Steeple of Australia

International Trade

 Australia or officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland which is the world’s smallest continent (also largest island), the major island of Tasmania, and numerous other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the only area of land simultaneously considered a continent, a country and an island. Neighboring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east and New Zealand to the south-east.

For around 40,000 years before European settlement commenced in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 individual nations of indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years; the continent was explored, and during the 19th century another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The population is just over 21.7 million, with approximately 60% concentrated in and around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Darwin. The nation’s capital city is Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Technologically advanced and industrialized, Australia is a prosperous multicultural country and has excellent results in many international comparisons of national performance such as health care, life expectancy, quality-of-life, human development, public education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Australian cities also routinely rank among the world’s highest in terms of livability, cultural offerings, and quality of life. It is a member of the United Nations, G-20 major economies, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, and the WTO.

Australia’s top 25 imports, goods and services

(A$ million) – (a)

        % change
Rank Commodity 2007 2008 2007 to 2008
  Total (b)




1 Crude petroleum




2 Refined petroleum




3 Passenger motor vehicles 13,850 14,750


4 Personal travel (excl education) services 13,406 14,735


5 Freight services




6 Gold




7 Passenger transportation services




8 Telecom equipment & parts




9 Medicaments (incl veterinary)




10 Goods vehicles




11 Professional, technical & other business services 3,949 6,328


12 Computers




13 Civil engineering equipment & parts




14 Aircraft, spacecraft & parts (c)



15 Royalties & licence fees




16 Business travel




17 Monitors, projectors & TVs




18 Measuring & analysing instruments




19 Furniture, mattresses & cushions




20 Prams, toys, games & sporting goods




21 Vehicle parts & accessories




22 Electrical machinery & parts, nes




23 Fertilisers (excl crude)




24 Mechanical handling equip & parts




25 Specialised machinery & parts




Australia’s top 25 exports, goods and services

(A$ million) – (a)

        % change
Rank Commodity 2007 2008 2007 to 2008
  Total (b)




1 Coal




2 Iron ore & concentrates




3 Education services (c) 12,567 15,507


4 Gold (b)




5 Personal travel (excl education) services




6 Crude petroleum




7 Natural gas




8 Aluminium ores & conc (incl alumina)




9 Professional, technical & other business services




10 Aluminium




11 Beef f.c.f. 4,488 4,968


12 Other transportation services (d)




13 Copper ores & concentrates




14 Passenger transportation services (e)




15 Wheat




16 Passenger motor vehicles




17 Medicaments (incl veterinary)




18 Refined petroleum




19 Copper




20 Business travel




21 Alcoholic beverages




22 Wool & other animal hair (incl tops)




23 Meat (excl beef), f.c.f.




24 Manganese ores & concentrates




25 Nickel ores & concentrates




Bilateral Meeting with Indonesian Trade Minister Dr Mari Pangestu

The Australia Minister for Trade, Mr Simon Crean, met with the Indonesian Minister for Trade, Dr Mari Pangestu, on 7 June in Bali in advance of the Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting. 

Ministers from the Cairns Group are meeting in Bali on 7-9 June to provide a political boost to concluding the world trade talks and discuss strategies for exerting the Group’s influence in support of agricultural trade reformThe Group has also invited a number of Special Guests to allow a broader dialogue about how to bring the Doha Round agriculture negotiations to a successful conclusion, including the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the new Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. 

The meeting is being chaired by Mr Crean and hosted by Dr Mari Pangestu.

Trade Minister Visit to Shanghai and Inland China

Trade: the 2009-10 Budget

The Federal Government has delivered an extra $50 million for the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) this financial year, to help small and medium sized exporters through the global recession. The extra funding will be paid to an estimated 1800 Australian companies that employ more than 34,000 workers. The grants are administered by Austrade.

The Government will also provide $14.9 million over three years for Strategy. The Minister for Trade Simon Crean said the initiative would open up new clean energy opportunities for Australian businesses on the international stage, and support new jobs for Australians in areas like renewable energy, green buildings and sustainable water technologies.

China: The Place to Be


I’m delighted to be back here at the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai for the 15th anniversary dinner in what is now my 5th visit to China as Trade Minister. I’m told that back in 1994 when AustCham began as the China Australia Chamber of Commerce, it started out with just 12 members. Today, the Chamber has more than 300 corporate members and 41 individual members, many of whom are Australia’s biggest and most enterprising business brands.

