Commonwealth of Australia
Area: 7.7 million sq. km. (3 million sq. mi.);
about the size of the 48 contiguous United
Cities: (2003) Capital--Canberra (pop.
323,000). Other cities--Sydney (4.2
million), Melbourne (3.6 million), Brisbane (1.7
million), Perth (1.4 million).
Terrain: Varied, but generally low-lying.
Climate: Relatively dry, ranging from temperate
in the south to tropical in the north.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Australian(s).
Population (2005): 20.2 million.
Annual population growth rate: 1.1%.
Ethnic groups: European 92%, Asian 6%,
Religions (2001): Anglican 21%, Roman Catholic
27%, other Christian 20%, other non-Christian
5%, no religion 16% and not stated 12%.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 15 in
all states except Tasmania, where it is 16.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5/1,000.
Life expectancy--males 78 yrs., females
Work force (10.1 million): Agriculture--4%;
mining, manufacturing, construction, and
public administration and defense--5%.
Type: Democratic, federal-state system
recognizing British monarch as sovereign.
Constitution: July 9, 1900.
Independence (federation): January 1, 1901.
Branches: Head of state is the governor general,
who is appointed by the Queen of Australia (the
British Monarch). Legislative--bicameral
Parliament (76-member Senate, 150-member House
of Representatives). The House of
Representatives selects as head of government
the Prime Minister, who then appoints his
cabinet. Judicial--independent judiciary.
Administrative subdivisions: Six states and two
Political parties: Liberal, Nationals,
Australian Labor, Australian Democrats,
Australian Greens, and Family First. The Liberal
Party and the Nationals form the governing
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory over 18.
Central government budget: FY 2004-05 $149.86
billion; FY 2005-06 $158.76 billion.
Defense: 1.9% of GDP for FY 2005-06.
GDP: (2004) $587.3 billion.
Inflation rate: (2004) 2.3% p.a.
Trade: Exports ($112.6 billion,
2004)--coal, iron ore, non-monetary gold, crude
petroleum and bovine meat. Major markets--Japan,
U.S. ($10.3 billion), China, New Zealand, South
Imports ($148.1 billion, 2004)--passenger
motor vehicles, crude petroleum, computers,
medicaments and telecommunications equipment.
Major suppliers--U.S. ($19.8 billion),
China, Japan, Germany, and Singapore.
Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a
hunting-gathering people generally referred to
as Aboriginals 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. Aboriginal population
density ranged from one person per square mile
along the coasts to one person per 35 square
miles in the arid interior. When Capt. 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. The aboriginal population
currently numbers more than 410,000,
representing about 2.2% 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.
Immigration has been a key 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. However,
since the end of World War II, the population
has more than doubled; non-European immigration,
mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin
America, has increased significantly since 1960
through an extensive, planned immigration
program. From 1945 through 2000, nearly 5.9
million immigrants settled in Australia, and
about 80% have remained; nearly two of every
seven Australians is foreign-born. Britain and
Ireland have been the largest sources of
post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, Greece,
New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia.
Australia's humanitarian and refugee
admissions of about 12,000 per year are in
addition to the normal immigration program. 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 two
people per square kilometer, it is one of the
world's most urbanized countries. Less than 15%
of the population lives in rural areas.
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--films, opera, music,
painting, theater, dance, and crafts--are
achieving international recognition.
Australian actors such as Nicole Kidman,
Rachel Griffiths, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe,
Geoffrey Rush, Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman, Heath
Ledger, and children’s entertainers, The
Wiggles, have achieved enormous popularity in
the United States. Australian movies and
directors such as Peter Weir and Philip Noyes
also are well known.
Australia has had a widely respected school
of painting since the early days of European
settlement, and Australians with international
reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell
Drysdale, and Pro Hart and Arthur Boyd. Writers
who have achieved world recognition include
Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil
Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, and Nobel
Prize winner Patrick White.
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
On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as
Australia Day), the First Fleet under Capt.
Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney, and formal
proclamation of the establishment of the Colony
of New South Wales followed on February 7. Many
but by no means all of the first settlers were
convicts, many condemned for offenses that today
would often be thought trivial. The mid-19th
century saw the beginning of government policies
to emancipate convicts and assist the
immigration of free persons. The discovery of
gold in 1851 led to increased population,
wealth, and trade.
