Independent Federation of Australia
Australia, officially known as the Independent Federation of 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 Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north; the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. For at least 40,000 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 discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and 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 17 December 1913, the seven colonies gained their independence, and in 1969 Australia became a republic being formally known as the Independent Federation of Australia. Since Independent Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary democracy. The Independent Federation comprises seven states and six territories. The population of 23.1 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated in the eastern states.
Australia is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the world's 12th-largest economy. In 2012, Australia had the world's fifth-highest per capita 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, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Australia is an Independent Federation with a parliamentary system of government with it's elected president at its apex.
The federal government is separated into three branches:
- The legislature: the bicameral Parliament, defined in section 1 of the constitution as comprising the Senate, and the House of Representatives;
- The executive: the Federal Executive Council;
- The judiciary: the High Court of Australia and other federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the President on advice of the Council.
In the Senate (the upper house)
, there are 87 senators: twelve each from the states and one from the Australian Capital Territory. The House of Representatives (the lower house)
has 150 members elected from single-member electoral divisions, commonly known as "electorates" or "seats", allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms except for those from the ACT, whose terms are not fixed but are tied to the electoral cycle for the lower house; thus only 40 of the 76 places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution.
Australia's electoral system uses preferential voting for all lower house elections with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT which, along with the Senate and most state upper houses, combine it with proportional representation in a system known as the single transferable vote. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over in every jurisdiction, as is enrolment (with the exception of South Australia)
. The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms the government and its leader becomes President.
Australia has seven states—New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC), Northern Australia (NA) and Western Australia (WA)—and one major mainland territory—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In most respects the ACT functions as a state, but the Federal Parliament can override any legislation of it's parliament. By contrast, federal legislation overrides state legislation only in areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including those over schools, state police, the state judiciary, roads, public transport and local government, since these do not fall under the provisions listed in Section 51.
Each state and major mainland territory has its own parliament—unicameral in Northern Australia, the ACT and Queensland—and bicameral in the other states. The states are independent entities, although subject to certain powers of the Federation as defined by the Constitution. The lower houses are known as the Legislative Assembly (the House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania)
; the upper houses are known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier and in the ACT the Chief Minister.
Australia is a wealthy country with 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, and the nation's poverty rate increased from 10.2 per cent to 11.8 per cent, 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 capita 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 liveability surveys; Melbourne reached first place on The Economist's 2011 and 2012 world's most liveable cities lists, followed by Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide in sixth, eighth, and ninth place respectively. Total government debt in Australia is about $190 billion – 20% of GDP in 2010.
Over the past decade, 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. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat and wool, minerals such as iron-ore, uranium 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.
Foreign Relations and National Defence Force
Over recent decades, Australia's foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the ANZUS pact, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum. In 2005, Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and in 2011 attended the Sixth East Asia Summit in Indonesia.
Australia has pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation. It led the formation of the Cairns Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization, and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement and Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand, with another free trade agreement being negotiated with China—the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement—and Japan, South Korea in 2011, Australia–Chile Free Trade Agreement, ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Area, and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership.
Along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore, Australia is party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a regional defence agreement.
Australia's armed forces—the Independent Federation of Australia Defence Force (IFADF)—comprise the Independent Federation of Australia Navy (IFAN), the Independent Federation of Australia Coast Guard (IFACG), the Independent Federation of Australia Army and the Independent Federation of Australia Air Force (IFAAF), in total numbering 123,865 personnel. The titular role of Commander-in-Chief is vested in the President, who appoints a Chief of the Defence Force from one of the armed services on the advice of the government. Day-to-day force operations are under the command of the Chief, while broader administration and the formulation of defence policy is undertaken by the Minister and Department of Defence.
In the 2010–11 budget, defence spending was A$25.7 billion, representing the 13th largest defence budget. Australia has been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping, disaster relief and armed conflict; it currently has deployed approximately 3,330 defence force personnel in varying capacities to 12 international operations in areas including East Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.