Australia - Factbook
Factbook of the Federal Republic of Australia
National Flag, Civil, and Naval Ensign of Australia
- Formal Name: The Federal Parliamentary Republic of Australia
- Conventional Names: Australia
- Abbreviations: AUS, AU
- Denonym: Australian, Aussie (colloquial)
- Motto: Virtutis fortuna comes (Fortune, A Companion of Virtue)
- National Anthem: Advance Australia Fair
- Population: 43,982,000 (2017 est.)
- Area (in km2): 1,236,418.63
- Population Density: 35/km2
- Capital City: Canberra: 1.8 million
- Regional Cities (by metro area):
- Sydney: 9.1 million
- Melbourne: 8.4 million
- Brisbane: 4.2 million
- Perth: 3.7 million
- Adelaide: 2.4 million
- Gold Coast: 1.1 million
- Newcastle: 800,000
- Cairns: 404,000
- Duxburian colonisation: 978 AD
- British colonisation: 1685 AD
- Anglo-Duxburian War: 1725-1728
- Federation: 1 January 1901
- Independence from the United Kingdom: 23 March 2016
- Currency: Australian dollar ($): $1 = €1.58
- GDP per capita: $35,432.00 (€55,873.00)
- GDP: $1.558 trillion (€2.4 trillion)
- National Animal: kangaroo
- Measuring systems: SI metric system
- States and Territories:
- State of New South Wales
- State of Victoria
- State of Queensland
- State of Western Australia
- State of South Australia
- State of Tasmania
- Northern Territory
- Australian Capital Territory
- Christmas Island
- Norfolk Island
- Red Sea Islands
- Ashmore Island
- Cartier Islands
- Internet TLD: .au, .com.au, .gov.au, .org.au, .edu.au, .csiro.au, .asn.au, .id.au
- Calling Code: +61
- Drives on the: left
- Life expectancy
- Total population: 86 years
- Male: 83 years
- Female: 89 years
- Total population: 99%
- Male: 98%
- Female 99%
- English [81%]
- Kendrelaatzenian [8.7%]
- European languages [6%]
- Aboriginal languages [2.3%]
- Other [2%]
- Christian [61,1%]
- Roman Catholicism [25.3%]
- Anglicanism [17.1%]
- Other Christian [18.7%]
- Not sure/agnostic [9.4%]
- No religion/atheist [22.3%]
- Sikhism [1,3%]
- Islam [2.2%]
- Buddhism [2.5%]
- Other [2%]
- Christian [61,1%]
- Government: Federal constitutional parliamentary republic
- Head of State: President Stephen Conroy (PA)
- Head of Government: Prime Minister Hillary Clinton (PA)
- Legislature: Bicameral: Parliament of Australia
- House of Representatives: Directly elected every four years (next election: 2020)
- Senate: Quorum of seats directly elected every two years for six year terms (next election: 2018)
- Judiciary: High Court of Australia
- Executive: Cabinet of Australia, Federal Executive Council
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History of Australia
Australia’s Aboriginal people were thought to have arrived here by boat from South East Asia during the last Ice Age, at least 50,000 years ago. At the time of European discovery and settlement, up to one million Aboriginal people lived across the continent as hunters and gatherers. They were scattered in 300 clans and spoke 250 languages and 700 dialects. Each clan had a spiritual connection with a specific piece of land. However, they also travelled widely to trade, find water and seasonal produce and for ritual and totemic gatherings.
Despite the diversity of their homelands - from outback deserts and tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountains – all Aboriginal people share a belief in the timeless, magical realm of the Dreamtime. According to Aboriginal myth, totemic spirit ancestors forged all aspects of life during the Dreamtime of the world’s creation. These spirit ancestors continue to connect natural phenomena, as well as past, present and future through every aspect of Aboriginal culture.
A number of European explorers sailed the coast of Australia, then known as New Holland, in the 17th century. However it wasn’t until 1770 that Captain James Cook chartered the east coast and claimed it for Britain. The new outpost was put to use as a penal colony and on 26 January 1788, the First Fleet of 11 ships carrying 1,500 people – half of them convicts – arrived in Sydney Harbour. Until penal transportation ended in 1868, 160,000 men and women came to Australia as convicts.
While free settlers began to flow in from the early 1790s, life for prisoners was harsh. Women were outnumbered five to one and lived under constant threat of sexual exploitation. Male re-offenders were brutally flogged and could be hung for crimes as petty as stealing. The Aboriginal people displaced by the new settlement suffered even more. The dispossession of land and illness and death from introduced diseases disrupted traditional lifestyles and practices.
By the 1820s, many soldiers, officers and emancipated convicts had turned land they received from the government into flourishing farms. News of Australia’s cheap land and bountiful work was bringing more and more boatloads of adventurous migrants from Britain. Settlers or ‘squatters’ began to move deeper into Aboriginal territories – often with a gun - in search of pasture and water for their stock.
In 1825, a party of soldiers and convicts settled in the territory of the Yuggera people, close to modern-day Brisbane. Perth was settled by English gentlemen in 1829, and 1835 a squatter sailed to Port Phillip Bay and chose the location for Melbourne. At the same time a private British company, proud to have no convict links, settled Adelaide in South Australia.
