Australia - just the facts
In land area, Australia is the sixth largest nation after Russia, Canada, China, the United States of America and Brazil. It has, however, a relatively small population.
Australia is the only nation to govern an entire continent and its outlying islands. The mainland is the largest island and the smallest, flattest continent on Earth. It lies between 10° and 39° South latitude.
The highest point on the mainland, Mount Kosciuszko, is only 2228 metres. Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. Its interior has one of the lowest rainfalls in the world and about three-quarters of the land is arid or semi-arid. Its fertile areas are well-watered, however, and these are used very effectively to help feed the world. Sheep and cattle graze in dry country, but care must be taken with the soil. Some grazing land became desert when the long cycles that influence rainfall in Australia turned to drought.
The Australian federation consists of six States and two Territories. Most inland borders follow lines of longitude and latitude. The largest State, Western Australia, is about the same size as Western Europe.
Australia has had one of the most outstanding economies of the world in recent years. As a high-growth, low-inflation, low interest rate economy, it is more vibrant than ever before. There is an efficient government sector, a flexible labour market and a very competitive business sector.
With its abundant physical resources, Australia has enjoyed a high standard of living since the nineteenth century. It has made a comparatively large investment in social infrastructure, including education, training, health and transport.
The Australian workforce has seen many improvements over the last decade, leading to the surge in productivity in the 1990s. The complex and centralised award based industrial relations system has given way to a more decentralised one with many employees working under workplace agreements tailored to meet enterprise needs.
Australia's culturally diverse society includes its Indigenous peoples and settlers from countries all around the world.
Immigration is an important feature of Australian society. Since 1945, over six million people from 200 countries have come to Australia as new settlers. Migrants have made a major contribution to shaping modern Australia. People born overseas make up almost one quarter of the total population.
The federal government sets immigration intake numbers on a yearly basis. Australia's immigration policies are non-discriminatory and all applicants to migrate must meet the same selection criteria. more
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