Australia (11/24/10)

November 24, 2010

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Area: 7.7 million sq. km. (3 million sq. mi.); about the size of the 48 contiguous United States.
Cities (2009): Capital--Canberra (pop. 351,000). Other cities--Sydney (4.5 million), Melbourne (3.9 million), Brisbane (2 million), Perth (1.6 million), Adelaide (1.2 million), Darwin (124,000), Hobart (212,000).
Terrain: Varied, but generally low-lying.
Climate: Relatively dry and subject to drought, ranging from temperate in the south to tropical in the far north.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Australian(s).
Population (May 2010 est.): 22.3 million.
Annual population growth rate: 2.1%.
Religions (2006 census): Catholic 26%, Anglican 19%, other Christian 19%, other non-Christian 1%, Buddhist 2.1%, Islam 1.7%, no religion 19%, and not stated 12%.
Languages: English.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16 in all states and territories except New South Wales and the Northern Territory where it is 15, and Western Australia where it is 17. Literacy--over 99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--4.7/1,000. Life expectancy--males 78.7 yrs., females 83.5 yrs.
Work force (10.8 million): Agriculture, fishing and forestry--3.25%; mining--1.6%; manufacturing--9.1%; retail trade--10.7%; public administration, defense, and safety--6.2%; construction--9%.

Type: Constitutional monarchy: democratic, federal-state system.
Constitution: Passed by the British Parliament on July 9, 1900.
Independence (federation): January 1, 1901.
Branches: Executive--Queen Elizabeth II (head of state, represented by a governor general); the monarch appoints the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. Legislative--bicameral Parliament (76-member Senate, 150-member House of Representatives). The governor general appoints the prime minister (generally the leader of the party which holds the majority in the House of Representatives) and appoints ministers on the advice of the prime minister. Judicial--independent judiciary.
Administrative subdivisions: Six states and two territories.
Political parties: Australian Labor, Liberal, the Greens, the Nationals, and Family First.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory 18 and over.
Central government budget (revenue): FY 2008-2009 A$298.9 billion (U.S. $269 billion); FY 2009-2010 A$294.2 billion (U.S. $264.8 billion); FY 2010-2011 (estimate): $A321.8 billion (U.S. $290 billion).
Defense: A$25.7 billion (U.S. $23.13 billion) or approx. 2% of GDP for FY 2010-2011.

GDP (2009-2010 estimate): A$1.2 trillion (U.S. $1.1 trillion).
Inflation rate (year to March 2010): 2.9% per year.
Reserve Bank official interest rate (May 2010): 4.5%.
Trade: Exports ($176.7 billion, 2009 estimate)--coal, iron ore, gold, meat, wool, alumina, wheat, machinery and transport equipment. Major markets--China, Japan, South Korea, India, U.S. ($8.7 billion), and U.K. Imports ($180.5 billion, 2009 estimate)--machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, telecommunication equipment and parts; crude oil and petroleum products. Major suppliers--China, United States ($20.05 billion), Japan, Thailand, and Singapore.
Exchange rate (2010): U.S. $1 = A$1.11 (average for 2010 of A$1 = U.S. $0.90).

Australia's indigenous inhabitants, a hunting-gathering people collectively referred to today as Aboriginals and Torres Straits Islanders, arrived more than 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. Indigenous population density ranged from one person per square mile along the coasts to one person per 35 square miles in the arid interior. When Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain in 1770, the native population may have numbered 300,000 in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. In 2006 the indigenous population was approximately 517,200, representing about 2.5% of the population. Since the end of World War II, the government and the public have made efforts to be more responsive to aboriginal rights and needs, most recently with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's historic apology to the indigenous people in February 2008 which included a pledge “to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.”

Immigration has been vital 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. Non-British/Irish immigration has increased significantly since World War II through an extensive, planned immigration program. Since 1945, 7 million migrants have settled in Australia, including 700,000 refugee and humanitarian entrants. About 80% have remained; 24%--almost one in four--of Australians are foreign-born. Britain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia were the largest sources of post-war immigration. In the year to June 2009, New Zealand was the largest source country for permanent migrants to Australia, with Britain, India, China, and the Philippines making up the rest of the top five. Australia's humanitarian and refugee program of about 13,000 per year is in addition to other immigration programs. In recent years, refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia have comprised the largest element in Australia's refugee program.