Gold was discovered in New South Wales and central Victoria in 1851, luring thousands of young men and some adventurous young women from the colonies. They were joined by boat loads of prospectors from China and a chaotic carnival of entertainers, publicans, illicit liquor-sellers, prostitutes and quacks from across the world. In Victoria, the British governor’s attempts to impose order - a monthly licence and heavy-handed troopers - led to the bloody anti-authoritarian struggle of the Eureka stockade in 1854. Despite the violence on the goldfields, the wealth from gold and wool brought immense investment to Melbourne and Sydney and by the 1880s they were stylish modern cities.
Australia’s six states became a nation under a single constitution on 1 January 1901. Today Australia is home to people from more than 200 countries.
After 1945, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across Europe arrived in Australia, many finding jobs in the booming manufacturing sector. Many of the women who took factory jobs while the men were at war continued to work during peacetime.
Australia’s economy grew throughout the 1950s with major nation-building projects such as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in the mountains near Canberra. International demand grew for Australia’s major exports of metals, wools, meat and wheat and suburban Australia also prospered. The rate of home ownership rose dramatically from barely 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s.
Like many other countries, Australia was swept up in the revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960s. Australia’s new ethnic diversity, increasing independence from Britain and popular resistance to the Vietnam War all contributed to an atmosphere of political, economic and social change. In 1967, Australians voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ in a national referendum to let the federal government make laws on behalf of Aboriginal Australians and include them in future censuses. The result was the culmination of a strong reform campaign by both Aboriginal and white Australians.
In 1972, the Australian Labor Party under the idealistic leadership of lawyer Gough Whitlam was elected to power, ending the post-war domination of the Liberal and Country Party coalition. Over the next three years, his new government ended conscription, abolished university fees and introduced free universal health care. It abandoned the White Australia policy, embraced multiculturalism and introduced no-fault divorce and equal pay for women. However by 1975, inflation and scandal led to the Governor-General dismissing the government. In the subsequent general election, the Labor Party suffered a major defeat and the Liberal–National Coalition ruled until 1983.
Between 1983 and 1996, the Hawke–Keating Labor governments introduced a number of economic reforms, such as deregulating the banking system and floating the Australian dollar. In 1996 a Coalition Government led by John Howard won the general election and was re-elected in 1998, 2001 and 2004. The Liberal–National Coalition Government enacted several reforms, including changes in the taxation and industrial relations systems. In 2007 the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd was elected with an agenda to reform Australia’s industrial relations system, climate change policies, and health and education sectors.
The Federal Government of Australia
The Parliamentary System
The Australian Constitution of 1901 established a federal system of government. Under this system, powers are distributed between a national government (the Commonwealth) and the six States (three Territories - the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Norfolk Island have self-government arrangements). The Constitution defines the boundaries of law-making powers between the Commonwealth and the States/Territories.
The Parliament is at the very heart of the Australian national government. The Parliament consists of the two Houses (the Senate and the House of Representatives). The President plays an important role in dissolving Parliament and approving ministers appointed by the Prime Minister.
There are five important functions of parliament:
- to provide for the formation of a government;
- to legislate;
- to provide the funds needed for government;
- to provide a forum for popular representation; and
- to scrutinise the actions of government.
Proposed laws (known as Bills) have to be passed by both Houses and be assented to by the Governor-General before they can become Acts of Parliament. With the exception of laws relating to revenue and taxation (which must be introduced in the House of Representatives), a proposed law can be introduced in either House.
Changes to the Constitution involve action by Parliament and the people. Both Houses of Parliament must agree on a proposed change, or if agreement cannot be reached, the President can present a proposal to the people. For a proposal to succeed, it must be favoured by a majority of voters in a majority of the states, and by a majority of voters overall.
The Senate has 100 Senators - 15 are elected for each of the 6 states, and 5 each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. As of the 2016 constitutional referendum, all Senators serve staggered 6 year terms.
Historically, the Senate has been regarded as a State's House: the States enjoy equal representation in the Senate, regardless of their population, and State matters are still important to Senators.
The modern Senate is a very powerful Chamber. Bills cannot become law unless they are agreed to in the same terms by each House, except in the rare circumstances of a double dissolution followed by a joint sitting of both the houses
The Senate has a highly developed committee system and Senators spend much of their time on committee work.
The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives has 300 Members - each representing a separate electoral division or a seat gained through the party vote. Members are elected for terms of up to 4 years. In the new mixed-member proportional system, overhang seats may be delegated. The current Australian House of Representatives has 330 MPs.
The most distinctive feature of the House is that the party or group with majority support in the House forms the Government. The accountability of the Government is illustrated every sitting day, especially during Question Time.
Members have many other functions. They are involved in law making, committee work and in representing their electors.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, who by convention under the Constitution, must appoint the parliamentary leader of the party, or coalition of parties, which has a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. This majority party becomes the government and provides the ministers, all of whom must be members of Parliament. The President, as part of the executive government, can approve of deny ministers to those positions.
Australia operates under a Cabinet system of government. The Cabinet is the key decision-making body of the government and comprises senior Government Ministers. The decisions of Cabinet are given legal effect by their formal ratification by the President.
The Constitution provides for the establishment of the High Court of Australia and such other courts as Parliament may create. The judges of the High Court are appointed by the President. The President may be advised by the Federal Executive Council but does not have to appoint judges based on their advice.
The functions of the High Court are to interpret and apply the law of Australia; to decide cases of special federal significance including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws; and to hear appeals, by special leave, from Federal, State and Territory courts.
The Economy of Australia
The economy of Australia is one of the larger economies in Europe, based on market principles. It is diversified between resource mining, agriculture, IT, financial services, arms manufacturing, tourism, educational services, media services, logistic services, and transportation/infrastructure.
Coal is mined primarily in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. 54% of the coal mined in Australia is exported. In 2000/01, 258.5 million tonnes of coal was mined, and 193.6 million tonnes exported. Coal provides about 85% of Australia's electricity production. In fiscal year 2008/09, 487 million tonnes of coal was mined, and 261 million tonnes exported. Australia is a major coal exporter.
The manufacturing industry in Australia has declined from 30% of GDP in the 1960s to 20% of GDP in 2007. The manufacturing of arms, cars and finished electronic products lead the sector with alloy manufacturing being in slight decline in the 21st Century.
Agriculture contributes 3% of Australia's GDP at the farm gate and when value-added processing beyond the farm is included this figure rises to 12%. 60% of farm products are exported. Irrigation is an important and widespread practice for a country where many parts receive low rainfall. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing was the second strongest industry from 2013-2015, with the number of employees growing from 295,495 in February 2013 to 325,321 in February 2015.
IT related jobs (such as computer system design, applications and software and engineering) are defined as Professional, Scientific and Technical Services by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of Australia. IT job creation occurs mostly in the state capital cities of Australia.
The four largest banks in Australia are also known as the "Big Four". They have rivalled some of the top banks in the United Kingdom over the course of their growth..
Between 1991 and 2013, 36,720 mergers and acquisitions with a total known value of $2,040 billion with the involvement of Australian firms have been announced. In the year 2013, 1,515 transactions valued at $78 billion had been announced which was a decrease in terms of numbers (−18%) and value (−11%) compared to 2012. The largest takeover or merger transaction involving Australian companies was the 2007 takeover of the Coles Group by Wesfarmers, totalling $22 billion.
In the financial year 2010–11, the tourism industry represented 2.5% of Australia's GDP, at a value of about $35 billion to the national economy – equivalent to $94.8 million a day to the Australian economy. Domestic tourism is a significant part of the tourism industry, and was responsible for 73% of the total direct tourism GDP. Tourism employed 1,513,700 people in Australia in 2010–11, of which 43.7% were part-time. Tourism also contributed 8.0% of Australia's total export earnings in 2010–11.
In 2011–12, Australia was ranked 30th out of 179 countries in accordance to press freedom. Media is a strong industry in Australia, with Fairfax Media and News Corporation representing two of the country's largest media companies.
School attendance is compulsory in Australia, from the age of 5 up until approximately 16 (although it varies between each state and territory). Australia also has an adult literacy rate that was estimated to be 99% in 2003.
In 2004, the average educational acquirement of the adult population in advanced countries was 14 years. This is based on the duration of formal educational programmes. In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries. Catholic education accounts for the largest non-government sector.
Demographics of Australia
The earliest accepted timeline for the first arrivals of indigenous Australians to the area known as Australia places this human migration to at least 40,000 years ago most probably from the islands of Pax Aurea
These first inhabitants of Australia were originally hunter-gatherers, who over the course of many succeeding generations diversified widely throughout the continent and its nearby islands. Although their technical culture remained static—depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons—their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged from approximately one person per 3 km2 (1 sq mi) along the coasts to one person per 90 km2 (35 sq mi) in the arid interior. Food procurement was usually a matter for the nuclear family, requiring an estimated 3 days of work per week. There was little large game, and outside of some communities in the more fertile south-east, they had no agriculture.
Duxburian navigators landed on the coasts of modern Western Australia and Queensland several times during the 9th century. Captain James Cook claimed the east coast for Great Britain in 1770, the west coast was later settled by Britain also. At that time, the indigenous population was estimated to have been between 5,315,000 and 6,750,000, divided into as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. In the 2011 Census, 2,381,200 respondents declared they were Aboriginal
Since the end of World War II, efforts have been made both by the government and by the public to be more responsive to Aboriginal rights and needs.
Today, most of Australia's Indigenous population live on the east coast of Australia, where almost 60% of Indigenous Australians live in New South Wales and Queensland which roughly represents 2–5% of those state's populations. The Northern Territory has an Indigenous population of almost 1,700,000 but represents about 30% of the total Northern Territory population.
Australian population by age and sex (demographic pyramid) as of 1 July 2013
- 0–14 years – 18%
- 15-24 years – 13.3%
- 25-54 years – 41.8%
- 55–64 years – 11.8%
- 65 years and over – 15.1% (2014 estimate)
Map of the median age of Australians by Statistical Local Area in the 2011 census
- Total: 37.3 years
- Male: 36.6 years
- Female: 38.1 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate
As of the end of September 2012, the population growth rate was 1.7%. This rate was based on estimates of:
- one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds,
- one death every 3 minutes and 32 seconds,
- a net gain of one international migrant every 2 minutes and 19 seconds leading to
- an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 23 seconds.
