U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Australia, May 1996
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs


Prepared and released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 
Office of Australia and New Zealand Affairs

May 1996
Official Name:  Commonwealth of Australia

PROFILE

Geography

Area:  7.7 million sq. km. (3 million sq. mi.); about the size of the 48 
continental United States.
Cities:  Capital--Canberra (pop. 310,100).  Other cities--Sydney (3.7 
million), Melbourne (3.1 million), Brisbane (1.3 million), Perth (1.2 
million).
Terrain:  Varied, but generally low-lying.
Climate:  Relatively dry, ranging from temperate in the south to 
tropical in the north.

People

Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Australian(s).
Population  (1995):  18.2 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.1%.
Ethnic groups:  European 94%, Asian 5%, Aboriginal 1%.
Religions:  Anglican 24%, Roman Catholic 26%.
Languages:  English.
Education:  Years compulsory--to age 15 in all states except Tasmania, 
where it is 16.  Literacy--99%.
Health:  Infant mortality rate--9/1,000.  Life expectancy--males 74 yrs. 
females 80 yrs.
Work force 9.2 million:  Agriculture--5%.  Mining, manufacturing, and 
utilities--23%.  Services--67%.  Public administration and Defense--
5%.

Government

Type:  Democratic, federal-state system recognizing British monarch as 
sovereign.
Constitution:  July 9, 1900.
Independence (federation):  January 1, 1901.
Branches:  Executive--prime minister and cabinet responsible to 
Parliament.  Legislative--bicameral Parliament (76-member Senate, 
148-member House of Representatives).  Judicial--independent 
judiciary.
Administrative subdivisions:  Six states and two territories.
Political parties:  Liberal, National, Australian Labor, Australian 
Democrats.
Suffrage:  Universal and compulsory over 18.
Central government budget (FY 1995-96):  $92 billion.
Defense (est.1995-96):  2.1% of GDP or 8.0% of government budget.
Flag:  On a blue field, UK Union Jack in the top left corner, a large 
white star directly beneath symbolizing federation, and five smaller 
white stars on the right half representing the Southern Cross 
constellation.

Economy 

GDP  $349.3 billion.
Per capita income:  $19,100.
Inflation rate:  3.7% p.a.
Natural resources: Bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper, tin, silver, uranium, 
nickel, tungsten, mineral sands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, oil.
Agriculture 4% of GDP:  Products--livestock, wheat, wool, sugar.  
Arable land--9%.
Industry 35% of GDP:  Types--mining, manufacturing, transportation 
and construction. 
Trade:  Exports--$53.3 billion (1995):  coal, gold, wool, meat, iron ore, 
wheat, alumina, aluminium, machinery and transport equipment.    
Major markets--Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, US ($3.5 billion), 
Singapore, Taiwan.  Imports--$57.7 billion (1995): machinery and 
transport equipment, computers, crude oil and petroleum products, 
telecommunications equipment.  Major suppliers--US ($12.5 billion), 
Japan, Germany, UK, China, New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore.
Official exchange rate:  The Australian dollar floats freely.  Over the 
period January-May 1996 the Australian dollar traded between 
US$0.73 to US$0.80.
Fiscal year:  July 1-June 30.

International Affiliations

UN and most of its specialized and related agencies, including the UN 
Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Food and 
Agricultural Organization (FAO), General Agreement on Tariffs and 
Trade (GATT); Organization of Economic Cooperation and 
Development (OECD);  Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum 
(APEC); Asian Development Bank (ADB); Economic and Social 
Council for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Australia-New Zealand-US 
alliance (ANZUS); Commonwealth; Colombo Plan; International 
Energy Agency (IEA); the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Group.

PEOPLE

Australia's aboriginal inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people generally 
referred to as Australoids or Aborigines, arrived about 40,000 years 
ago.  Although their technical culture remained static-- depending on 
wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons--their spiritual and social life 
was highly complex.  Most spoke several languages, and confederacies 
sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups.  Aboriginal 
population density ranged from 1 person per square mile along the 
coasts to 1 person per 35 square miles in the arid interior.  Food 
procurement was usually a matter for the nuclear family and was very 
demanding, since there was little large game and they had no 
agriculture.

Australia may have been sighted by Portuguese sailors in 1601, and 
Captain Cook claimed it for the United Kingdom in 1770.  At that time, 
the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 
tribes speaking many different languages.  The aboriginal population 
currently numbers about 230,000, representing about 1.2% of the 
population. Since the end of World War II, efforts have been made 
both by the government and by the public to be more responsive to 
aboriginal rights and needs.

Today, tribal aborigines lead a settled traditional life in remote areas of 
northern, central, and western Australia.  In the south, where most 
aborigines are of mixed descent, movement to the cities is increasing.

Immigration has been essential to Australia's development since the 
beginning of European settlement in 1788.  For generations most 
settlers came from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still 
predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook 
similar to those of Americans.  However, since the end of World War 
II, the population has more than doubled; non-European immigration, 
mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, has increased 
significantly since 1960 through an extensive, planned immigration 
program.  From 1945 through 1990, nearly 5 million immigrants 
settled in Australia, and about 80% have remained; one of every five 
Australians is foreign-born.  Britain and Ireland have been the largest 
sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, Greece, and 
Yugoslavia.  

The 1970s saw progressive reductions in the size of the annual 
immigration program due to economic and employment conditions; in 
1969-70, 185,000 persons were permitted to settle, but by 1985-86 the 
number had dropped to 84,000.  In 1995 Australia accepted about 
76,500 regular immigrants.  In addition, during the last decade about 
20,000 New Zealanders have settled in Australia each year.  

Australia's refugee admissions of about 13,000 per year are in addition 
to the normal immigration program.  Forty percent  are from Indochina 
and make up the largest single element in Australia's refugee program 
in recent years.  Since 1975, the country has accepted more than 
125,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia; it now has, on a 
per capita basis, more Indochinese refugees as permanent residents 
than any other country.

Although Australia has scarcely more than two persons per square 
kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries.  Fewer than 
15% of the population live in rural areas.

Cultural Achievements

Much of Australia's culture is derived from European roots, but 
distinctive Australian features have evolved from the environment, 
aboriginal culture, and the influence of Australia's neighbors.  The 
vigor and originality of the arts in Australia--films, opera, music, 
painting, theater, dance, and crafts--are achieving international 
recognition.

Australia has had a significant school of painting since the early days 
of European settlement, and Australians with international reputations 
include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, and Arthur Boyd.  Writers 
who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, 
Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, and 
Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.  Australian movies have become 
well known in recent years as well.

HISTORY

Australia was uninhabited before stone culture peoples arrived, perhaps 
by boat across the waters separating the island from the Indonesia 
archipelago about 40,000 years ago.  Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and 
English explorers observed the island before 1770, when Capt. James 
Cook explored the east coast and claimed it for Great Britain (three 
American colonists were crew members aboard Cook's ship, the 
Endeavor).  On January 26, 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day), 
the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney, and 
formal proclamation of the establishment of the Colony of New South 
Wales followed on February 7.  Many, but by no means all, of the first 
settlers were convicts, condemned for offenses that today would often 
be thought trivial.  The mid-19th century saw the beginning of 
government policies to emancipate convicts and assist the immigration 
of free persons.  The discovery of gold in 1851 led to increased 
population, wealth, and trade.

The six colonies that now constitute the states of the Australian 
Commonwealth were established in the following order: New South 
Wales, 1788; Tasmania, 1825;  Western Australia, 1830; South 
Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and Queensland, 1859.

Settlement had preceded these dates in most cases.  Discussions 
between Australian and British representatives led to adoption by the 
British Government of an act to constitute the Commonwealth of 
Australia in 1900.

The first federal Parliament was opened at Melbourne in May 1901 by 
the Duke of York (later King George V).  In May 1927, the seat of 
government was transferred to Canberra, a planned city designed by an 
American, Walter Burley Griffin, and the first session of Parliament in 
that city was opened by another Duke of York (later King George VI).  
Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 
9, 1942, which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in 
both internal and external affairs.  Its passage formalized a situation 
that had existed for years.  The Australia Act (1986) eliminated the last 
vestiges of British legal authority.

GOVERNMENT

The Commonwealth government was created with a constitution 
patterned partly on the US Constitution.  The powers of the 
Commonwealth are specifically defined in the constitution, and the 
residual powers remain with the states.

Australia is an independent nation within the Commonwealth.  Queen 
Elizabeth II is the sovereign and since 1973 has been officially styled 
"Queen of Australia."  The Queen is represented throughout Australia 
by a governor general and in each state by a governor. 

