Author(s): United States Department of
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Abstract PIP: This discussion of Australia covers the following: the people, geography, history, government, political conditions, economy, foreign relations and defense, and relations between the US and Australia. In 1983 the population of Australia totaled 15.3 million with an annual growth rate of 1.3\%. The infant mortality rate is 9.9/1000 live births with a life expectancy of 74 years. The people of Australia are predominantly of British origin, and their culture and outlook are similar to those of the US. The aboriginal population is estimated to be 1\% of the total. Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but distinctive Australian trends have evolved from the environment, aboriginal culture, and the influence of Australia's neighbors. Australia, the world's smallest continent but 1 of the largest nations, is located below the Southeast Asian archipelago and is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean and on the west by the Indian Ocean. Most of the continent is a low, irregular plateau. Little is known of Australia before its discovery by Dutch explorers in the 17th century. On January 26, 1788 the Colony of New South Wales was founded and formal proclamation on the site of Sydney followed on February 7. Many of the 1st settlers were convicts. The mid-19th century began a policy of emancipation of convicts and assisted immigration of free people. The 1st federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901. Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act in 1942, which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs. The Commonwealth government was created with a constitution patterned partly on the US constitution. Australia is a fully independent nation within the Commonwealth. The federal Parliament is bicameral, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. At the apex of the court system is the High Court of Australia. The 3 main political groups in Australia are the Liberal Party, the National Party, and the Australian Labor Party. The ALP came to power in a sweeping victory on March 5, 1983, bringing an end to nearly 8 years of rule by the Liberal/National coalition. Australia has a sophisticated, diversified, and affluent economy (1982 gross domestic product, US$151 billion). The economy is heavily dependent on foreign trade. Since World War II Australia plays an increasingly active role in international affairs. On most international issues, the US and Australia are in broad agreement and cooperate closely.
This article was published in Backgr Notes Ser
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense