See regional map X


Total area: 7,686,850 km²; land area: 7,617,930 km²; includes Macquarie Island

Comparative area: slightly smaller than the US

Land boundaries: none

Coastline: 25,760 km

Maritime claims:

Contiguous zone: 12 nm
Continental shelf: 200 meters or to depth of exploitation
Exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 3 nm

Disputes: territorial claim in Antarctica (Australian Antarctic Territory)

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

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

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

Land use: 6% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 58% meadows and pastures; 14% forest and woodland; 22% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: subject to severe droughts and floods; cyclones along coast; limited freshwater availability; irrigated soil degradation; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as the doctor occurs along west coast in summer; desertification

Note: world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country


Population: 16,923,478 (July 1990), growth rate 1.3% (1990)

Birth rate: 15 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 6 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 8 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 73 years male, 80 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 1.8 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Australian(s); adjective—Australian

Ethnic divisions: 95% Caucasian, 4% Asian, 1% Aboriginal and other

Religion: 26.1% Anglican, 26.0% Roman Catholic, 24.3% other Christian

Language: English, native languages Literacy: 98.5%

Labor force: 7,700,000; 33.8% finance and services, 22.3% public and community services, 20.1% wholesale and retail trade, 16.2% manufacturing and industry, 6.1% agriculture (1987)

Organized labor: 62% of labor force (1986)


Long-form name: Commonwealth of Australia

Type: federal parliamentary state

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)

Constitution: 9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901

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

National holiday: Australia Day (last Monday in January), 29 January 1990

Executive branch: British monarch, governor general, prime minister, deputy prime minister, Cabinet

Legislative branch: bicameral Federal Parliament consists of an upper house or Senate and a lower house or House of Representatives

Judicial branch: High Court

Leaders: Chief of State—Queen ELIZABETH II (since February 1952), represented by Governor General William George HAYDEN (since NA February 1989);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Robert James Lee HAWKE (since 11 March 1983); Deputy Prime Minister Paul KEATING (since 3 April 1990)

Political parties and leaders: government—Australian Labor Party, Robert Hawke; opposition—Liberal Party, Andrew Peacock; National Party, Charles Blunt; Australian Democratic Party, Janine Haines

Suffrage: universal and compulsory at age 18

Elections: Senate—last held 11 July 1987 (next to be held by 12 May 1990); results—Labor 43%, Liberal-National 42%, Australian Democrats 8%, independents 2%; seats—(76 total); Labor 32, Liberal-National 34, Australian Democrats 7, independents 3;

House of Representatives—last held 24 March 1990 (next to be held by November 1993); results—Labor 39.7%, Liberal-National 43%, Australian Democrats and independents 11.1%; seats—(148 total) Labor 78, Liberal-National 69, independent 1

Communists: 4,000 members (est.)

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

Member of: ADB, AIOEC, ANZUS, CCC, CIPEC (associate), Colombo Plan, Commonwealth, DAC, ESA, ESCAP, FAO, GATT, IAEA, IATP, IBA, IBRD, ICAC, ICAO, ICO, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IHO, ILO, ILZSG, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOOC, IPU, IRC, ISO, ITC, ITU, IWC—International Whaling Commission, IWC—International Wheat Council, OECD, SPF, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WSG

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Michael J. COOK; Chancery at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036; telephone (202) 797-3000; there are Australian Consulates General in Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Pago Pago (American Samoa), and San Francisco; US Ambassador Melvin F. SEMBLER; Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600 (mailing address is APO San Francisco 6404); telephone [61] (62) 705000; there are US Consulates General in Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, and a Consulate in Brisbane

Flag: 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


Overview: Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GNP comparable to levels in industrialized West European countries. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. Of the top 25 exports, 21 are primary products, so that, as happened during 1983-84, 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 will be severe.

GNP: $240.8 billion, per capita $14,300; real growth rate 4.1% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.0% (1989)

Unemployment rate: 6.0% (December 1989)

Budget: revenues $76.3 billion; expenditures $69.1 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (FY90 est.)

Exports: $43.2 billion (f.o.b., FY89); commodities—wheat, barley, beef, lamb, dairy products, wool, coal, iron ore; partners—Japan 26%, US 11%, NZ 6%, South Korea 4%, Singapore 4%, USSR 3%

Imports: $48.6 billion (c.i.f., FY89); commodities—manufactured raw materials, capital equipment, consumer goods; partners—US 22%, Japan 22%, UK 7%, FRG 6%, NZ 4% (1984)

External debt: $111.6 billion (September 1989)

Industrial production: growth rate 5.6% (FY88)

Electricity: 38,000,000 kW capacity; 139,000 million kWh produced, 8,450 kWh per capita (1989)

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

Agriculture: accounts for 5% of GNP and 37% of export revenues; world's largest exporter of beef and wool, second-largest for mutton, and among top wheat exporters; major crops—wheat, barley, sugarcane, fruit; livestock—cattle, sheep, poultry

Aid: donor—ODA and OOF commitments (1970-87), $8.8 billion

Currency: Australian dollar (plural—dollars); 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Australian dollars ($A) per US$1—1.2784 (January 1990), 1.2618 (1989), 1.2752 (1988), 1.4267 (1987), 1.4905(1986), 1.4269(1985)

Fiscal year: 1 July-30 June


Railroads: 40,478 km total; 7,970 km 1.600-meter gauge, 16,201 km 1.435-meter standard gauge, 16,307 km 1.067-meter gauge; 183 km dual gauge; 1,130 km electrified; government owned (except for a few hundred kilometers of privately owned track) (1985)

Highways: 837,872 km total; 243,750 km paved, 228,396 km gravel, crushed stone, or stabilized soil surface, 365,726 km unimproved earth

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

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

Ports: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport, Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart, Launceston, Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville

Merchant marine: 77 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,300,049 GRT/3,493,802 DWT; includes 2 short-sea passenger, 7 cargo, 5 container, 10 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 17 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 2 chemical tanker, 3 liquefied gas, 1 combination ore/oil, 1 livestock carrier, 29 bulk

Civil air: around 150 major transport aircraft

Airports: 564 total, 524 usable; 235 with permanent-surface runways, 2 with runways over 3,659 m; 20 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 311 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: good international and domestic service; 8.7 million telephones; stations—258 AM, 67 FM, 134 TV; submarine cables to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia; domestic satellite service; satellite stations—4 Indian Ocean INTELSAT, 6 Pacific Ocean INTELSAT earth stations

Defense Forces

Branches: Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 4,588,750; 4,009,127 fit for military service; 136,042 reach military age (17) annually

Defense expenditures: NA