The federal Parliament is bicameral, consisting of a Senate and a House 
of Representatives.  Twelve senators from each state and two from 
each territory are elected for 6-year terms, with half elected every 3 
years.  The 148 members of the House of Representatives are allocated 
among the states and territories roughly in proportion to population.  In 
ordinary legislation, the two chambers have coordinate powers, but all 
proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing taxes must be 
introduced in the House of Representatives.  Under the prevailing 
Westminster parliamentary system, the leader of the political party or 
coalition of parties that wins a majority of the seats in the House of 
Representatives is named prime minister.  The prime minister and the 
cabinet wield actual power and are responsible to the Parliament, of 
which they must be elected members.  General elections are held at 
least once every 3 years; the last general election was in March 1996.

Each state is headed by a premier, who is the leader of the party with a 
majority or a working minority in the lower house of the state 
legislature.  Australia also has two self-governing territories, the 
Australian Capital Territory (where Canberra is located) and the 
Northern Territory, with political systems similar to those of the states.

At the apex of the court system is the High Court of Australia.  It has 
general appellate jurisdiction over all other federal and state courts and 
possesses the power of constitutional review.

Principal Government Officials

Governor General--Sir William Deane
Prime Minister--John W. Howard
Foreign Minister--Alexander Downer
Ambassador to the United States--John McCarthy
Ambassador to the United Nations--Richard W. Butler

Australia maintains an embassy  in the United States at 1601 
Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-797-
3000), and consulates general in New York (212-408-8400), San 
Francisco (415-362-6160), Honolulu (808-524-5050), Los Angeles 
(310-229-4800), Atlanta (404-880-1700) and Houston (713-629-9131).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Three political parties dominate the center of the Australian political 
spectrum:  the Liberal Party (LP), nominally representing urban 
business-related groups; the National Party (NP), nominally 
representing rural interests; and the Australian Labor Party (ALP), 
nominally representing the trade unions and liberal groups.  Although 
embracing some leftists, the ALP traditionally has been moderately 
socialist in its policies and approaches to social issues.  All political 
groups are tied by tradition to turn-of-the-century domestic welfare 
policies, which have kept Australia in the forefront of societies offering 
extensive social welfare programs.  There is strong bipartisan sentiment 
on many international issues, including Australia's commitment to its 
alliance with the United States.

The Liberal Party/National Party Coalition came to power in a 
sweeping victory in March 1996 behind John Howard, defeating the 
Australian Labor Party which had been in office for 13 years.  The 
Liberal Party holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives, the 
National Party 18 seats, the ALP 49, and there are five independents.

When the new Senate takes office on July 1, 1996 the Liberal Party 
will have 31 seats of the 76 seats, the Australian Labor Party 29, the 
National Party 6, the Australian Democrats 7, the Greens 2 and there 
will be 1 independent..  Thus, the Liberal Party/National Party 
Coalition will be 3 seats short of a majority in the Senate.  This could 
be crucial because the Australian Democrats, who hold the balance of 
power in the Senate, have indicated that they will block important 
legislation that the Coalition is determined to pass.  In addition, 
budgetary legislation, while originating in the House, must be approved 
by the Senate.  In 1975 repeated refusal by the Liberal/National 
opposition in the Senate to approve the budget in 1975 led to 
dissolution of the then-Labor government by the Governor-General.  If 
the Government is unable to pass its legislation through the Senate, it 
can ask the Governor General for a "double dissolution," under which 
the entire parliament is dissolved and all members must stand for 
reelection at the same time.  The new government can then convene a 
combined session of both Houses of Parliament to pass legislation.

ECONOMY

Historically, the Australian economy has consisted of export-oriented 
agricultural and mining sectors coupled with a  diversified 
manufacturing/service sector dedicated to domestic requirements.  That 
pattern is changing slowly.  In 1993-94, 61% of all Australian exports 
were primary agricultural or mineral products, down from 67% in 
1989-90.  Still, the Australian economy and balance of payments are 
strongly influenced by world prices for primary products.

Australia has immense mineral and energy resources.  It is one of the 
world's leading producers and exporters of aluminum, alumina, 
bauxite, cobalt, copper, industrial diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, 
nickel, silver, and uranium.  In addition, abundant supplies of coal, 
natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, and uranium make Australia a net 
exporter of energy products.

The manufacturing sector has been limited by Australia's small 
domestic market and labor force and relatively high labor costs fostered 
by strong unions.  A broad-based manufacturing sector was developed, 
nonetheless, partly due to an extensive range of tariffs and other 
protective measures.  The trade barriers that insulated domestic 
industry from foreign competition are, today, seen as having restrained 
the growth of industrial modernization and productivity.   Since 1984, 
the government has moved to reduce or eliminate tariffs and sectoral-
assistance measures.  More recent macroeconomic reforms have 
boosted economic diversification, export orientation, and the 
manufacturing industries.  Exports of elaborately transformed products 
are growing faster than any other category of exports and 
manufactures' share of total exports is increasing.