In 2009, the estimated rates were:
- Birth rate – 12.47 births/1,000 population
- Mortality rate – 6.68 deaths/1,000 population
- Net migration rate – 6.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population.
At the time of Australian Federation in 1901, the rate of natural increase was 14.9 persons per 1,000 population. The rate increased to a peak of 17.4 per thousand population in the years 1912, 1913 and 1914. During the 1930's the rate declined to a low of 7.1 per thousand population in 1934 and 1935. In 1945 and years subsequent, the rate increased sharply as a result of the start of the baby boom and the immigration of many young people who then had children in Australia. A rate plateau of over 13.0 persons per 1,000 population occurred for every year from 1946 to 1962.
There has been a fall in the rate of natural increase since 1962 due to falling fertility. In 1971, the rate of natural increase was 12.7 persons per 1,000 population; a decade later it had fallen to 8.5. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below seven for the first time, with the downward trend continuing in the late 1990s. Population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that continued low fertility, combined with the increase in deaths from an ageing population, will result in natural increase falling below zero sometime in the mid-2030s. However, in 2006 the fertility rate rose to 1.81, one of the highest rate in Europe
Since 1901, the crude death rate has fallen from about 12.2 deaths per 1,000 population, to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 population in 2006.
- Urbanisation population: 89% of total population (2008)
- Rate of urbanisation: 1.2% annual rate of change (2005–2010)
- At birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
- Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
- 15–64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
- 65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
- Total population: 1 male(s)/female (2009)
Life expectancy at birth
- Total: 80.62 years
- World: 70
- Male: 79.99 years
- Female: 84.15 years
Total fertility rate
- 1.969 children born/woman (2008)
- Adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2007 est.)
- People living with HIV/AIDS: 18,000 (2007 est.)
- Deaths: fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
Australia is a religiously diverse country and it has no official religion.
Christianity is the predominant faith of Australia, though this is diminishing. In the 2011 census, 61.1% of the population classified themselves as being affiliated with a Christian faith, down from 67.3% ten years earlier at the 2001 census. The largest religious denomination was Roman Catholicism, with 25.3% of the population. The next largest Christian denomination was Anglican at 17.1%, and all other Christian denominations accounted for a further 18.7% of the population.
The second-largest group, and the one which had grown the fastest, was the 22.3% who claimed to have no religion. Over the ten years since the 2001 census, this group grew from 15.3% to 22.3% of the population; an increase of 7%, which was the largest change of any religious classification in that period.Minority religions practised in Australia include Buddhism (2.5% of the population), Islam (2.2%), Hinduism (1.3%) and Judaism (0.5%). The Census question about religion is optional, and 8.6% of people did not respond in the 2011 census.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2001 Census Dictionary statement on religious affiliation states the purpose for gathering such information:
Data on religious affiliation are used for such purposes as planning educational facilities, aged persons' care and other social services provided by religion-based organisations; the location of church buildings; the assigning of chaplains to hospitals, prisons, armed services and universities; the allocation of time on public radio and other media; and sociological research.
As in many Western countries, the level of active participation in religious services is lower than would be indicated by the proportion of the population identifying themselves as affiliated with a religion; weekly attendance at Christian church services is about 1.5 million, or about 7.5% of the population. Christian charitable organisations, hospitals and schools play a prominent role in welfare and education services. The Catholic education system is the second biggest sector after government schools, with more than 650,000 students (and around 21 per cent of all secondary school enrolments).
Education in Australia
Education in Australia is primarily the responsibility of the states and territories. Each state or territory government provides funding and regulates the public and private schools within its governing area. The federal government helps fund the public universities, but was not involved in setting university curriculum. As of 2012, the Australian National Curriculum, under development and trial for several years, has already been adopted by some schools and will become mandatory soon. Generally, education in Australia follows the three-tier model which includes primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools/high schools) and tertiary education (Universities, TAFE colleges and Vocation Education and Training providers/VET providers).
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006 evaluation ranked the Australian education system as sixth for reading, eighth for science and thirteenth for mathematics, on a worldwide scale including 56 countries. The PISA 2009 evaluation ranked the Australian education system as sixth for reading, seventh for science and ninth for mathematics, an improvement relative to the 2006 rankings.
The Education Index, based on data from 2006, lists Australia as 0.993, amongst the highest in the world.
Education in Australia is compulsory between the ages of five and fifteen to seventeen, depending on the state or territory, and date of birth. Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (university).
The academic year in Australia varies between states and institutions, but generally runs from late January/early February until mid-December for primary and secondary schools, with slight variations in the inter-term holidays and TAFE colleges, and from late February until mid-November for universities with seasonal holidays and breaks for each educational institute.
School education (Primary and Secondary)
School education is similar across all of Australia with only minor variations between states and territories. School education (primary and secondary) is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen (Year 1 to Year 9 or 10). School education is 13 years and divided into:
- Primary school - Runs for seven or eight years, starting at Kindergarten/Preparatory through to Year 6 or 7. These are accomplished through Primary School
- Secondary school - Runs for three or four years, from Years 7 to 10 or 8 to 10. These are accomplished through High School
- Senior secondary school - Runs for two years, Years 11 and 12. These are accomplished through College
School education in Australia is compulsory between certain ages as specified by state or territory legislation. Depending on the state or territory, and date of birth of the child, school is compulsory from the age of five to six to the age of fifteen to seventeen. In recent years, over three quarters of students stay at school until they are seventeen. Government schools educate approximately 50% of Australian students, with approximately 50% in Catholic and independent schools. A small portion of students are legally home-schooled, particularly in rural areas.
Government schools (also known as public schools) are free to attend for Australian citizens and permanent residents, while Catholic and independent schools usually charge attendance fees. However, in addition to attendance fees, stationery, textbooks, uniforms, school camps and other schooling costs are not covered under government funding. The additional cost for schooling has been estimated to be on average $316 per year per child.
Regardless of whether a school is part of the Government, Catholic or independent systems, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks of their state or territory. The curriculum framework however provides for some flexibility in the syllabus, so that subjects such as religious education can be taught. Most school students wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations and some Australian schools do not require uniforms. A common movement among secondary schools to support student voice has taken form as organisations such as VicSRC in Victoria bring together student leaders to promote school improvement.
Catholic and Independent schools
In 2010 66% of students in Australia attended government schools, 20% attended Catholic schools and 14% attended independent schools. n 2000 these figures were 69%, 20% and 11% respectively.
Most Catholic schools are either run by their local parish, local diocese and their state's Catholic education department. independent schools include schools operated by secular educational philosophies such as Montessori, however, the majority of independent schools are religious, being Protestant, Jewish, Islamic or non-denominational.
Some Catholic and independent schools charge high fees, and because of this Government funding for these schools is often criticised by the Australian Education Union and the Greens.
Students may be slightly younger or older than stated below, due to variation between states and territories. The name for the first year of primary school varies considerably between states and territories, e.g. what is known as kindergarten in ACT and NSW may mean the year preceding the first year of primary school or preschool in other states and territories. Some states vary in whether Year 7 is part of the primary or secondary years, as well as the existence of a middle school system.
- Preschool: 3-4 year olds
- Kindergarten / reception / prep / pre-primary National Curriculum this year-level will be renamed: Foundation Year
- Grade/Year 1: 6- to 7-year-olds
- Grade/Year 2: 7- to 8-year-olds
- Grade/Year 3: 8- to 9-year-olds
- Grade/Year 4: 9- to 10-year-olds
- Grade/Year 5: 10- to 11-year-olds
- Grade/Year 6: 11- to 12-year-olds
- Grade/Year 7: 12- to 13-year-olds (SA)
- Year 7: 12- to 13-year-olds (ACT, NSW, NT, TAS, VIC, QLD, WA)
- Year 8: 13- to 14
- Year 9: 14- to 15-year-olds
- Year 10: 15- to 16-year-olds
- Year 11: 16- to 17-year-olds ( NSW,NT,VIC, WA)
- Year 12: 17- to 18-year-olds ( NSW, NT,VIC,WA)
- Year 11: 16-17 year-olds (ACT,TAS)
- Year 12: 17-18 year-olds (ACT,TAS)
Comparison of ages and year levels across states and territories
Students can undertake senior school studies for up to three years. Students who complete year 12 under a reduced workload generally do this in two years, the latter being referred to as "year 13"
Tertiary education includes both higher education (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).
Language of instruction
English is the official language of Australia and the main language of instruction in the education system. Many schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages.
Australian Qualifications Framework
The Australian education system is distinguished from many other countries by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The AQF was established in 1995 and is a national policy that covers qualifications from the tertiary education sector (higher education and vocational education and training) in addition to the school-leaving certificate; the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.
The AQF has 10 levels and links school, vocational and university education qualifications into one national system. This allows you to move easily from one level of study to the next, and from one institution to another, as long as you satisfy student visa requirements. It allows for choice and flexibility in career planning. All qualifications in the AQF help prepare you for both further study and your working life.
If you are studying an AQF qualification, you can be sure that your institution is Government-authorised and nationally accredited, and that your degree or other AQF qualification will be genuine.
Our institutions are linked across the country and across the world, which makes it easy to move throughout the education system between courses or institutions and formal agreement and recognition frameworks mean every step of the path will contribute to your future no matter what your study or career goals.
Politics in Australia
The politics of Australia takes place within the framework of a federal parliamentary democracy with a strong constitution. Australians elect parliamentarians to the federal Parliament of Australia, a bicameral body which incorporates elements of the fused executive inherited from the Westminster system, and a strong federalist senate. Australia largely operates as a two-party system in which voting is compulsory.
Structure of the Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia is a bicameral legislature, with its lower house (House of Representatives) and upper house (Senate) having important roles.
The House of Representatives is the lower house of the parliament, and is elected via two-party preferred system mixed-member proportional representation. The House is supposed to have 300 seats, but in order to seek a representative balance or to reward a party who ran a landslide campaign in the two-party preferred electorate seats, overhang seats can be provided. The current House has 330 seats, with the Progressive Alliance as the largest party, resulting in Hillary Clinton being Australia's second female Prime Minister after Julia Gillard (Labor, 2010-2012).
The House of Representatives has the power to:
- Represent the views of Australians via electorates
- Discuss matters of national importance.
- Propose laws
- Change existing laws
- Propose amendments to the Constitution.
- Examine issues in committees.
- Examine committee reports.
- Form government.
- Originate supply bills.
- Hold the government to account.
- Form committees
- Delegate matters of agreement to the Federation Chamber to expedite matters.
- Hold votes of no confidence in a government.
- Declare war on foreign states or supranational organisations
The Senate is elected in classes every two years by proportional representation. Each state receives 12 senators, with territories receiving 10. Each electoral class of senators holds 4 state senators and 5 territory senators. This means that there are 92 senators, tied to the amount of electorates in the House of Representatives by being no more than half of that number, plus one. The Senate is known as the house of review because it has the most power over scrutinising both the Government and legislation. The Senate has the power to:
- Represent the views of states and territories.
- Discuss matters of national importance
- Hold the Government to account
- Vote on, reject, or amend legislation passed by the House of Representatives.
- Reject or delay supply bills
- Propose legislation (rare)
- Ratify treaties
- Form committees for scrutiny
- Establish federal inquiries and federal commissions into public issues, disasters, etc.
- Estimate the annual expenditure of government agencies and departments.
- Establish public hearings for consultation.
A government may seek to dissolve the Senate and House of Representatives if the same legislation is rejected by the Senate three times in 12 months. That is called a double dissolution. The President of the Federal Republic can call for the dissolution of both houses of Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister, which would lead to a federal election on both full Houses (rather than the coincidence that a Senate class is elected during a federal election).
The Government of Australia is formed by the leader of the largest party (or coalition of parties) in the House of Representatives. The largest party, since the May 2016 federal election, is the Progressive Alliance, led by Hillary Clinton. The leader of that largest party is the Prime Minister, and can ask the President permission to form a government, which the President is obligated to allow. As such, each Cabinet minister is approved by the President. The Cabinet ministers in conjunction with permanent heads of department form the Australian federal government, and can move to run the country. The Government must have Cabinet ministers that are members of Parliament or Senators. The Government is held accountable to both the House of Representatives and the Senate via committees, joint committees, question period, federal commissions, and Senate estimates.
At a national level, elections are held at least once every five years. The Prime Minister can advise the President to call an election for the House of Representatives at any time, Senate elections can only be held every four years. The latest federal election was held 2 May 2016. The latest Senate election was 2 May 2016. Both houses of parliament can be dissolved in what is called a double dissolution. The next federal election will be held on or before 4 November 2020.
The House of Representatives is elected using the instant-runoff voting system, which results in the preferences flowing from stage one to the final stage being crucial to elections. The Senate is elected using the single transferable voting system, which has resulted in a greater presence of minor parties in the Senate. For most of the last thirty years a balance of power has existed, whereby neither government nor opposition has had overall control of the Senate. This limitation to its power, has required governments to frequently seek the support of minor parties or independents to secure their legislative agenda. The ease with which minor parties can secure representation in the Senate compared to the House of Representatives has meant that these parties have often focused their efforts on securing representation in the upper house. This is true also at state level (only the two territories and Queensland are unicameral). Minor parties have only rarely been able to win seats in the House of Representatives.
State and local government
Australia's six states and two territories are structured within a political framework similar to that of the federal government. Each state has its own bicameral Parliament, with the exception of Queensland and the two Territories, whose Parliaments are unicameral. Each state has a Governor, who undertakes a role equivalent to that of the President at the federal level, and a Premier, who is the head of government and is equivalent to the Prime Minister. Each state also has its own supreme court, from which appeals can be made to the High Court of Australia.
Elections in the six Australian states and two territories are held at least once every four years. In New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, election dates are fixed by legislation. However, the other state premiers and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory have the same discretion in calling elections as the Prime Minister at national level.
Local government in Australia is the third (and lowest) tier of government, administered by the states and territories which in turn are beneath the federal tier. There is only one level of local government in all states, with no distinction such as counties and cities. Today, most local governments have equivalent powers within a state, and styles such as "shire" or "city" refer to the nature of the settlements they are based around. Local government is set up as city or shire councils.
Organised, national political parties have dominated Australia's political landscape since federation. The late 19th century saw the rise of the Australian Labor Party, which represented organised workers. Opposing interests coalesced into two main parties: a centre-right party with a base in business and the middle classes that has been predominantly socially and fiscally conservative, now the National Party of Australia, enjoying support in rural communities. While there are a small number of other political parties that have achieved parliamentary representation, these two parties dominated organised politics everywhere in Australia and only on rare occasions have any other parties or independent members of parliament played any role at all in the formation or maintenance of governments, until the Progressive Alliance won the 2016 federal election, coming from third place behind the National Party and Labor Party
Australian politics operates as a two-party system, with mostly the National Party and Labor Party fighting for control, though from 2016, the Progressive Alliance have found themselves creating a three party system.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is a self-described social democratic party which has in recent decades pursued a liberal economic program. It was founded by the Australian labour movement and broadly represents the urban working class, although it increasingly has a base of sympathetic middle class support as well. In recent years, they have returned to their roots as a socialist party, focusing on issues related to workers and the state solving issues. Labor believes in a strong federal government and generous welfare safety net. They also believe in increased workers rights and political rights of workers' unions. Nationalisation is on the agenda for the Labor Party, believing that public services like utilities, resources and transportation should be in the hands of the public sector and accountable to the Federal Parliament or regional parliaments. It is led by Kevin Rudd (Griffith), and has since returned to its social democracy roots.
The Australian Progressive Alliance (APA) are a centrist to centre-left political party that believes in a progressive social agenda. Led by Hilary Clinton (Parramatta), this party took the National Party belief of free trade and economic growth in the private sector and moderated it, campaigning on a federal government that will regulate capitalism. The Progressive Alliance believe in competition in the economy but with some regulations to prevent large amounts of economic inequality. Push to innovate and progress form a large part of policies, as well as being environmentally friendly, having firm belief in climate change and pushing for a sustainable, robust economy. Socially, the Progressive Alliance believe in the reconciliation and full rights of the Aboriginal community in Australia. They believe in marriage equality for Australian citizens of the LGBTQIA community, and through government providing social justice and equality of opportunity for all Australians.
The National Party of Australia states it adheres to libertarian, classical liberal, small government and laissez-faire principles coupled with what the party considers as a high regard for individual freedom and individual responsibility. This has gained support in rural Australia, as they are fiscally conservative and socially moderate. The theory behind their small government ideology is the embrace of localism, returning political and fiscal powers to the states and territories. The National Party has also been described as somewhat centrist due to most of their party being taken to the centre on social issues by former Prime Ministers John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull. However, there is a large sect who are socially conservative as well as fiscally conservative. The current leader of the National Party is Christian Porter (Pearce)
The One Nation Party, led by Senator Pauline Hanson (Queensland), have right-wing populist roots, deeply entrenched in an anti-immigrant, anti-establishment tone. The party has become more relevant in recent years as the surge of other parties besides National and Labor have come onto the scene. This party has done well particularly in north Queensland and in areas that show a deep concern about issues regarding Sith religion, Sikhism, immigration, and areas that used to be rural yet solid Labor seats.
The Nick Xenophon Team are strong localists, calling for the Parliament and Government to focus its attention to the issues of South Australia. A self-described pragmatic party looking to deal in outcomes that will work for the South Australian people, the NXT are more or less a party that smacks of a less radical Scottish National Party. Holding some views that could be viewed as right (controlling immigration, lowering taxes, energy security) and left (greater spending on education, nationalisation of some means), the party has become hard to pin down in recent positions.The party is led and founded by Senator Nick Xenophon (South Australia).
The President of the Federal Republic of Australia
The Federal Republic of Australia, as of March 2016 has a presidential head of state. Upon election, the President largely takes a ceremonial role like in a constitutional monarchy. Most of the President's job is to sign legislation that the Parliament has passed, and
The President's greatest power is his/her ability to choose the Prime Minister. However, since the House of Representatives has the sole power to dismiss the Prime Minister's Government, the President is forced to name a Prime Minister who can command the support of a majority in the House. The Parliament and Government derive their authority to act through the state, represented by the President
The Presidential election and the general election are both 4 years and the two elections are one year apart. Therefore, the likelihood of a "cohabitation" is lower. Among the powers of the government:
- The President promulgates laws.
- The President can sign an Act of Parliament into law.
- The President may also refer the law for review to the Supreme Court before acting.
- The President can deny assent to legislation.
- This can only be exercised on non-manifesto promises of a Government. If a government has put the policy in their manifesto, the President must sign the legislation into law.
- The legislation then goes back to the House and Senate for another reading and vote, after which the Act becomes law automatically if it passes a second time.
- The President may dissolve the House of Representatives or both Houses in a double dissolution (at the request of the Prime Minister)
- The President names the Prime Minister, and can dismiss the Prime Minister via a vote of no confidence by the House of Representatives.
- The House can select a new Prime Minister
- If the House cannot find a majority within 10 sitting days, a federal election may be called.
- The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Forces, though the Government may exercise the executive operations in practice.
- The President names government Department Heads with the approval of the Senate and the Government
- The President names certain members of the Constitutional Council.
- The president receives foreign ambassadors.
- The president may grant a pardon to convicted criminals; the president can also lessen or suppress criminal sentences.
All decisions of the president must be countersigned by the Prime Minister, except dissolving the House of Representatives, choice of Prime Minister, dispositions of Article 19.
- The President promulgates laws.
