A Map of Australia


Background: Australia became a commonwealth of the British Empire in 1901. It was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. A referendum to change Australia's status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to an independent republic, was defeated in 1999.
Location: Oceania, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean Area: Total: 7,686,850 sq km water: 68,920 sq km note: includes Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island land: 7,617,930 sq km Area - comparative: Slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states Coastline: 25,760 km Climate: Generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north
Climate and Terrain: Terrain: Mostly low plateau with deserts; fertile plain in southeast Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Lake Eyre -15 m highest point: Mount Kosciuszko 2,229 m Natural resources: Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum Land use: Arable land: 7% permanent crops: 0% other: 93% (1998 est.)
People: Population: 19,546,792. Ethnic groups: Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%. Religions: Anglican 26.1%, Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%, other 12.6%. Languages: English, native languages.
Government: Government type: Democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign. Capital: Canberra. Independence: 1 January 1901 (federation of UK colonies).
Economy overview: Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. The Australian economy has been resilient in the face of the global economic downturn in 2001 chalking up 2.3% GDP growth, as the domestic economy is offsetting the external slump and business and consumer confidence remains robust. Canberra's emphasis on reforms is a key factor behind the economy's strength, and Australia is expected to outperform its trading partners in 2002, with GDP growth projected to be 3% or better. GDP - composition by sector: Agriculture: 3% industry: 25% services: 72% (2000 est.)
Statistics: Telephones - main lines in use: 10.05 million. Telephones - mobile cellular: 8.6 million. Radio broadcast stations: AM 262, FM 345. Radios: 25.5 million. Television broadcast stations: 104. Televisions: 10.15 million. Internet users: 10.06 million. Railways: Total: 33,819 km. Highways: Total: 913,000 km. Airports: 421 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: 282, with unpaved runways: 139.

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