When it floated the Australian dollar and allowed it to fall dramatically 
from 1984 to 1987, the government began the process of making the 
manufacturing sector more competitive with imports and more capable 
of exporting overseas.  Corporate taxes were significantly reduced, and 
the unions agreed to gradual reductions in real wages.  With industry 
thus strengthened, protective barriers began to be dismantled.  The 
financial sector was liberalized and exposed to international 
competition.  In 1988, the government embarked on a 5-year program 
to reduce tariffs to maximum levels of 10% and, in some cases, 15%.  
A statement of government industrial policy in March 1991 extended 
this tariff reduction program into the late 1990s.  By 1996, most tariffs 
are to be reduced to 5 percent.

Foreign investment has been vital in the development of Australian 
ranching, transport, and manufacturing.  The Australian government 
welcomes foreign investment congenial to the Australian community, 
particularly if it is for export-oriented industries and creates 
employment opportunities.  Some restrictions on foreign ownership 
exist for the media, civil aviation, mining, and certain kinds of real 
estate.  In 1995, cumulative US investment in Australia totaled more 
than $65 billion and accounted for 21% of total foreign investment.

Australia suffered a significant recession in 1990/91, followed by a 
period of rapid growth over 1992-94.  Real GDP growth slowed to 
3.1% in 1995, but is expected to approach 4% over 1996.  Inflation, 
which reached 5.1% during the recovery has now fallen below 4%.  
Unemployment continues to hover above 8%, due to stagnant 
economic growth.  The government's projected budget deficit for FY 
1996-97 is estimated to be $6 billion; however, the new government 
has committed itself to enough public sector spending cuts to deliver a 
balanced budget for FY 1996-97.  The current account deficit for FY 
1995-96 is forecast to be around $16 billion (4.2% of GDP), down 
from $20 billion in FY 1994-95 (5.9% of GDP).  The fall in Australia's 
trade deficit can mainly be attributed to the effects of slower economic 
growth during 1995 on imports, and to the increase in exports from the 
farm sector after the breaking of the drought.  Australia's gross external 
debt ($137.5 billion in 1995) is high, but easily serviced by export 
earnings.

Over the long term, Australia's economic prospects generally are 
bright.  The successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round of 
trade liberalization negotiations should boost overall economic activity, 
exports, and employment.  In addition, the integration of the Australian 
economy into the rapidly growing Asia/Pacific region, and increasing 
emphasis on using the Asia and the Pacific Economic Cooperation 
(APEC) forum to advance regional economic liberalization, should 
boost future growth.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Australia has been active in international affairs since World War II.  
Its first major independent foreign policy action was to conclude an 
agreement in 1944 with New Zealand dealing with the security, 
welfare, and advancement of the people of the independent territories 
of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact).  After the war, Australia played a role 
in the Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported Indonesian 
independence during that country's revolt against the Dutch (1945-49).  
Australia was one of the founders of both the United Nations and the 
South Pacific Commission (1947), and in 1950, it proposed the 
Colombo Plan to assist developing countries in Asia.  In addition to 
contributing to UN forces in Korea (it was the first country to announce 
it would do so after the United States), Australia sent troops to assist in 
putting down the communist revolt in Malaya in 1948-60 and later to 
combat the Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak in 1963-65.  
Australia  also sent troops to assist South Vietnamese and US forces in 
Vietnam and joined coalition forces in the Persain Gulf conflict in 
1991.  Australia has been active in the Australia-New Zealand-UK 
agreement and the Five-Power Defense Arrangement, successive 
arrangements with Britain and New Zealand to ensure the security of 
Singapore and Malaysia.

One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm support 
to the United Nations and its specialized agencies.  It was a member of 
the Security Council in 1986-87, a member of the Economic and Social 
Council for 1986-89, and currently is a member of the UN Human 
Rights Commission.  Australia takes a prominent part in many other 
UN activities, including peacekeeping, disarmament negotiations, and 
narcotics control.  Australia also is active in meetings of the 
Commonwealth Regional Heads of Government and the South Pacific 
Forum, and has been a leader in the Cairns Group (countries pressing 
for agricultural trade reform in the Uruguay Round of the General 
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations) and in the Asia-
Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between 
developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the countries of 
the Association of South East Asian Nations--Indonesia, Singapore, 
Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei--and the island states 
of the South Pacific.  Australia has a large bilateral aid program (about 
$1.2 billion for 1995-96, mostly in the form of grants) under which 
some 80 countries receive assistance.  Papua New Guinea, a former 
Australian trust territory, is the largest recipient of Australian 
assistance. 

