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Australia Facts

Area 7.692 million km²

Population: 24,412,982 

Australia officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the world’s sixth-largest country by total area. Neighbouring countries include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. Australia’s capital is Canberra, its largest urban area is Sydney. For about 50,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages grouped into roughly 250 language groups. After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia’s eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades; the continent was explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies were established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy comprising six states and several territories. The population of 24 million is highly urbanized and heavily concentrated in the eastern states and on the coast. Australia is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the world’s 12th-largest economy. In 2014 Australia had the world’s fifth-highest per capital income. Australia’s military expenditure is the world’s 13th-largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.

 

Environment

Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Fungi typify that diversity; an estimated 250,000 species—of which only 5% have been described—occur in Australia. Because of the continent’s great age, extremely variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia’s biota is unique. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. Australian forests are mostly made up of evergreen species, particularly eucalyptus trees in the less arid regions; wattles replace them as the dominant species in drier regions and deserts. Among well-known Australian animals are the monotremes (the platypus and echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, koala, and wombat, and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra. Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world. The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE. Many animal and plant species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna; others have disappeared since European settlement, among them the thylacine. Many of Australia’s ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced animal, chromistan, fungal and plant species. All these factors have led to Australia having the highest mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 65 wetlands are listed under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 natural World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 3rd out of 178 countries in the world on the 2014 Environmental Performance Index.

Economy

A KC-390 military transport aircraft, developed by Brazilian company Embraer, the third largest producer of civil aircraft, after Airbus and Boeing. Australia is a wealthy country; it generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking and manufacturing. It has a market economy, a relatively high GDP per capita, and a relatively low rate of poverty. In terms of average wealth, Australia ranked second in the world after Switzerland in 2013, although the nation’s poverty rate increased from 10.2% to 11.8%, from 2000/01 to 2013. It was identified by the Credit Suisse Research Institute as the nation with the highest median wealth in the world and the second-highest average wealth per adult in 2013. The Australian dollar is the currency for the nation, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu. With the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Australian Securities Exchange became the ninth largest in the world. Ranked third in the Index of Economic Freedom (2010), Australia is the world’s twelfth largest economy and has the fifth highest per capital GDP (nominal) at $66,984. The country was ranked second in the United Nations 2011 Human Development Index and first in Legatum’s 2008 Prosperity Index. All of Australia’s major cities fare well in global comparative livability surveys; Melbourne reached top spot for the fourth year in a row on The Economist’s 2014 list of the world’s most liveable cities, followed by Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth in the fifth, seventh, and ninth places respectively. Total government debt in Australia is about $190 billion – 20% of GDP in 2010. Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest household debt levels in the world. An emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactured goods has underpinned a significant increase in Australia’s terms of trade since the start of the 21st century, due to rising commodity prices. Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years. Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% for over 15 years, in comparison to the OECD annual average of 2.5%. Australia was the only advanced economy not to experience a recession due to the global financial downturn in 2008–2009. However, the economies of six of Australia’s major trading partners have been in recession, which in turn has affected Australia, significantly hampering its economic growth in recent years. From 2012 to early 2013, Australia’s national economy grew, but some non-mining states and Australia’s non-mining economy experienced a recession.The Hawke Government floated the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system. The Howard Government followed with a partial deregulation of the labour market and the further privatisation of state-owned businesses, most notably in the telecommunications industry. The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST). In Australia’s tax system, personal and company income tax are the main sources of government revenue. In May 2012, there were 11,537,900 people employed (either full- or part-time), with an unemployment rate of 5.1%. Youth unemployment (15–24) stood at 11.2%. Data released in mid-November 2013 showed that the number of welfare recipients had grown by 55%. In 2007 228,621 Newstart unemployment allowance recipients were registered, a total that increased to 646,414 in March 2013. According to the Graduate Careers Survey, full-time employment for newly qualified professionals from various occupations has declined since 2011 but it increases for graduates three years after graduation. Since 2008, inflation has typically been 2–3% and the base interest rate 5–6%. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for about 70% of GDP.[220] Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat and wool, minerals such as iron-ore and gold, and energy in the forms of liquified natural gas and coal. Although agriculture and natural resources account for only 3% and 5% of GDP respectively, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia’s largest export markets are Japan, China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand. Australia is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine, and the wine industry contributes $5.5 billion per year to the nation’s economy.

Government and politics

Australia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II at its apex as the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in Australia by the Governor-General at the federal level and by the Governors at the state level, who by convention act on the advice of her ministers. The most notable exercise to date of the Governor-General’s reserve powers outside the Prime Minister’s request was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

Health

Australia has the third and seventh highest life expectancy of males and females respectively in the world. Life expectancy in Australia in 2010 was 79.5 years for males and 84.0 years for females. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, while cigarette smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and disease, responsible for 7.8% of the total mortality and disease. Ranked second in preventable causes is hypertension at 7.6%, with obesity third at 7.5%. Australia ranks 35th in the world and near the top of developed nations for its proportion of obese adults and nearly two thirds (63%) of its adult population is either overweight or obese. Total expenditure on health (including private sector spending) is around 9.8% of GDP. Australia introduced universal health care in 1975. Known as Medicare, it is now nominally funded by an income tax surcharge known as the Medicare levy, currently set at 1.5%. The states manage hospitals and attached outpatient services, while the Commonwealth funds the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (subsidizing the costs of medicines) and general practice.

Religion

Australia has no state religion; Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making any law to establish any religion, impose any religious observance, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion. In the 2011 census, 61.1% of Australians were counted as Christian, including 25.3% as Roman Catholic and 17.1% as Anglican; 22.3% of the population reported having “no religion”; 7.2% identify with non-Christian religions, the largest of these being Buddhism (2.5%), followed by Islam (2.2%), Hinduism (1.3%) and Judaism (0.5%). The remaining 9.4% of the population did not provide an adequate answer.

Tourism

Tourism in Australia is an important component of the Australian economy. In the FINANCIAL year 2014/15, tourism represented 3.0% of Australia’s GDP contributing A$47.5 billion to the national economy. Domestic tourism is a significant part of the tourism industry, representing 73% of the total direct tourism GDP. In calendar year 2015, there were 7.4 million visitor arrivals. Tourism employed 580,800 people in Australia in 2014-15, 5% of the workforce. About 43.7% of persons employed in tourism were part-time. Tourism also contributed 8.0% of Australia’s total export earnings in 2010-11. Popular Australian destinations include the coastal cities of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as other high-profile destinations including regional Queensland, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef. Uluru and the Australian outback are other popular locations, as is the Tasmanian wilderness. The unique Australian wildlife is also another significant point of interest in the country’s tourism.

Sport

About 24% of Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities. At an international level, Australia has excelled at cricket, field hockey, netball, rugby league, swimming and rugby union. The majority of Australians live within the coastal zone, making the beach a popular recreation spot and an integral part of the nation’s identity. Australia is a powerhouse in water-based sports, such as swimming and surfing. The surf lifesaving movement originated in Australia, and the volunteer lifesaver is one of the country’s icons. Nationally, other popular sports include Australian rules football, horse racing, basketball, surfing, soccer, and motor racing. The annual Melbourne Cup horse race and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race attract intense interest. Australia is one of five nations to have participated in every Summer Olympics of the modern era, and has hosted the Games twice: 1956 in Melbourne and 2000 in Sydney. Australia has also participated in every Commonwealth Games, hosting the event in 1938, 1962, 1982, 2006 and will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Australia made its inaugural appearance at the Pacific Games in 2015. As well as being a regular FIFA World Cup participant, Australia has won the OFC Nations Cup four times and the AFC Asian Cup once – the only country to have won championships in two different FIFA confederations. The country regularly competes among the world elite basketball teams as it is among the global top three teams in terms of qualifications to the Basketball Tournament at the Summer Olympics. Other major international events held in Australia include the Australian Open tennis grand slam tournament, international cricket matches, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The highest-rating television programs include sports telecasts such as the Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, The Ashes, Rugby League State of Origin, and the grand finals of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League. Skiing in Australia began in the 1860s and snow sports take place in the Australian Alps and parts of Tasmania.

Transport

There are many forms of transport in Australia. Australia is highly dependent on road transport. There are more than 300 airports with paved runways. Passenger rail transport includes widespread commuter networks in the major capital cities with more limited intercity and interstate networks. The Australian mining sector is reliant upon rail to transport its product to Australia’s ports for export. Local Transport. All of Australia’s major towns have reliable, affordable public bus networks, and there are suburban train lines in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Melbourne also has trams (Adelaide has one!), and Sydney has harbor ferries and a light rail line. Taxis operate Australia-wide.

Weather

The climate varies widely due to its large geographical size, but by far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. … The northern part of the country has a tropical climate, varied between tropical rainforests, grasslands, part desert.

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