Geography and demography
|Area:||7,741,220 km2 (Denmark: 43,000 km2)|
|Population:||25.4 million (2019)|
|Population:||The vast majority of Australians are of European descent (up to 90 per cent), while Asians make up a smaller proportion (around 7 per cent) and the indigenous population (Aborigines) make up less than 3 per cent.|
|Relgion:||52.2% Christians, 2.6% Muslims, 2.4% Buddhists, 1.9% Hindus, 30.1% atheists, 9.6% obscure.|
Australia is one of the oldest land masses in the world and it is believed that Australia’s indigenous people, the Aborigines, have lived on the Australian continent for 60,000 years. Until just over two hundred years ago, Aborigines were the only people to inhabit Australia.
The country’s existence was unknown until around the year 1600, when Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch seafarers reached the shores of the country. However, they felt that the country was so inhospitable that they would not explore it further. In 1788, a British prisoner of war colony was established, where Sydney is today, and thus began the colonization of Australia. At the merger of the 6 Australian colonies into the Federal Republic of Australia in 1901, the population amounted to 2.3 million. As a result of open immigration programs, the population has since been steadily increasing and today counts approx. 25 mio.
The fate of the Aborigines is reminiscent of that of the American Indians, and despite well-meaning attempts and not insignificant grants for education, rehabilitation, etc., the situation remains that a large proportion of Aborigines live in unemployment, poverty and alcoholism.
Australians are known for their kindness. During working hours they are formal in their attire and indictment, but in their free time they are a very open and relaxed people. Once the business is over, the tone of conversation tends to be more relaxed, and it is not uncommon to be invited out privately and introduced to the active outdoor lifestyle that dominates most Australians’ everyday lives. Sport preoccupies most Australians, especially Australian Rules Football, rugby and cricket.
Government & Parliament
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, under the English Queen Elizabeth II, represented in Australia by a Governor – General, most recently Peter Cosgrove took office in 2014.
The Australian Parliament is made up of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives has 150 elected members. The Senate consists of 76 elected senators, 12 from each of the six states (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) and 2 from each of the territories (Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory). In addition to the national parliament, each of the 6 states and 2 territories has local parliaments. It is mandatory for Australians to vote in Australian elections. The two largest parties in Parliament are the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia.
In the most recent parliamentary elections in 2019, the Liberal Party of Australia, led by Scott Morrison, regained government power backed by the Liberal National Party and the Nationals.
In the period 2000-2015, Australia has had a real average growth in GDP (gross domestic product) of around 3.0 per cent. per year and has performed better than other western countries. Today, however, there are beginning signs of a slowdown. At the most recent measurement of annual growth in March 2019, the figure was 1.8%.
In 2017, the balance of payments had a deficit of 2.3 per cent. of GDP. By 2020, the deficit is expected to remain broadly unchanged. In 2017, the government balance had a deficit of 1.7 per cent. of GDP and is expected to improve slightly by 2020, albeit still negatively. In April 2019, the unemployment rate was 5.1%, with a stagnant development expected in the near future.
Australia’s economy has been heavily based on agriculture, mining and fuel. These sectors are still very important and make up the majority of Australia’s exports. Australia’s comparative advantage in raw material exports is a reflection of the country’s many natural resources and a very small domestic market. Since the 1990s, Australia has undergone a structural reform, moving from having a strong internal focus with a highly regulated market and protectionism, to a more open, international, competitive and export-oriented economy. Australia’s VAT (GST) is 10%. and includes almost all services and products except food.
Australia’s most important foreign policy ally is the United States. At the same time, Australia has close trade policy and economic cooperation with China. China is Australia’s largest export market, and in 2015 the free trade agreement between the two countries entered into force. In addition, Australia has a particular focus on relations with the countries of Asia and the Pacific and is generally an active player in the development of regional and bilateral trade agreements. In 2018, the European Commission was given the green light to try to negotiate a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand.
Australia held the G20 presidency in 2013-14, and the G20 summit took place in Brisbane in November 2014. Australia was a member of the UN Security Council until the end of 2014.