“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 23.1 million, with the majority concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. The language predominantly spoken is English. However, with more than a quarter of the population born overseas, at least 4 million Australians speak a second language. The unit of currency is the Australian dollar.
The service sector dominates Australia’s economy, contributing around 82% of value to the Australian economy, while agriculture (2.4%) and mining (8.8% of GDP) account for the majority of Australia’s exports. The value of Australia’s exports in goods and services reached $318.5 billion in 2013, with mining exports (iron ores and concentrates) comprising 21.8% of total exports. China (23.3%) is the country’s largest two-way trading partner, followed by Japan (10.9%) the U.S. (8.4%), the Republic of Korea (5%) and Singapore (4.2%). Australia has a highly skilled, well-educated and innovative workforce, with professional services, scientific services, technical services, education and media and telecommunications comprising 15 per cent of Australia’s total output.
The Australian economy is one of the fastest-growing in the developed world, and International Monetary Fund forecasts indicate that this trend will continue. Australia’s four major banks (“the big four”) all appear in top 20 of the “World’s 50 Safest Banks 2014”.
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 political interests are represented at various levels including the Greens and independent candidates.
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.