The six colonies that now constitute the
states of the Australian Commonwealth were
established in the following order: New South
Wales, 1788; Tasmania, 1825; Western Australia,
1830; South Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and
Queensland, 1859. Settlement had preceded these
dates in most cases. Discussions between
Australian and British representatives led to
adoption by the British Government of an act to
constitute the Commonwealth of Australia in
1900. Since Federation, the Commonwealth
Government has established two self-governing
territories: the Northern Territory, 1978; and
the Australian Capital Territory (where the
national capital, Canberra, is located), 1989.
The first federal Parliament was opened at
Melbourne in May 1901 by the Duke of York (later
King George V). In May 1927, the seat of
government was transferred to Canberra, a
planned city designed by an American, Walter
Burley Griffin. The first session of Parliament
in that city was opened by another Duke of York
(later King George VI). Australia passed the
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October
9, 1942, which officially established
Australia's complete autonomy in both internal
and external affairs. Its passage formalized a
situation that had existed for years. The
Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last
vestiges of British legal authority.
The Commonwealth government was created with a
Constitution patterned partly on the U.S.
Constitution, although it does not include a
"bill of rights." The powers of the Commonwealth
are specifically defined in the Constitution,
and the residual powers remain with the states.
Australia is an independent nation within the
Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of
state and since 1973 has been officially styled
"Queen of Australia." The Queen is represented
throughout Australia by a governor general and
in each state by a governor.
The federal Parliament is bicameral,
consisting of a 76-member Senate and a
150-member House of Representatives. Twelve
senators from each state are elected for 6-year
terms, with half elected every 3 years. Each
territory has two senators who are elected for
3-year terms. The members of the House of
Representatives are allocated among the states
and territories roughly in proportion to
population. In ordinary legislation, the two
chambers have coordinate powers, but all
proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing
taxes must be introduced in the House of
Representatives. Under the prevailing
Westminster parliamentary system, the leader of
the political party or coalition of parties that
wins a majority of the seats in the House of
Representatives is named prime minister. The
prime minister and the cabinet wield actual
power and are responsible to the Parliament, of
which they must be elected members. General
elections are held at least once every 3 years;
the last general election was in October 2004.
Each state is headed by a premier, who is the
leader of the party with a majority or a working
minority in the lower house of the state
legislature. Australia's two self-governing
territories have political systems similar to
those of the states. The Territories are headed
by Chief Ministers who are the leader of the
party with a majority or a working minority in
the territories' legislature.
At the apex of the court system is the High
Court of Australia. It has general appellate
jurisdiction over all other federal and state
courts and possesses the power of constitutional
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Michael
Prime Minister--John W. Howard
Foreign Minister--Alexander Downer
Ambassador to the United States--Dennis
Ambassador to the United Nations--John Dauth
Australia maintains an
in the United States at 1601 Massachusetts
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel.
202-797-3000), and consulates general in New
York (212-351-6500), San Francisco
(415-536-1970), Honolulu (808-524-5050), Los
Angeles (310-229-4800), Chicago (312-419-1480)
and Atlanta (404-760-3400).
Three political parties dominate the center
of the Australian political spectrum: the
Liberal Party (LP), nominally representing urban
business-related groups; the Nationals,
nominally representing rural interests; and the
Australian Labor Party (ALP), nominally
representing the trade unions and liberal
groups. Although embracing some leftists, the
ALP traditionally has been moderately socialist
in its policies and approaches to social issues.
All political groups are tied by tradition to
domestic welfare policies that have kept
Australia in the forefront of societies offering
extensive social welfare programs. Australia's
social welfare programs have been reduced,
however, in response to budgetary pressures and
a changing political outlook. There is strong
bipartisan sentiment on many international
issues, including Australia's commitment to its
alliance with the United States.
The Liberal Party/Nationals coalition came to
power in 1996, ending 13 years of ALP government
and electing John Howard Prime Minister.
Re-elected in October 1998, November 2001, and
October 2004, the coalition now holds 87 seats
(75 Liberal/12 National) in the House of
Representatives, against 60 for the ALP, and 3
independents. Currently, in the Senate, the
coalition holds a 39-seat majority in the
76-seat chamber, against 28 for the ALP, 4 for
the Australian Democrats, 4 for the Australian
Greens, and 1 for the Family First party.
Howard's center-right coalition moved quickly
to reduce Australia's government deficit and the
influence of organized labor, and reform
Australia's tax and social welfare systems. The
Howard government also has accelerated the pace
of privatization, beginning with the
government-owned telecommunications corporation.
The Howard government has continued the foreign
policy of its predecessors, based on relations
with four key countries: the United States,
Japan, China, and Indonesia. The Howard
government strongly supports U.S. engagement in
the Asia-Pacific region and has sent troops as
part of the coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
National elections took place October 9, 2004,
and likely will take place again in late 2007 or
Australia's advanced market economy is
dominated by its services sector (71% of GDP),
yet it is the agricultural and mining sectors
(8% of GDP combined) that account for the bulk
(52%) of Australia's goods and services exports.
Australia's comparative advantage in primary
products is a reflection of the natural wealth
of the Australian continent and its small
domestic market; 20 million people occupy a
continent the size of the contiguous United
States. The relative size of the manufacturing
sector has been declining for several decades,
and now accounts for around 10% of GDP.
Australia commenced a basic reorientation of
its economy in the 1980s and has transformed
itself from an inward looking,
import-substitution country to an
internationally competitive, export-oriented
one. Key reforms included unilaterally reducing
high tariffs and other protective barriers;
floating the Australian dollar exchange rate;
deregulating the financial services sector,
including liberalizing access for foreign bank
branches; making efforts to restructure the
highly centralized system of industrial
relations and labor bargaining; better
integrating the state economies into a national
federal system; improving and standardizing the
national infrastructure; privatizing many
government-owned services and public utilities;
and fundamentally reforming the taxation system,
including introducing a broad-based Goods and
Services Tax (GST).
The ultimate goal is for Australia to become
a competitive producer and exporter, not just of
traditional farm and mineral commodities, but
also of a diversified mix of high value-added
manufactured products, services, and
technologies. Australia was one of the OECD's
fastest-growing economies throughout the 1990s,
a performance that owed much to the economic
reform program. Despite a transient slowdown in
late 2000, it has been 14 years since Australia
experienced a recession and economic growth
remains robust. Economic growth should be just
under 3% in 2005, although the persistent
strength of the Australian dollar and
infrastructure bottlenecks could constrain
The Australia – U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA)
entered into force on January 1, 2005. The
AUSFTA marks the first FTA the U.S. has
concluded with a developed economy since the
U.S.-Canada FTA in 1988. Australia has also
completed FTAs with Singapore and Thailand and
is pursuing similar Agreements in the region. A
burgeoning trade relationship marked by ongoing,
multi-billion dollar resource export contracts
has driven FTA negotiations with China. Parallel
efforts are underway with Malaysia and ASEAN.
Australia has been active participant in
international affairs since World War I and has
fought beside the United States and other Allies
in every significant conflict to the present
day. In 1944, it 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 the war, Australia played a role in the
Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported
Indonesian independence during that country's
revolt against the Dutch (1945-49). Australia
was one of the founders of both the United
Nations and the South Pacific Commission (1947),
and in 1950, it proposed the Colombo Plan to
assist developing countries in Asia. 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 communist revolt
in Malaya in 1948-60 and later to combat the
Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak in
1963-65. The U.S., Australia and New Zealand
signed the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, which remains
Australia’s only formal security treaty
alliance. Australia also 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 2002, 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 a
member of the Security Council in 1986-87, 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
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
the APEC forum.
Australia has devoted particular attention to
relations between developed and developing
nations, with emphasis on the ten countries of
the Association of South East 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. 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
2003, Australia led a regional mission to
restore law and order in Solomon Islands.
Australia provided over $1.6 billion ($A2.1
billion) as official development assistance in
FY 2004-05. The Australian aid program is
currently concentrated in Southeast Asia (Papua
New Guinea is the largest-single recipient) and
the Pacific Islands. In 2004, Australia
commenced a 5-year $0.8 billion ($A1.1 billion)
Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP), which
involved government officials working alongside
their PNG counterparts. The future of the
program was called into question in 2005,
however, when ECP immunity provisions for
Australian officials were successfully
challenged in the PNG high court. 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 1985, 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. Subsequent bilateral
Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings
have alternated between Australia and the United
States. The 16th AUSMIN meeting took place in
Washington on July 7, 2004.
The U.S.-Australia alliance under the ANZUS
Treaty remains in full force. Defense ministers
of one or both nations have joined the annual
ministerial meetings, which 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, 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, Australian Prime
Minister Howard 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 military and civilian specialists are
participating in the training of Iraqi security
forces and the reconstruction of Iraq.
Australian Special Forces are redeploying to
Afghanistan to help provide security in time for
the country’s September 18, 2005 elections.
After a review in 2000 of Australia's future
defense needs, the government made a commitment
to increase defense spending by an average of 3%
a year for the next 10 years. The Australian
Defense Force numbers about 52,000 active duty
personnel. The Royal Australian Navy's
front-line fleet currently includes 12 frigates,
including 4 of the Adelaide class and 7
Australian-built ANZAC class, with 1 more to be
delivered by 2006. The last of six submarines of
the new, indigenous Collins class was
commissioned in March 2003. An upgraded version
of the US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyer
will be the Australian Navy's air warfare
destroyer after the August 2005 selection of
American firm Gibbs and Cox as the preferred
designer for the $4.6 billion project. In August
2004, Australia selected the Aegis Combat
Control System for its three air warfare
destroyers, which will start coming into service
in 2013. 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.
Both of their current fighters are scheduled to
exit service by 2012 when they will be replaced
by up to 100 JSF aircraft. Boeing will provide
the Commonwealth of Australia's Royal Australian
Air Force (RAAF) with an Airborne Early Warning
and Control (AEW&C) system based on the
Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft as the airborne
platform. The first two aircraft are planned to
be in service by late 2006, with four more due
for delivery by 2008. Recent U.S. sales to the
Royal Australian Army include the M1A1 AIM tank,
as well as Hellfire and JAVELIN munitions.
The World War II experience, similarities in
culture and historical background, and shared
democratic values have made U.S. relations with
Australia exceptionally strong and close. Ties
linking the two nations cover the entire
spectrum of international relations--from
commercial, cultural, and environmental contacts
to political and defense cooperation. Two-way
trade reached $30.1 billion in 2004. More than
400,000 Americans have visited Australia in a
Traditional friendship is reinforced by the
wide range of common interests and similar views
on most major international questions. For
example, both countries sent military forces to
the Persian Gulf in support of UN Security
Council resolutions relating to Iraq's
occupation of Kuwait; both attach high priority
to controlling and eventually eliminating
chemical weapons, other weapons of mass
destruction, and anti-personnel landmines; and
both work closely on global environmental issues
such as slowing climate change and preserving
coral reefs. The Australian Government and
opposition share the view that Australia's
security depends on firm ties with the United
States, and the ANZUS Treaty enjoys broad
bipartisan support. Recent Presidential visits
to Australia (in 1991, 1996 and 2003) and
Australian Prime Ministerial visits to the
United States (in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002,
2003, 2004, and 2005) have underscored the
strength and closeness of the alliance.
The bilateral Australia-U.S. Free Trade
Agreement (AUSFTA) entered into force on January
1, 2005. This comprehensive agreement, only the
second FTA the U.S. had negotiated with a
developed nation, substantially liberalizes an
already vibrant trade and investment
relationship. The AUSFTA also creates a range of
ongoing working groups and committees designed
to explore further trade reform in the bilateral
Both countries share a commitment to
liberalizing global trade. They work together
very closely in the World Trade Organization (WTO),
and both are active members of the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
A number of U.S. institutions conduct
scientific activities in Australia because of
its geographical position, large land mass,
advanced technology, and, above all, the ready
cooperation of its government and scientists.
Under an agreement dating back to 1960 and since
renewed, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) maintains in Australia one
of its largest and most important program
outside the United States, including a number of
tracking facilities vital to the U.S. space
program. Indicative of the broadranging
U.S.-Australian cooperation on other global
issues, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT)
was concluded in 1997, enhancing already close
bilateral cooperation on legal and
counter-narcotics issues. In 2001, the U.S. and
Australia signed a new tax treaty and a
bilateral social security agreement.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--William Stanton
Consular Affairs Coordinator-- Suzanne Lawrence
(resident in Sydney)
Economic Counselor--Matt Matthews
Political Counselor--Woo Lee
Management Counselor--Grace Stettenbauer
Public Affairs Counselor--Susan Crystal
Defense and Air Attache and Representative of
the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the
Commander in Chief Pacific--Col. Mike Mahar,
Agricultural Counselor--Kathleen Wainio
Senior Commercial Officer--Beryl Blecher
(resident in Sydney)
U.S. Embassy in Australia is
located at Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra,
Australian Capital Territory 2600 (tel. (02)
6-214-5600; fax 6-214-5970). Consulates General
Sydney (tel. 2-9373-9200; fax
Melbourne (tel. 3-9526-5900;
fax 3-9510-4646; and
Perth (tel. 9-202-1224; fax.