“Australia is a modern, multicultural society with a prosperous, Western-style market economy and a highly skilled and educated workforce.”
Australia is the world’s sixth largest country by area. It has a population of 22.6 million, with the majority concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. The language predominantly spoken is English. However, with migrants from over 150 countries, more than 4.3 million Australians speak a language other than English. The unit of currency is the Australian dollar.
The Australian economy is dominated by its services sector (69% of GDP). However, Australia is also rich
in natural resources. The agricultural and mining sectors (8% of GDP combined) account for the majority of Australia’s exports. The value of Australia’s exports in goods and services reached $214 billion in 2006-07, with service exports comprising 22% of total exports. Japan (19.3%) remains the country’s largest export market, followed by China (15.6%) the Republic of Korea (7.4%) and India (6.6%).
A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study ranks Australia as one of the six fastest-growing successful new economy traders – meaning that Australia is strong in information and communications technology infrastructure, innovation systems, business environment and human resource development.
Law and Government
Australia is a federation comprising two tiers of government: a national (or Federal) government based in Canberra and State/Territory governments. There are six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia) and two Territories (Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory). The Constitution of Australia confers specific powers on the Federal Parliament and provides that Federal laws will override inconsistent State laws.
There is a third tier of government, being local councils, municipalities and shires which exercise powers and functions over local (community based) matters under powers derived from the state parliaments.
The Australian political system is essentially a two party system with the two major parties being the centre-right Liberal Party (usually in coalition with the rural-based National Party) and the centre-left Labor Party (or ALP). A number of other parties are represented at various levels including the Australian Democrats, the Australian Greens and Independents.
The Australian parliamentary system is based on the United Kingdom Westminster model.
The Australian legal system derives from the English common law system. The laws of Australia consist of the Australian common law, laws enacted by the Federal Parliament, and laws enacted by the parliaments of
the states and territories.
A key principle of the Australia political and legal system is that of the separation of powers. This means that the legislature, executive and judiciary undertake their activities separate from each other. The judiciary is independent from the government. The judiciary is represented by courts in each of the states and territories and various Federal courts. The High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian judicial system.