It’s an impressive achievement and reflects the tremendous business opportunities in this city. It is also a symbol of broader Australia-China business opportunities. I have been in China for four days and I leave tomorrow. But I must say it has been a remarkable trip and I will leave feeling upbeat about the economic future of China. A country that is so important to Australia – just as Australia is important to China. In the midst of a global recession – with the International Monetary Fund forecasting the world economy will shrink by 1.3 per cent this year – China is thriving.

Yesterday Australia recorded its second largest ever trade surplus of $2.5 billion on the back of a new record in exports to China of $4.4 billion for the month of March. Australian merchandise exports to China in the 12 months to March were 48 per cent higher than in the previous year. I have seen for myself the great economy activity in China and the plans for the future.

I have seen the vast construction of new buildings, roads, airports and shopping centre in the inland cities of Kunming and Wuhan, and the activity here in Shanghai.

China will be the fastest growing country in the world this year. I have no doubt it will be the fastest growing country in the world next year and probably the year after that as well. This has huge implications for the Australian economy – especially as we deal with the fallout from the global recession.

My message tonight is this: China is the place we need to be. We have strong links with China but we need to be expanding and diversifying that economic relationship. Australia needs to be tapping into and taking advantage of Chinese economic growth. But we are competing with other countries.

The economic strength of China is no secret and we need to be putting ourselves front and centre. We need to get a bigger slice of the China action. That is why this is my fifth visit in 18 months. That is why the Australian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 is so important to showcase Australian companies.

China Defying the Recession

No one doubts that China will grow strongly this year, but there are now strong signs of an economic recovery after a downturn in the second half of 2008. The latest economic data shows Fixed Asset Investment (FAI) in China grew 29 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year.

In addition, FAI investment in infrastructure grew at 100 per cent year-on-year for the quarter, reflecting the impact of the Chinese Government’s $800 billion stimulus package. At the consumer level, retail sales in China were up 16 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter and car sales grew 6 per cent year-on-year to a record of 1.1 million vehicle sales in March alone.

On the back of such data, Goldman Sachs has upgraded its GDP growth forecast for China from 6 per cent to 8.3 per cent for 2009 and to 10.9 per cent for 2010 (up from 9 per cent). And our own Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has noted signs that the Chinese economy has picked up in recent months. Here in Shanghai we are at the centre of economic growth and the challenge is to take advantage of that opportunity.

Implications for Australia

As the latest Australian trade balance shows, the weight of economic activity is shifting towards this region, with China at the centre. The IMF has predicted that the Australian economy will contract by 1.4 per cent this year and we are expecting a tough Budget next week. The Australian Government has always said we are not immune from global crisis, but that we have important cushions.

One of those cushions is our growing economic relationship with China. Growing trade and investment with China offers the best chance of a faster recovery for the Australian economy. We are in the same time zone and there are great complementarities between our economies. Australian exports of iron ore to China reached another record in April as the Chinese economy begins to expand again. But on this visit we saw great opportunities for Australian businesses in other areas. Particularly in agribusiness and in green building with the urbanization of China and the need for new housing.

Importantly, given our $6 billion-plus commitment to the Australian car industry there are exciting opportunities here in China in the automotive sector as well. The FTA and the two-track approach As you know, Australia is in the midst of negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement with China.

This will be crucial platform to advance the economic relationship between the two countries.

These negotiations have been slower than I would have liked in recent months but I am convinced there is the political will after my discussion with Minister Chen in April in Beijing and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s talks with President Hu Jintao at the G20 in London.

I have often said we need the Chinese to show flexibility on market access for Australian agricultural goods and for Australian investment into China which must be part of the FTA. Investment is a two-way street. But we are not waiting for the Free Trade Agreement to be completed, we are also pursuing a second track of commercial links at the business-to-business and government–to business level.

In Yunnan province, where two-way trade is already $500 million a year, we agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in agribusiness between the Australian Government and the provincial Government. I think there can be a similar agreement for the resources sector and commercial services.

These are new frameworks to build off the already important platform that exists. In the Hubei province, where two-way trade is almost $1 billion, we achieved a breakthrough for Australian designers, builders and architects.

The mayor of Wuhan agreed to my proposal that we create a government-to-government framework to support expanded commercial cooperation in the urban development sector. Importantly the Hubei party secretary, the vice mayor of Wuhan, representatives of a large car company and urban planning officials will be part of the delegation.

Two-way trade between Australia and China is already almost $70 billion a year but it can – and must – keep growing. Here in Shanghai, I will have the pleasure tomorrow of “topping out” the Australian pavilion the at Shanghai World Expo 2010. Shanghai World Expo 2010 The Shanghai Expo is set to be the largest in history with more than 180 countries participating.

There is expected to be more than 70 million visitors – most of whom are expected to be Chinese nationals. With a total project value of $83 million, the Australian national pavilion represents the largest investment Australia has ever made in a world expo. And I believe it is an investment commensurate with the importance of our trade with China. It is also a chance to showcase Australian companies to China and the world. It is through building the economic relationship with China we can help sustain growth in our economy that underpins Australian jobs and better living standards.

Many of you here would recall the positive spin-offs that the World Expo had for the Australian city of Brisbane. It injected its own economic stimulus that is still benefiting that city and the state of Queensland. What I think we’ll see here in Shanghai is a similar effect but on a Chinese scale from which we can also benefit Australia’s future.


To close, I would like to say AustCham’s growth has been impressive over the past 15 years. This is a time to be confident and realize the opportunities with China are enormous. Our future is dependent on our confidence in our own ability and a preparedness to embrace the new relationship with China.

To build it, strengthen it, deepen it and never fear it. I have been giving Chinese leaders that I meet this week a boomerang as a gift and I joke with them how it comes back. This is my fifth visit to China and like the boomerang I will keep coming back to China as there is such growth and potential here. It is essential we do.


Economic Condition


GDP and other selected aggregates, Chain volume measures  



Real gross domestic income

Real net national disposable income

Domestic final demand

Non–farm GDP

Gross national expenditure

2005–06 1,012,269 1,000,464


1,012,988 984,768 1,014,965
2006–07 1,045,674 1,045,674


1,055,784 1,023,293 1,058,436
2007–08 1,083,661 1,095,244


1,111,775 1,060,263 1,116,377





















Source: Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, (cat. no. 5206.0)  


Inflation summary for March 2009 (Released in April 2009)

The Consumer Price Index for the Australian economy came in at 166.2 for the quarter ending March 2009. The inflation rate year over year was 2.4661% (compared to 3.6852% for the previous quarter). Inflation from December 2008 to March 2009 was 0.1205%

Current Australian Inflation Rate

March 2009

Rate released in April 2009 for March 2009

Previous Inflation Rate

December 2008

Rate released in January 2009 for December 2008

Quarter-to-Quarter Inflation Rate

December 2008-March 2009

Inflation rate from December 2008 to March 2009

Employment and unemployment






Mar 09 to

Apr 09

Apr 08 to

Apr 09 

  Employed persons (‘000) 10 794.9 10 790.6




  Unemployed persons (‘000) 611.1 630.8




  Unemployment rate (%) 5.4 5.5




  Participation rate (%) 65.4 65.5




  Seasonally Adjusted            
  Employed persons (‘000) 10 771.6 10 798.9




  Unemployed persons (‘000) 649.9 614.6




  Unemployment rate (%) 5.7 5.4




  Participation rate (%) 65.5 65.4




 Employed PersonsEMPLOYED CURVE   Unemployment RateUNEMPLOYMENT CURVE

POLITIC   Politic

The House of Representatives in Parliament House, Canberra was opened in 1988, replacing the provisional Parliament House building opened in 1927.

The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of powers. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General at federal level and by the Governors at state level. Although the Constitution gives extensive executive powers to the Governor-General, these are normally exercised only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General’s reserve powers outside the Prime Minister’s direction was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

There are three branches of government :

The official residence of the Governor-General of Australia 

The bicameral Commonwealth Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate (the upper house) of 76 senators, and a House of Representatives (the lower house) of 150 members. Members of the lower house are elected from single-member constituencies, commonly known as “electorates” or “seats”, allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. In the Senate, each state is represented by twelve senators, and each of the territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) by two. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms, since only half of places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution. The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.

There are two major political groups that form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party, and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of two parties: the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party. Independent members and several minor parties—including the Greens and the Australian Democrats—have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses. The Labor Party came to office with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister following the November 2007 election. Every Australian parliament (federal, state, and territory) then had a Labor government until September 2008 when the Liberal Party formed a minority government in association with the National Party in Western Australia. In the 2004 election, the previous governing coalition led by John Howard won control of the Senate—the first time in more than 20 years that a party (or a coalition) has done so while in government. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over, in each state and territory and at the federal level. Enrolment to vote is compulsory in all jurisdictions except South Australia.