Although Australia has fewer than three people per square kilometer, it is one of the world's most urbanized countries. Less than 2.5% of the population lives in remote or very remote 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--film, opera, music, painting, theater, dance, and crafts--have achieved international recognition.

Australian actors and comedians such as Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Rachel Griffiths, Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, the late Heath Ledger, Simon Baker, and Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) have achieved enormous popularity in the United States. Directors such as Peter Weir, Philip Noyes, and Russell Mulcahy, the conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, and singers and musicians such as Olivia Newton-John, The Wiggles, AC/DC, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Nellie Melba, and Kylie Minogue are well known.

Australian artists with international reputations include Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Pro Hart, and Arthur Boyd. Writers who have achieved world recognition include Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute, Morris West, Jill Ker Conway, Peter Carey, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick White.

In sports, Australian athletes are internationally renowned, particularly in swimming, diving, cricket, netball, tennis, rugby, rugby league, and golf. Australia's share of Olympic medals and world titles is larger than its share of the world's population.

Australia was uninhabited until stone-culture peoples arrived, perhaps by boat across the waters separating the island from the Indonesia archipelago more than 40,000 years ago. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English explorers observed the island before 1770, when Captain Cook explored the east coast and claimed it for Great Britain. (Three American colonists were crew members aboard Cook's ship, the Endeavour).

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 of the first settlers were convicts, some condemned for offenses that today would often be thought trivial. From the mid-19th century convict transportation to Australia significantly declined; the last ship to arrive was in 1868. 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, 1829; South Australia, 1836; Victoria, 1851; and Queensland, 1859. Settlement 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, effective January 1, 1901. In 1911, control of the Northern Territory was transferred from South Australia to the Commonwealth. Also that year, the Australian Capital Territory (where the national capital, Canberra, is located), was established. The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory were granted self-government in 1978 and 1988, respectively.

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 city designed by American Walter Burley Griffin. The first session of Parliament in Canberra was opened by another Duke of York (later King George VI). Australia passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act on October 9, 1942 (with effect as of September 3, 1939), which officially established Australia's complete autonomy in both internal and external affairs and formalized a situation that had existed for years. The Australia Act (effective March 3, 1986) eliminated almost all remaining vestiges of British legal authority, including the ability to appeal to the British Privy Council. "Advance Australia Fair" was adopted as the national anthem in 1984.

The Commonwealth government is a constitutional monarchy with a Constitution patterned partly on the U.S. Constitution, although it does not include a "bill of rights." Powers of the Commonwealth are specifically defined in the Constitution, and the residual powers remain with the states. Proposed changes to the Constitution must be approved by the Parliament and the people, via referendum.

Australia is an independent nation within the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and since 1973 has been officially styled "Queen of Australia." The Queen is represented federally by a governor general and in each state by a governor. By convention, the governor general generally acts on the advice of the prime minister and other ministers. However the governor general has "reserve powers," including the power to dismiss ministers, last exercised in 1975.

The federal Parliament is bicameral, consisting of a 76-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. Twelve senators from each state are elected for 6-year terms, with half elected every 3 years. Each territory has two senators who are elected for 3-year terms, concurrent with that of the House. Seats in the House of Representatives are allocated among the states and territories roughly in proportion to population. The two chambers have equal powers, except 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 becomes 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.

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. (Queensland is an exception, with a unicameral parliament.) Australia's two self-governing territories have political systems similar to those of the states, but with unicameral assemblies. Each territory is headed by a chief minister who is the leader of the party with a majority or a working minority in the territory's legislature. More than 670 local councils assist in the delivery of services such as road maintenance, sewage treatment, and the provision of recreational facilities.

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--Quentin Bryce
Prime Minister--Julia Gillard
Deputy Prime Minister--Wayne Swan
Treasurer--Wayne Swan
Foreign Minister--Kevin Rudd
Defense Minister--Stephen Smith
Trade Minister--Craig Emerson
Ambassador to the United States--Kim Beazley
Ambassador to the United Nations--Gary Quinlan

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 (212-351-6500), San Francisco (415-536-1970), Honolulu (808-524-5050), Los Angeles (310-229-4800), Chicago (312-419-1480) and Atlanta (404-760-3400).

Three political parties dominate the center of the Australian political spectrum. The Liberal Party (LP), nominally representing urban business interests, and its smaller coalition partner, the Nationals, nominally representing rural interests, are the more conservative parties. The Australian Labor Party nominally represents workers, trade unions, and left-of-center groups. While the Australian Labor Party, founded by labor unions, traditionally had been moderately socialist in its policies and approaches to social issues, today it is best described as a social democratic party. There is strong bipartisan sentiment on many international issues, including Australia's commitment to its alliance with the United States.

Julia Gillard first assumed the office of Prime Minister in June 2010 after Kevin Rudd lost the confidence of the Australian Labor Party because of declining poll numbers and a sense of poor implementation of government programs. Gillard called for an early election after only a month as Prime Minister.

The August 21, 2010, federal election resulted in a hung parliament, with neither the Labor Party, under the leadership of Gillard, nor the Liberal/National Coalition, led by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, holding enough seats to form a government. The resurgent Coalition gained 8 seats from where it stood after the 2007 election, while the Labor Party lost 11 seats. After the election the Labor Party was able to secure the support of the Greens Party Member of Parliament (MP) and three independent MPs to gain a majority of 76 seats. The composition of the new Senate, to be seated in July 2011, is 34 seats for the coalition, 31 for the ALP, nine for the Greens, one for the Democratic Labor Party, and one independent. By gaining four seats the Greens now hold key swing votes and greater influence in the Senate.

Gillard is expected to pursue her campaign promises to build a national broadband network and make progress in addressing climate change. The Australian Government’s foreign policy shows strong continuity with that of its predecessors. Gillard has consistently stressed the importance of Australia’s relations with the U.S. and U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. Her government is committed to Australia’s role in Afghanistan, where it currently has about 1,550 troops.

Australia's economy is dominated by its services sector, yet it is the agricultural and mining sectors that account for the bulk of Australia's exports. Australia's comparative advantage in the export of primary products is a reflection of the natural wealth of the Australian continent and its small domestic market; 22 million people occupy a continent the size of the contiguous United States. The relative size of the manufacturing sector has been declining for several decades, but has now steadied at around 8.5% of GDP. The global recovery is putting upward pressure on prices for Australia's commodity exports, which is expected to cause a substantial rise in the terms of trade in 2010. The terms of trade were expected to rebound by around 25% by mid‑2010, injecting $30 billion into the economy and helping to reinvigorate the mining sector and economic activity more generally.

Since the 1980s, Australia has undertaken significant structural reform of its economy and has transformed itself from an inward-looking, highly protected, and regulated marketplace to an open, internationally competitive, export-oriented economy. Key economic reforms included unilaterally reducing high tariffs and other protective barriers to free trade, floating the Australian dollar, deregulating the financial services sector, including liberalizing access for foreign banks, increasing flexibility in the labor market, reducing duplication and increasing efficiency between the federal and state branches of government, privatizing many government-owned monopolies, and reforming the taxation system, including introducing a broad-based Goods and Services Tax (GST) and large reductions in income tax rates.

Australia enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the G7. Australia's economic standing in the world is a result of a commitment to best-practice macroeconomic policy settings, including the delegation of the conduct of monetary policy to the independent Reserve Bank of Australia, and a broad acceptance of prudent fiscal policy where the government aims for fiscal balance over the economic cycle. Economic recovery is strengthening, with GDP forecast to grow by 3.25% in 2010‑2011 and 4% in 2011‑2012, leading to further reductions in the unemployment rate. The success of monetary and fiscal stimulus will help the budget return to surplus in 2012‑2013, 3 years ahead of schedule. Net debt is expected to peak at 6.1% of GDP in 2011‑2012, considerably below the previous forecast of 9.6% of GDP.