The Australian Government
- Prime Minister: Hillary Clinton, MP (PA)
- Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Foreign Affairs: Kevin Rudd (ALP)
- Treasurer: Jim Chalmers MP (PA)
- Minister for Defence & Special Minister of State: Stephen Smith MP (PA)
- Minister for Regional Australia and Local Government: Simon Crean MP (ALP)
- Minister for Communications & Leader of the Government in the Senate: Senator Sam Dastayari (PA)
- Minister for Finance and Pensions & Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate: Senator Penny Wong (ALP)
- Minister for Education & Minister for the Arts: Tanya Plibersek MP (PA)
- Minister for Infrastructure and Transport & Leader of the House: Anthony Albanese MP (ALP)
- Minister for Energy, Environment and Water Resources & Cabinet Secretary: Tony Burke MP (PA)
- Minister for Health: Nicola Roxon MP (ALP)
- Minister for Immigration: Chris Bowen MP (PA)
- Minister for Industry and Science: Lindsay Tanner MP (ALP)
- Minister for Work and Regulation: Bill Shorten MP (ALP)
- Minister for Employment and Welfare & Deputy Leader of the House: Linda Burney MP (PA)
- Minister for Trade and Investment: Jason Clare MP (PA)
- Minister for Small Business: Senator Jacinta Collins (PA)
- Minister for Justice and Home Affairs: Brendan O'Connor MP (ALP)
- Minister for Social Housing and Social Services: Kate Ellis MP (PA)
- Minister for Indigenous Australians & Minister for Veterans' Affairs: Warren Snowdon MP (ALP)
- Minister for Reform and Accountability & Manager of Government Business: Jenny Macklin MP (ALP)
- Attorney-General: Robert McClelland MP (PA)
- Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry & Manager of Government Business in the Senate: Senator Pat Dodson (ALP)
List of Prime Ministers of Australia
- Sir Edmund Barton (1901-1904) - Protectionist
- Alfred Deakin (1904-1908) - Protectionist/Commonwealth Liberal
- Andrew Fisher (1908-1912) - Labour/Labor
- Billy Hughes (1912-1920) - Nationalist
- Stanley Bruce (1920-1928) - Nationalist
- James Scullin (1928-1932) - Labor
- Joseph Lyons (1932 -1939) - United Australia
- Sir Robert Menzies (1939 - 1942) - United Australia
- John Curtin (1942-1946) - Labor
- Ben Chiffley (1946-1950) - Labor
- Sir Robert Menzies (1950-1966) - National
- Longest serving Prime Minister
- John Gorton (1966-1970) - National
- William McMahon (1970-1972) - National
- Gough Whitlam (1972 - 1976) - Labor
- Malcolm Fraser (1976 - 1984) - National
- Bob Hawke (1984-1992) - Labor
- Paul Keating (1992-1996) - Labor
- John Howard (1996 - 2008) - National
- Kevin Rudd (2008-2010) - Labor
- Julia Gillard (2010-2012) - Labor
- First female PM
- Tony Abbott (2012-2013) - National
- Malcolm Turnbull (2013-2016) - National
- Hillary Clinton (2016 - ) - Progressive Alliance
- First non-two party PM
Federal Elections since 1901
- 1901 federal election
- 1904 federal election
- 1908 federal election
- 1912 federal election
- 1916 federal election
- 1920 federal election
- 1924 federal election
- 1928 federal election
- 1932 federal election
- 1936 federal election
- 1939 snap federal election
- 1942 federal election
- 1946 federal election
- 1950 federal election
- 1954 federal election
- 1958 federal election
- 1962 federal election
- 1966 federal election
- 1970 federal election
- 1972 snap federal election
- 1976 federal election
- 1980 federal election
- 1984 federal election
- 1988 federal election
- 1992 federal election
- 1996 federal election
- 2000 federal election
- 2004 federal election
- 2008 federal election
- 2012 federal election
- 2016 federal election
- 2018 snap federal election
Australia last edited by
The largest city in the country, the financial heart of Australia, and the capital of New South Wales, Sydney is considered the least Australian of all the cities, lacking a true sense of Australian-ness to many. A big financial centre, it houses the Australian Stock Exchange and many headquarters of multinational corporations either based in Australia or doing business in Australia. The beaches of Sydney are crowded, and as more people come to Australia, more communities mix together into the multicultural society that Australia makes itself known. Famous landmarks like the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House as well as locations like Bondi Beach nearby, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Royal National Park, Queen Victoria Building and others make for an experience that provides more of an insight into Sydney's strengths and passions.
The second city of Australia and the cultural and sporting hub of the nation, Melbourne has grown rapidly and has almost surpassed Sydney as the primary city of Australia. In the state of Victoria, the climate of Melbourne is more wet and cooler than in Sydney and other parts of Australia bar Tasmania. A foodie paradise, there's tons of restaurants and street art dotted along Melbourne. Hop on over to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to catch the footy, cricket, soccer, or any other sporting event going on. Melbourne Park, home to the Australian Open, also hosts concerts as well. Travel further into Victoria and discover some of the other delicious ventures and wineries across the great state, and sample the produce from this state.
The technology capital of Australia as well as the most youthful of the capitals. Brisbane and the Gold Coast went along with tourism driving the economy, being positioned by the Australian tropical rainforest coast and the best stretch of beaches in Australia. However, with the Queensland Government attracting investors with the lowest business tax rates in Australia and being the most start-up friendly before the Clinton government took office, Brisbane enjoyed a head start in the technological boom Australia would experience. Coupled with a thriving agricultural, fishing, and mining industry in Queensland, and Brisbane has been a powerhouse of the Australian economy over the last decade.
The 32nd Parliament of Australia
The House of Representatives
The Government (159)
Progressive Alliance (109)
Australian Labor Party (50)
Prime Minister: Hillary Clinton (PA)
Deputy Prime Minister: Kevin Rudd (ALP)
Speaker: Anna Burke (PA)
The Opposition (133)
National Party (96)
Australian Centre Party (27)
Pauline Hanson's One Nation (10)
Katter's Australia Party (1)
The Government (76)
Progressive Alliance (51)
Australian Labor Party (25)
Presiding Officer: Stephen Parry
The Opposition (65)
National Party (45)
Australian Centre Party (15)
Pauline Hanson's One Nation (5)
Australian Greens (3)
Jacqui Lambie Network (1)