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Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession of the east coast in the name of Great Britain (all of Australia was claimed as British territory in 1829 with the creation of the colony of Western Australia). Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the OECD's fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Long-term concerns include ageing of the population, pressure on infrastructure, and environmental issues such as frequent droughts.


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Government

Country name
Conventional long form Commonwealth of Australia
Conventional short form Australia

Government type
Federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm

Capital
Name Canberra
Geographic coordinates 35 16 S, 149 08 E
Time difference
UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Daylight saving time
+1hr, begins first Sunday in October; ends first Sunday in April
Note
Australia is divided into three time zones

Administrative divisions
6 states and 2 territories*; Australian Capital Territory*, New South Wales, Northern Territory*, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia

Dependent areas
Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Macquarie Island, Norfolk Island

Independence
1 January 1901 (from the federation of UK colonies)

National holiday
Australia Day, 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorates the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)

Constitution
9 July 1900; effective 1 January 1901

Legal system
Common law system based on the English model

International law organization participation
Accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Suffrage
18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch
Chief of state
Queen of Australia ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Quentin BRYCE (since 5 September 2008)
Head of government
Prime Minister Julia Eileen GILLARD (since 24 June 2010); Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Maxwell SWAN (since 24 June 2010)
Cabinet
Prime minister nominates, from among members of Parliament, candidates who are subsequently sworn in by the governor general to serve as government ministers
Elections
The monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the governor general

Legislative branch
Bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats; 12 members from each of the six states and 2 from each of the two mainland territories; one-half of state members are elected every three years by popular vote to serve six-year terms while all territory members are elected every three years) and the House of Representatives (150 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than 5 representatives)
Elections
Senate - last held on 21 August 2010; House of Representatives - last held on 21 August 2010 (the latest a simultaneous half-Senate and House of Representative elections can be held is 30 November 2013)
Election results
Senate (effective 1 July 2011) - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Liberal/National Party 34, Australian Labor Party 31, Greens 9, others 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - Australian Labor Party 38.1%, Liberal Party 30.4%, Greens 11.5%, Liberal National Party of Queensland 9.3%, independents 6.6%, The Nationals 3.7%, Country Liberals 0.3%; seats by party - Australian Labor Party 72, Liberal Party 44, Liberal National Party of Queensland 21, The Nationals 7, Country Liberals 1, Greens 1, independents 4

Judicial branch
High Court (the chief justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general acting on the advice of the government)

Political parties and leaders
Australian Greens [Christine MILNE]; Australian Labor Party [Julia GILLARD]; Family First Party [Steve FIELDING]; Liberal Party [Tony ABBOTT]; The Nationals [Warren TRUSS]

Political pressure groups and leaders
Other
Business groups; environmental groups; social groups; trade unions

International organization participation
ADB, ANZUS, APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club, PCA, PIF, SAARC (observer), Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNMIT, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the us
Chief of mission
Ambassador Kim Christian BEAZLEY
Chancery
1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
Telephone [1] (202) 797-3000
FAX [1] (202) 797-3168
Consulate(s) general
Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the us
Chief of mission Ambassador Jeffrey L. BLEICH
Embassy
Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600
Mailing address APO AP 96549
Telephone [61] (02) 6214-5600
FAX [61] (02) 6214-5970
Consulate(s) general Melbourne, Perth, Sydney

Flag description
Blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth or Federation Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; on the fly half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars

National symbol(s)
Southern Cross constellation (five, seven-pointed stars); kangaroo; emu

National anthem
Name "Advance Australia Fair"
Lyrics/music Peter Dodds McCORMICK
Note
Adopted 1984; although originally written in the late 19th century, the anthem did not become used for all official occasions until 1984; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" is also played at Royal functions (see United Kingdom)


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  Australia (Canberra):


  GPS points from Australia (Canberra)

Jerandilla Tank Western Australia


Puppy Gap Queensland

Bottle Creek Tasmania

Kingston Park South Australia

Chasm Shoal Northern Territory

Wurrengoodyea Hills Western Australia

Bluey Creek Queensland




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