ANZUS AND DEFENSE

The Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) security treaty 
was concluded at San Francisco on September 1, 1951, and entered 
into force on April 29, 1952.  The treaty bound the signatories to 
recognize that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of them would 
endanger the peace and safety of the others.  It committed them to 
consult in the event of threat and, in the event of attack, to meet the 
common danger in accordance with their respective constitutional 
processes.  The three nations also pledged to maintain and develop 
individual and collective capabilities to resist attack.

In 1985, the nature of the ANZUS alliance changed after the 
government of New Zealand refused access to its ports by nuclear-
weapons-capable and nuclear-powered ships of the US Navy.  The 
United States suspended defense obligations to New Zealand, and 
annual bilateral meetings between the US Secretary of State and the 
Australian Foreign Minister replaced annual meetings of the ANZUS 
Council of Foreign Ministers.  The first bilateral meeting was held in 
Canberra in 1985.  At the second, in San Francisco in 1986, the United 
States and Australia announced that the United States was suspending 
its treaty security obligations to New Zealand pending the restoration 
of port access.  Subsequent bilateral ministerial meetings have 
alternated between Australia and the United States.

The US-Australia alliance under the ANZUS treaty remains in full 
force.  Defense ministers of one or both nations often have joined the 
annual ministerial meetings, which are supplemented by consultations 
between the US Commander in Chief Pacific and the Australian Chief 
of Defense Force.  There also are regular civilian and military 
consultations between the two governments at lower levels.

Unlike NATO, ANZUS has no integrated defense structure or 
dedicated forces.  However, in fulfillment of ANZUS obligations, 
Australia and the United States conduct a variety of joint activities.  
These include military exercises ranging from naval and landing 
exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level special forces 
training, assigning officers to each other's armed services, and 
standardizing, where possible, equipment and operational doctrine.  
The two countries also operate several joint defense facilities in 
Australia.

The Australian Defense Force numbers about 58,000 persons on active 
duty.  Personnel strength is 26,000 in the Army, 14,000 in the Navy, 
and 18,000 in the Air Force.  Another 21,000 are involved in support, 
development, and command activities.  The Royal Australian Navy's 
front-line fleet currently comprises three guided-missile destroyers, six 
guided-missile frigates, three destroyer escorts, and five Oberon-class 
submarines.  The F/A-18 fighter, built in Australia under license from 
the manufacturer, is the principal combat aircraft of the Royal 
Australian Air Force.

US-AUSTRALIAN RELATIONS

The World War II experience, similarities in culture and historical 
background, and shared democratic values have made US relations 
with Australia exceptionally close.  Ties linking the two nations cover 
the entire spectrum of international relations, from commercial and 
cultural contacts to political and defense cooperation.  Traditional 
friendship is reinforced by the wide range of common interests and 
similar views on most major international questions.  For example, 
both countries called for the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from 
Afghanistan; both sent military forces to the Persian Gulf in support of 
UN Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq's occupation of 
Kuwait; and both attach high priority to controlling and eventually 
eliminating chemical weapons.  The Australian government and 
opposition share the view that Australia's security depends on firm ties 
with the United States, and the ANZUS treaty enjoys broad bipartisan 
support.

Frictions sometimes arise in trade relations.  In recent years, the 
Australians have protested what they consider US protectionist barriers 
against their exports of wool, meat, dairy products, lead, zinc, and 
uranium.  At various times, Australia has expressed concern about the 
spillover effect on world trade of US inflation, government deficits, 
and agricultural export subsidies.  Multilaterally, Australia and the 
United States work together very closely in the new World Trade 
Organization for the elimination of subsidies and import barriers in 
world agricultural markets.  In addition, both are active members of the 
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

A number of US institutions conduct scientific activities in Australia 
because of its geographical position, large land mass, advanced 
technology, and, above all, the ready cooperation of its government 
and scientists.  The U.S. and Australia have been discussing a new 
science and technology agreement to replace one which dates back to 
1968.  Under a separate agreement concluded in the same year, and 
since renewed, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
maintains in Australia its largest and most important program outside 
the United States, including a number of tracking facilities vital to the 
US space program.