The Politics of Australia take place within the framework of parliamentary democracy. Australia is a federation and a constitutional monarchy, and Australians elect state and territory legislatures based on the Westminster tradition, as well as a bicameral Parliament of Australia, which is a hybrid of Westminster practices with the uniquely federalist element of the Australian Senate.

The Legislative Branch

Main article : Australian Electoral System

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia consists of two chambers :

At the national level, elections are held at least once every three years. The Prime Minister can advise the Governor-General to call an election for the House of Representatives at any time, but Senate elections can only be held within certain periods prescribed in the Constitution. The last general election was in November 2007.

The voting system for the Senate underwent a significant change in 1948. Prior to that date Senate elections were conducted using a ‘first past the post’ voting arrangement. This could result in landslide victories to one political party under relatively small changes in the popular vote, as well as periodically resulting in a Senate with a large majority of opposition Senators. The change to a preferential system of voting has resulted in the numbers of Senators from each party more closely reflecting the numbers of votes the party list received, and a more balanced composition of the chamber. For most of the last quarter of a century, a balance of power situation has existed, whereby neither government nor opposition has controlled the Senate, with governments needing to seek the support of minor parties or independents to secure their legislative agenda.

The ease with which minor parties can secure representation in the Senate compared to the House of Representatives has meant that such parties have focused  their  efforts  on  securing  representation  in  the  upper  house,  both at the

National and state level (the two territories are unicameral). They have usually been unable to win seats in the House of Representatives (the Greens won a House seat at the 2002 Cunningham by-election, but lost it in the 2004 general election). Minor parties do however affect lower house politics through their recommendations to voters regarding which party should receive voters’ preferences, a strategy regarded as decisive in the outcome of the 1990 federal election. A focus on the upper house has molded the platforms and politics of minor parties, for which an upper house brokering role is the best opportunity to affect legislative outcomes. The demands placed on parties by this role can cause internal tensions within, and external pressure on, these parties, demonstrated by the splits within, and political decline of, the Australian Democrats.

Because legislation must pass both houses in order to become law, it is possible for there to be disagreements between the houses that can stymie government bills. Such deadlocks are resolved under section 57 of the Constitution, under a procedure called a double dissolution election. Such elections are rare, not because the conditions for holding them are seldom met, but because they can pose a significant political risk to the government that calls them. Of the six double dissolution elections held since federation, half have resulted in the fall of the government that called them. Only once (in 1974) has the full procedure for resolving a deadlock been followed, with a joint sitting of the two houses being held after the election to deliberate

The Executive Branch

Main articles: Government of Australia, Monarchy of Australia, and Cabinet of Australia

Reflecting the influence of the Westminster tradition of British government, Australian government Crown ministers are drawn from among the elected members of parliament.[2] The government is formed by the party or parties that have the confidence of the majority of members of the House of Representatives. In practice, this has equated to the party or coalition of parties that holds a majority of seats in that chamber.

By convention, the Prime Minister is always a member of the House of Representatives. On the only occasion that a Senator was made Prime Minister (John Gorton in 1968), Gorton shortly resigned and contested a seat in the House of Representatives.

The same high degree of discipline that characterizes Australian party politics extends to the executive, where all ministers individually defend collective government decisions, and individual ministers who cannot undertake the public defense of government actions are generally expected to resign from the ministry. Such resignations are even less common than breaches of cabinet solidarity. The rarity of public disclosure of splits within cabinet reflects the seriousness with which internal party division is regarded in Australian politics.

 Political Parties and Australian Politics


Kevin Rudd MP

Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the

 Australian Labor Party


Malcolm Turnbull MP

Opposition Leader of Australia and leader of the

Liberal Party



The Role of Parties in Australian Politics

Organized, national political parties have dominated Australia’s political environment and parliament since federation. Politics since 1900 can be characterized by the rapid and early rise of a party representing organized, non-revolutionary workers – the Australian Labor Party – and the coalescing of non-Labor political interests into two parties: a centre-right party that has been predominantly socially conservative and with a base in business and the middle class (now the Liberal Party of Australia); and a rural or agrarian conservative party (now the National Party of Australia) (see following sections for more detail). While there are a small number of other political parties that have achieved parliamentary representation, these three parties dominate organized politics in all Australian jurisdictions, and only on rare (and generally short-lived) occasions have any other parties or independents played a role in the formation or maintenance of governments.

Whether Australia’s political system should be characterized as a ‘two-party system‘ is a matter of debate, and can be said to vary to some degree from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Of Australia’s three main parties, two (Liberal and National) are in long-standing coalition at the national level – however they are not always in coalition at the state level, and the Liberal Party is not always the senior partner (the National Party predominates in the state of Queensland). However, as the National Party only ever considers a coalition or similar arrangement with one of the other two parties (ie. Liberal), the system might be regarded as a two-party one in terms of choices of government, even though voters in some electorates may have a choice between three candidates with realistic chances of being elected to office.

Despite the entrenched role of formal parties in Australian politics, they are ‘almost totally extra-legal and extra-constitutional’. In contrast to some other countries, such as the United States, Australian political parties and their internal operations are relatively unregulated. There is however a system of party registration through the Australian Electoral Commission and its state and territory equivalents, including reporting of some aspects of party activities, principally the receipt of major donations.

 Political Parties in Australia Today

For other political parties see List of political parties in Australia. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Australia.

Major parties:

Minor parties include:

The list of political parties in Australia comprises the names and federal leaders of significant political parties as well as the names of other parties, including formerly significant parties.

The history of Australia’s political parties

Australian politics operates as a de facto two-party system. Unlike in the United States, however, internal party discipline is extremely tight. Australia’s system was not always a two-party system, however, nor was it always as internally stable as in recent decades.


Contemporary Australian National Politics

The Australian Labor Party came to power in the November 2007 election, ending John Howard’s 11 years in office as Prime Minister and head of Liberal/National coalition government. The Labor Party now holds a majority in the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, reverted to its prior state, with the balance of power being held by minor parties.




Climate change

Climate change has become a major issue in Australia in recent years. Much of the country’s population appears to be losing its traditional water sources due to persistent drought even as most of the outback receives large increases in rainfall. At the same time, Australia continues to have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions and academic studies have clearly shown the influence of fossil fuel and light metal (aluminums and titanium) industry lobby groups on the country’s political system to be both strongly established and highly extensive.

All federal and state governments have explicitly recognized that climate change is being caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Sectors of the population are actively campaigning against new coal mines and coal fired power stations because of their concern about the effects of global warming on Australia. Other sectors of the population, however, believe it is still too early to tell whether or not there has actually been human induced climate change and believe the natural variability of Australia’s climate too high for panic. After publication of the Garnaut draft report and the Green Paper on the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme members of this group are increasingly viewed as “climate skeptics“.

There is expected to be a net benefit to Australia of stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450ppm CO2 eq [1] although vested interests such as the coal industry argue this proposition.

Energy Use

Australia is a major exporter and user of coal, the burning of which creates CO2. Consequently, in 2000 Australia was the highest emitter of CO2 gasses per capital in the developed world irrespective of whether or not emissions from land clearing were included.[2] It is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report.


Many of Australia’s power stations are coal fired.

See also: Effects of global warming on Australia


Main article: Conservation in Australia

Conservation in Australia is an issue of state and federal policy. Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with a large portion of species endemic to Australia. Preserving this wealth of biodiversity is important for future generations.

A key conservation issue is the preservation of biodiversity, especially by protecting the remaining rainforests. The destruction of habitat by human activities, including land clearing, remains the major cause of biodiversity loss in Australia. The importance of the Australian rainforests to the conservation movement is very high. Australia is the only western country to have large areas of rainforest intact. Forests provide timber, drugs, and food and should be managed to maximize the possible uses. Currently, there are a number of environmental movements and campaigners advocating for action on saving the environment, one such campaign is the Big Switch.

Land management issues including clearance of native vegetation, reafforestation of once-cleared areas, control of exotic weeds and pests, expansion of dryland salinity, and changed fire regimes. Intensification of resource use in sectors such as forestry, fisheries, and agriculture are widely reported to contribute to biodiversity loss in Australia. Coastal and marine environments also have reduced biodiversity from reduced water quality caused by pollution and sediments arising from human settlements and agriculture. In central New South Wales where there are large plains of grassland, problems have risen from—unusual to say—lack of land clearing.

The Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest near Daintree, Queensland covering around 1200 square kilometers, is threatened by logging, development, mining and the effects of the high tourist numbers.



Native Fauna

The Tasmanian Devil, officially listed as an endangered species in 2008.

Main article: Threatened fauna of Australia

Over a hundred species of fauna are currently under serious threat of extinction. The plight of some of these species receives more attention than others and recently the focus of many conservation organizations has been the critically endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, the endangered Tasmanian Devil[3], Northern Tiger Quill, South Eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Southern Cassowary, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, Lead beater’s Possum and Southern Corroboree frog.

Australia has a poor record of conservation of native fauna. The arrival of humans is attributed to the extinction of Australian mega fauna and since European settlement, 23 birds, 4 frogs, and 27 mammal species are also known to have become extinct.

See also: Extinct Australian animals

Marine conservation

Recent climate change reports have highlighted the threat of higher water temperatures to the Great Barrier Reef

See also: Environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef and Whaling in Australia

One of the notable issues with marine conservation in Australia is the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef’s environmental pressures include water quality from runoff, climate change and mass coral bleaching, cyclic outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish, over fishing, and shipping accidents.


Main article: Whaling in Australia

Whaling in Australia took place from colonization in 1788. In 1979 Australia terminated whaling and committed to whale protection. The main varieties hunted were Humpback, Blue, Right and Sperm Whales.[4]


Oil Spills

While there have been no oil spill environmental disasters of the scale of the Exxon Valdez in the country, Australia has a large oil industry and there have been several large oil spills [1]. Spills remain a serious threat to the marine environment and Australian coastline. The largest spill to date was the Kirki tanker in 1991 which dropped 17,280 tones of oil off the coast of Western Australia.

In March 2009, the 2009 southeast Queensland oil spill occurred, where 200,000 liters were spilled from the MV Pacific Adventurer spilling more than 250 tones of oil, 30 tones of fuel and other toxic chemicals on Brisbane’s suburban beaches. Premier Anna Bligh described the spill as “worst environmental disaster Queensland has ever seen”.[5]

Ocean dumping

Main article: Ocean dumping

A serious issue to the Australian marine environment is the dumping of rubbish from ships. There have been a number of cases[6], particularly involving the navy of Australian and other countries polluting Australian waters including the dumping of chemical warfare agents. Recently documented cases include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in 2006 which was found to be dumping rubbish off the shores of Moreton Island.[7] In Victoria, a large number of toxic drums containing 1,2-Dichlorobenzene xylenol, a substance very toxic to aquatic creatures washed up on beaches during May, 2009 presumably fallen off a passing container ship.[8]

Invasive species

Main article: Invasive species in Australia

Introduced cane toads threaten native species

Australia’s geographical isolation has resulted in the evolution of many delicate ecological relationships that are sensitive to foreign invaders and in many instances provided no natural predators for many of the species subsequently introduced. Introduced plants that have caused widespread problems are lantana and the prickly pear bush. The introduction and spread of animals such as the cane toad or rabbit can  disrupt  the   existing   balances    between     populations  and    develop      into

Environmental problems. The introduction of cattle into Australia and to a lesser extent the dingo, are other examples of species that have changed the landscape. In some cases the introduction of new species can lead to plagues and the extinction of endemic species.

The introduced species red fox has single handedly caused the extinction of several species and Tasmania takes the threat of red fox introduction so seriously that it has a government sponsored taskforce to prevent fox populations from taking hold on the island.

Land clearing

Main article: Land clearing in Australia

In the prehistory of Australia the indigenous Australians used fire to clear land for the hunting of game and encouraging new growth. With colonization the majority of cleared land in Australia has been developed for cattle, cotton and wheat production. The extinction of 20 different mammal, 9 bird and 97 plant species have been partially attributed to land clearing. Land clearing is a major source of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and contributed to approximately 12 percent of Australia’s total emissions in 1998.

Consequences of land clearing is dry land salinity and soil erosion. Since European settlement a total of 13% of native vegetation cover has been lost.


Waterway Health


A Parks Victoria litter trap on the river catches floating rubbish on the Yarra at Birrarung Marr

The protection of waterways in Australia is a major concern for various reasons including habitat and biodiversity, but also due to use of the waterways by humans.

The Murray-Darling Basin is under threat due to irrigation in Australia, causing high levels    of   salinity   which   effect  agriculture   and  biodiversity in New South Wales,


Victoria and South Australia. These rivers are also effected by pesticide run-off and drought.

Australian waterways affected by environmental pollution

Rivers and creeks in urban areas also face environmental issues, particularly pollution.


New South Wales


South Australia

Matters dealt with by the Department

  • Environment protection and conservation of biodiversity
  • Air quality
  • National fuel quality standards
  • Land contamination
  • Meteorology
  • Administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands
  • Natural, built and movable cultural heritage
  • Environmental research
  • Water policy and resources


  • Cultural affairs, including support for the arts
  • Ionosphere prediction
  • Renewable energy programs
  • Energy efficiency
  • Greenhouse gas abatement programs
  • Community and household climate action

Throughout Australia, environment, water heritage and arts issues are also managed by other levels of government.

Australia’s largest single water entitlement purchase

In the single largest purchase of water for the environment in Australian history, the Australian Government is buying 240 giga liters of water entitlements from Twynam Agricultural Group. The $303 million purchase will be used to restore river and wetland health in numerous stressed catchments.

Twynam operates eight properties located on the Lachlan, Macquarie, Murrumbidgee and Gwydir rivers in NSW. As a consequence of the drought, Twynam has been progressively changing its production to winter dry land cereal crops. The maps below highlight the important environmental assets that could benefit from the return of water to the rivers and wetlands.



The demographics of Australia cover basic statistics, most populous cities, ethnicity and religious affiliation. The population of Australia is growing at a rate of 1.7% per year, and, as of the end of 2008, was officially estimated to be approximately 21.5 million. Australia is the 53rd most populous country in the world and its population is concentrated in urban areas.


Population Growth Rate

As of the end of June 2008 the population growth rate was 1.7%. This rate was based on estimates of :

  • one birth every 1 minute and 51 seconds,
  • one death every 3 minutes and 48 seconds,
  • a net gain of one international migrant every 2 minutes and 38 seconds leading to
  • an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minutes and 31 seconds.


In 2005 the estimated rates were :

At the time of Australian Federation in 1901, the rate of natural increase was 14.9 persons per 1,000 population. The rate increased to a peak of 17.4 per thousand population in the years 1912, 1913 and 1914. During the Great Depression, the rate declined to a low of 7.1 per thousand population in 1934 and 1935. Immediately after World War II the rate increased sharply as a result of the beginning of the Post-World War II baby boom and the immigration of many young people who then had children in Australia, with a plateau of rates of over 13.0 persons per 1,000 population for every year from 1946 to 1962.

There has been a fall in the rate of natural increase since 1962 due to falling fertility. In 1971 the rate of natural increase was 12.7 persons per 1,000 population; a decade later it had fallen to 8.5. In 1996 the rate of natural increase fell below seven for the first time, with the downward trend continuing in the late 1990s. Population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that continued low fertility, combined with the increase in deaths from an ageing population, will result in natural increase falling below zero sometime in the mid 2030s. However in 2006 the fertility rate rose to 1.81, one of the highest rate in the OECD, arguably as a result of some pro-fertility state and federal government campaigns, including the Federal Government’s baby bonus.

Since 1901, the crude death rate has fallen from about 12.2 deaths per 1,000 population to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 population in 2006.[6]

International Comparison

For the year ended 30 June 2008, Australia’s population growth rate was 1.7 percent, almost 50 percent higher than the world average of 1.2 percent.

  • 0.1% Japan
  • 0.3% Greece and Sweden
  • 0.6% China, Thailand and France
  • 0.8% Canada
  • 0.9% USA
  • 1.0% New Zealand
  • 1.2% World Average
  • 1.6% India
  • 1.7% Australia
  • 2.2% PNG

 Sex ratio 

  • At birth:1.05 male(s)/female
  • Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • 15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
  • Total population: 0.988 male(s)/female[6]

Life Expectancy at Birth

  • Male: 78.5 years
  • Female: 83.5 years (2003-2005, ABS [3])





Issues for The 21st Century 

Increased globalization of trade and the further lowering of tariff barriers will mean greater competition for Australian industry, but it would also provide opportunities to expand exports of goods and services. Science and innovation will be a crucial element in enhancing the competitiveness of Australian industry and improving the nation’s economic and social prosperity. Science and innovation also have an important role to play in overcoming environmental problems, such as land degradation, marine and water pollution, retention of biodiversity and the mitigation of   greenhouse gas emissions   

In spite of the efforts of the last decade to broaden the base of the economy, Australia is well below advanced industrial countries in the production of high technology goods and services that constitute the fastest growing area of world trade. Australia with its small population cannot hope to mount an internationally competitive science and innovation effort in too many areas and urgent attention needs to be paid to selecting priority areas for the concentration of resources. Governments in Australia have avoided the ‘picking of winners’ and have preferred to leave the selection of priorities to the market. Modern biotechnology based on cell biology and the identification, isolation, manipulation and transfer of genes is predicted to be a dominant and far reaching technology of the 21st century. The biological science base is relatively strong in Australia and it provides a springboard for the creation of new industry. There are already a few small firms in the biotechnology area which have been spun off from public sector research. A major impediment to growth of new enterprises in high technology areas, particularly biotechnology, has been the shortage of venture capital for such enterprises. Investors often require a credible market plan and good commercial management skills in the company before they are willing to take the risk of a substantial investment. Strategic alliances with foreign companies would seem to be an attractive  and  viable  option  for  high   technology  companies  to  access the global

market. It is very likely that there will be many instances in the biotechnology area where the development of a product and its global marketing can only be achieved in this way. It is important that an Australian enterprise has a strong patent position for its products in order to strengthen its negotiations with a prospective partner.

Several elements of the Australian innovation system need to be strengthened if Australia is to compete successfully in the global market in the trade of high technology goods and services, as well as improving export earnings from the mining and rural industries. Important issues for the innovation system are the education system, the research base, international networks, business R&D, capital markets and tax structures. The last two will not be discussed in this article.

There are concerns that interest in science has declined among school students, and fewer students are choosing science and engineering as a career. The main reason for the poor image of science and engineering is the lack of attractive career opportunities, particularly in the private sector. An improved skill base in science and technology will be crucial to increasing Australia’s share of world trade in high technology goods and services, but it is a chicken and egg situation. Without the career opportunities the best students will not be attracted to tertiary studies in science and engineering, but without a pool of experienced researchers and a competitive skill base international companies will not be attracted to establishing more of their operations including R&D activities in Australia.

It is imperative that Australia maintains a strong science research base in the universities, CSIRO and the other Government research agencies. The internationally accepted measure of the quality of the basic research of a country is the number and impact of papers published in peer-reviewed international journals. An article in the American journal Science Watch in 1993 showed a decline in the impact of Australian scientific publications as measured by the decrease in their citation in the papers of other scientists. This study was confirmed by the work of Bourke and Butler, and by a report by the Bureau of Industry Economics that also examined possible reasons for the decline factors without being able to come to a clear-cut conclusion. A study by the Australian Academy of Science concluded that the likeliest cause of the declining impact was a weakening of the networks connecting Australia’s younger researchers with their colleagues overseas.   

The Academy of Science published a follow-up report that examined the various mechanisms by which international scientific networks are established and maintained. The report called for the establishment of a national overseas postdoctoral scheme to significantly increase the opportunities for early career researchers to gain research experience overseas. It recommended that the fellowships be tenable in both public and private sector laboratories.

Another matter of concern for the science base is the low success rate of high quality applications by university researchers for grants from the Australian Research Council because of the limited resources available to the Council. The science base in CSIRO has declined over the past decade with the increase in funding from industry and other external sources and the diversion of resources to support the short-termprojects.

The main issue for innovation in Australia in the 21st century is the low level of business expenditure on R&D (BERD) (table 25.1 of the chapter Science and Innovation shows expenditure on R&D by sector, including BERD, from 1993-94 to 1998-99). After the introduction of the 150% tax concession BERD showed a steady increase, with an annual growth rate of 17.6% between 1984-85 and 1995-96. Since 1995-96 BERD has fallen from 0.86% of GDP to 0.67% in 1998-99 at a time when the private sector in many other countries in the OECD and the Asian region is increasing R&D (see table 25.3 of the chapter for expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP in OECD countries for 1998-99). The reduction in the R&D tax concession in 1996 from 150% to 125% may have contributed to the fall in BERD, but others factors, such as the generally poor international competitiveness of Australian secondary industry and the small size of the local market, may also have contributed to the lack of greater investment by the private sector in R&D.

The pace of change in science and technology is showing no signs of diminishing, and Australia has no choice but to improve its innovation system and broaden the base of its economy. Australia can no longer rely on its natural resources and the competitiveness of the rural and mining industries to maintain a high standard of living. Australia must become more competitive in the supply of high-technology goods and services and gain a fair share of the expanding world markets for them. The ideas emanating from the Innovation Summit held in Melbourne in February 2000 and the follow-up studies will provide the basis for a report to government on ways to improve innovation in Australia.


Daftar pustaka


~ by irene clarissa on September 28, 2009.

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