Geographic and Governmental Profile of Australia

Background
Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession of the east coast in the name of Great Britain (all of Australia was claimed as British territory in 1829 with the creation of the colony of Western Australia). Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns include ageing of the population, pressure on infrastructure, and environmental issues such as frequent droughts.
Location
Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates
27 00 S, 133 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Oceania
Area
total:
7,741,220 sq km
rank:
6
land:
7,682,300 sq km
water:
58,920 sq km
includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island
Area - comparative
slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states
Land boundaries
0 km
Coastline
25,760 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
contiguous zone:
24 nm
exclusive economic zone:
200 nm
continental shelf:
200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate
generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north
Terrain
mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Lake Eyre -15 m
highest point:
Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m
Natural resources
bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, rare earth elements, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum
Australia is the world's largest net exporter of coal accounting for 29% of global coal exports
Land use
arable land:
6.15% (includes about 27 million hectares of cultivated grassland)
permanent crops:
0.04%
other:
93.81% (2005)
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Irrigated land
25,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
398 cu km (1995)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
total:
24.06 cu km/yr (15%/10%/75%)
per capita:
1,193 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
cyclones along the coast; severe droughts; forest fires
volcanism:
volcanic activity on Heard and McDonald Islands
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 freshwater resources
Environment - international agreements
party to:
Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified:
none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; the only continent without glaciers; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; the invigorating sea breeze known as the "Fremantle Doctor" affects the city of Perth on the west coast and is one of the most consistent winds in the world
Country name
conventional long form:
Commonwealth of Australia
conventional short form:
Australia
Government type
federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Capital
name:
Canberra
geographic coordinates:
35 16 S, 149 08 E
time difference:
UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time:
+1hr, begins first Sunday in October; ends first Sunday in April
Australia is divided into three time zones
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, Macquarie Island, Norfolk Island
Independence
1 January 1901 (from the federation of UK colonies)
National holiday
Australia Day, 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorates the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)
Constitution
9 July 1900; effective 1 January 1901
Legal system
common law system based on the English model
International law organization participation
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Suffrage
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch
chief of state:
Queen of Australia ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Quentin BRYCE (since 5 September 2008)
head of government:
Prime Minister Julia Eileen GILLARD (since 24 June 2010); Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Maxwell SWAN (since 24 June 2010)
cabinet:
prime minister nominates, from among members of Parliament, candidates who are subsequently sworn in by the governor general to serve as government ministers
elections:
the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the governor general
Legislative branch
bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats; 12 members from each of the six states and 2 from each of the two mainland territories; one-half of state members are elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms while all territory members are elected every three years) and the House of Representatives (150 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than 5 representatives)
elections:
Senate - last held on 21 August 2010; House of Representatives - last held on 21 August 2010 (the latest a simultaneous half-Senate and House of Representative elections can be held is 30 November 2013)
election results:
Senate (effective 1 July 2011) - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Liberal/National Party 34, Australian Labor Party 31, Greens 9, others 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - Australian Labor Party 38.1%, Liberal Party 30.4%, Greens 11.5%, Liberal National Party of Queensland 9.3%, independents 6.6%, The Nationals 3.7%, Country Liberals 0.3%; seats by party - Australian Labor Party 72, Liberal Party 44, Liberal National Party of Queensland 21, The Nationals 7, Country Liberals 1, Greens 1, independents 4
Judicial branch
High Court (the chief justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general acting on the advice of the government)
Political parties and leaders
Australian Greens [Christine MILNE]; Australian Labor Party [Julia GILLARD]; Family First Party [Steve FIELDING]; Liberal Party [Tony ABBOTT]; The Nationals [Warren TRUSS]
Political pressure groups and leaders
other:
business groups; environmental groups; social groups; trade unions
International organization participation
ADB, ANZUS, APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club, PCA, PIF, SAARC (observer), Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNMIT, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Kim Christian BEAZLEY
chancery:
1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone:
[1] (202) 797-3000
FAX:
[1] (202) 797-3168
consulate(s) general:
Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Jeffrey L. BLEICH
embassy:
Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600
mailing address:
APO AP 96549
telephone:
[61] (02) 6214-5600
FAX:
[61] (02) 6214-5970
consulate(s) general:
Melbourne, Perth, 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 known as the Commonwealth or Federation Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; on the fly half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars
National symbol(s)
Southern Cross constellation (five, seven-pointed stars); kangaroo; emu
National anthem
name:
"Advance Australia Fair"
lyrics/music:
Peter Dodds McCORMICK
adopted 1984; although originally written in the late 19th century, the anthem did not become used for all official occasions until 1984; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" is also played at Royal functions (see United Kingdom)
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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