Australia

 

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 in the name of Great Britain. 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 climate-change issues such as the depletion of the ozone layer and more frequest droughts, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Geography:
Location: Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates: 27 00 S, 133 00 E
People:
Population: 22,015,576 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.3% (male 2,040,848/female 1,937,544)

15-64 years: 67.7% (male 7,469,092/female 7,266,143)

65 years and over: 14% (male 1,398,576/female 1,654,508) (2011 est.)

Median age: Total: 37.9 years

male: 37.1 years

female: 38.7 years (2012 est.)

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

conventional short form: Australia

Government type: federal parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Canberra

geographic coordinates: 35 17 S, 149 13 E

time difference: UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in October; ends last Sunday in March

note: Australia is divided into three time zones

Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 10.54 million (2011))
Telephones – mobile cellular: 24.49 million (2011)
Transportation:
Airports: 467 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 333

over 3,047 m: 11

2,438 to 3,047 m: 13

1,524 to 2,437 m: 146

914 to 1,523 m: 149

under 914 m: 14 (2012)

Economy:

Australia has an enviable, strong economy with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Robust business and consumer confidence and high export prices for raw materials and agricultural products are fueling the economy, particularly in mining states. Australia’s emphasis on reforms, low inflation, a housing market boom, and growing ties with China have been key factors behind the economy’s 16 solid years of expansion.

 

Drought, robust import demand, and a strong currency have pushed the trade deficit up in recent years, while infrastructure bottlenecks and a tight labour market are constraining growth in export volumes and stoking inflation. Australia’s budget has been in surplus since 2002 due to strong revenue growth.

Transnational Issues:Timor-Leste and Australia agreed in 2005 to defer the disputed portion of the boundary for fifty years and to split hydrocarbon revenues evenly outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area covered by the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty; East Timor dispute hampers creation of a revised maritime boundary with Indonesia in the Timor Sea; Indonesian groups challenge Australia’s claim to Ashmore and Cartier Islands; Australia closed parts of the Ashmore and Cartier Reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing and placed restrictions on certain catch; regional states continue to express concern over Australia’s 2004 declaration of a 1,000-nautical mile-wide maritime identification zone; Australia asserts land and maritime claims to Antarctica (see Antarctica); in 2004 Australia submitted its claims to UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to extend its continental margins covering over 3.37 million square kilometres or roughly thirty percent of its claimed exclusive economic zone; since 2003, Australian Defence Force leads the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to maintain civil and political order and reinforce regional security.