Principal US Officials

Ambassador--Edward J. Perkins
Deputy Chief of Mission--Kaarn J. Weaver
Economic Counselor--Ralph R. Moore
Political Counselor--Roger McGuire
Administrative Counselor--Marshall F. Atkins
Public Affairs Officer--Sheila W. Austrian
Defense and Air Attache and Representative of the Commander in 
Chief Pacific--Col. Stephen E. Barneyback, USAF
Agricultural Counselor--James A. Truran
Senior Commercial Officer--John. M. Bligh (resident in Sydney)

The US Embassy in Australia is located at Moonah Place, Yarralumla, 
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600 (tel.  6-270-5000; fax 6-
270-5970).  Consulates General are in Sydney (tel. 2-373-9200; fax 2-
373-9107), Melbourne (tel. 3-9526-5900; fax 3-9510-4646), and Perth 
(tel. 9-231-9400; fax. 9-231-9444). 

Travel Notes

Climate and clothing:  Most of southern Australia has warm summers 
and mild winters (seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern 
Hemisphere).  Light-weight clothing can be worn year-round except in 
the more temperate regions during winter; warmer clothes and an 
overcoat are then required.

Customs and Visas: In general, when visitors arrive in Australia they 
must present a visitor's visa (usually valid for multiple entries within 5 
years of issue or until passport expires) and a return or onward-passage 
ticket.  Stays of 6 months per entry may be permitted.  The U.S. and 
Australia are discussing approval of a de facto reciprocal visa-waiver 
program.  If approved, Americans might be able to travel as early as 
late 1996 to Australia for 3 months or less for business or pleasure 
without a visa.

Immunizations are not usually required for travelers when arriving 
directly from the United States, New Zealand, or Europe.  Health 
requirements change; before departure, check with an airline ticket 
office, the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC, or the nearest 
Australian consulate general.

No restrictions are placed on bringing US dollars into or out of 
Australia.  No more than 5,000 Australian dollars in Australian 
currency notes may be taken out.  Letters of credit, travelers checks, 
and US currency are freely negotiable.  A tourist's personal property 
generally is exempt from customs duty.  Pets are allowed entry only 
after long periods of quarantine outside Australia, if at all.

Health: Australia has no unusual health problems or serious endemic 
diseases, and no special health precautions are necessary for tourists.  
Hospitals are modern.

Telecommunications: Reliable international telephone, telegraph, telex, 
and postal services are available.
Tourist attractions: Australians are great sports enthusiasts. Horse 
racing, cricket, tennis, rugby, and Australian football attract large 
crowds.  The Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race commences December 26; 
the yachting armada streaming out the majestic Heads of Sydney 
Harbor is a magnificent sight.  Surfing carnivals are staged by Surf Life 
Saving Associations on summer weekends in many parts of Australia.  
Melbourne is renowned for fine race and golf courses and for its Royal 
Botanical Garden.  Sites of interest include the National Museum 
(natural history) and the Old Melbourne Gaol and Penal Museum--a 
prison built in 1841, with relics from the more colorful chapters of 
Australian history.

In Sydney, favorite attractions are the tour of its breathtaking harbor; 
the Sydney Opera House, with its striking architecture; the Rocks area, 
often referred to as "the cradle of Sydney;" and the Taronga Park Zoo.  
The Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, is renowned as 
well.

Time zones:  Australia has three time zones.  When the US east coast is 
on daylight saving time, the Australian east coast is 14 hours ahead, 
i.e., 6 p.m. eastern daylight time is 8 a.m. the next day on the 
Australian east coast.  When the US resumes standard time and 
Australia assumed daylight savings time, the difference generally 
becomes 16 hours. 

National holidays: New Year's Day, Australia Day (Jan. 26 or the first 
Monday after that date), Good Friday, Easter Monday, ANZAC Day 
(April 25), Queen's Birthday (second Monday in June), Christmas Day, 
Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

Further Information

Available from the Superintendent of Documents, US Government 
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402:

American University.  Area Handbook for Australia.  

For information on foreign economic trends, commercial development, 
production, trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the International 
Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, 
DC 20230.  This information also is available from any Commerce 
Department district office.


===========================================
DEPARTMENT OF STATE'S WORLD WIDE WEB SITE

The most current Background Notes information 
can be found on the Department of Stateās 
World Wide Web site at http://www.state.gov
===========================================
(###)
Return to East Asia and the Pacific Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage