment
partners: Japan 24%, South Korea 8%, NZ 7%, US 7%, UK, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong (1994/95)

total value : $59.7 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products
partners: US 22%, Japan 17%, UK 6%, China 5%, NZ 5% (1994/95)

Debt – external: $134 billion (June 1996)

Economic aid:
donor: ODA, $1.25 billion (FY95/96)

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

Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1 – 1.2835 (January 1997), 1.2773 (1996), 1.3486 (1995), 1.3668 (1994), 1.4704 (1993), 1.3600 (1992)

Fiscal year: 1 July – 30 June



Telephones: 8.7 million (1987 est.)

Telephone system: good 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 258, FM 67, shortwave 0

Radios: NA

Television broadcast stations: 134 (1987 est.)

Televisions: 9.2 million (1992 est.)



total : 38,563 km (2,914 km electrified; 172 km dual gauge)
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

total : 895,030 km
paved: 345,482 km (including 1,330 km of expressways)
unpaved: 549,548 km (1995 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, Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart (Tasmania), Launceton (Tasmania), Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville

Merchant marine:
total: 69 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,282,084 GRT/3,326,092 DWT
ships by type : bulk 30, cargo 4, chemical tanker 3, combination bulk 1, container 5, liquefied gas tanker 4, oil tanker 14, roll-on/roll-off cargo 7, short-sea passenger 1 (1996 est.)

Airports: 443 (1996 est.)

Airports – with paved runways:
total: 275
over 3,047 m : 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 106
914 to 1,523 m: 116
under 914 m : 31 (1996 est.)

Airports – with unpaved runways:
total: 168
1,524 to 2,437 m: 22
914 to 1,523 m: 146 (1996 est.)



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 : 4,863,007 (1997 est.)

Military manpower – fit for military service:
males: 4,200,090 (1997 est.)

Military manpower – reaching military age annually:
males: 127,508 (1997 est.)

Military expenditures – dollar figure: $7.9 billion (FY96/97)

Military expenditures – percent of GDP: 1.9% (FY96/97)


Transnational Issues

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