The unemployment rate was expected to fall from its early-2010 level of 5.3%, down to 5% in late 2010‑2011, and 4.75% in late 2011‑2012, around levels consistent with full employment. Labor market participation has remained at around 65%. Both the federal and state governments have recognized the need to invest heavily in water, transport, ports, telecommunications, and education infrastructure to expand Australia's supply capacity. The largest river system in Australia, the Murray-Darling, and related coastal lakes and wetlands in South Australia are critically threatened, and the government has developed a plan to improve irrigation infrastructure and efficiency and buy back unused water allocations along the river.

A second significant issue is climate change. A report commissioned by then-Prime Minister John Howard recommended a domestic carbon emissions trading scheme and that Australia take an active role in developing a future global carbon emissions trading system. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had planned to introduce a domestic carbon trading system by 2011 to reduce emissions by 5% from 2000 levels by 2020. However, the Rudd government later deferred legislation establishing an emissions trading scheme until 2013, at the earliest.

The Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) entered into force on January 1, 2005. The AUSFTA was the first FTA the United States concluded with a developed economy since the U.S.-Canada FTA in 1988. Australia also has FTAs with New Zealand-ASEAN, Singapore, Thailand, and Chile, and is pursuing other FTAs, including with China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea. A burgeoning trade relationship marked by ongoing, multi-billion dollar resource export contracts and rising manufactured imports has driven FTA negotiations with China.

Australia has been an active participant in international affairs since federation in 1901, and Australian forces have fought beside the United States and other Allies in every significant conflict since World War I. On January 8, 1940, the governments of the United States and Australia announced the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. In 1944, Australia concluded an agreement with New Zealand dealing with the security, welfare, and advancement of the people of the independent territories of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact). After World War II, Australia played a role in the Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported Indonesian independence during that country's revolt against the Dutch. Australia was one of the founding members of the United Nations, the South Pacific Commission, and the Colombo Plan. 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 1948-1960 communist revolt in Malaya and later to combat the 1963-1965 Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand signed the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, which remains Australia's pre-eminent formal security treaty alliance. Australia sent troops to assist South Vietnamese and U.S. forces in Vietnam, and joined coalition forces in the Persian Gulf conflict in 1991, in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq in 2003.

Australia has been active in the Australia-New Zealand-U.K. agreement and the Five-Power Defense Arrangements--successive arrangements with Britain and New Zealand to ensure the security of Singapore and Malaysia. Australia participates in a Trilateral Security Dialogue with the United States and Japan. One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm support to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. It was last a member of the Security Council in 1985-86, a member of the Economic and Social Council for 1986-89, and a member of the UN Human Rights Commission for 1994-96 and 2003-2005. Australia is seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2013-2014. Australia takes a prominent part in many other UN activities, including peacekeeping, nonproliferation and disarmament negotiations, and narcotics control. Australia also is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Pacific Islands Forum, and has been a leader in the Cairns Group--countries pressing for agricultural trade reform in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations--and in founding the APEC forum. In 2002, Australia joined the International Criminal Court.

Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the island states of the South Pacific. Australia is an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which promotes regional cooperation on security issues, and has been a member of the East Asia Summit since its inauguration in 2005. The Rudd government argued that the Asia-Pacific area needs a regional body that addresses both security and economic issues. In September 1999, acting under a UN Security Council mandate, Australia led an international coalition to restore order in East Timor upon Indonesia's withdrawal from that territory. In 2006, Australia participated in an international peacekeeping operation in Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor). Australia led a regional mission to restore law and order in Solomon Islands in 2003 and again in 2006. Australia is part of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which also includes the United States.

The government is committed to increasing official development assistance to 0.5% of gross national income by 2015-2016. Australia budgeted $A4.35 billion (U.S. $3.9 billion) for FY 2010-2011 and $A3.82 billion (U.S. $3.4 billion) in FY 2009-2010. The Australian aid program is currently concentrated in Southeast Asia (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are the largest recipients) and the Pacific Islands. Selected aid flows are allocated to Africa, South Asia, and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq. Contributions to global programs and other expenses account for 39% of the foreign assistance budget.

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 a 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 1984, 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 U.S. Navy. The United States suspended defense obligations to New Zealand, and annual bilateral meetings between the U.S. 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. Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN) alternate between Australia and the United States. The U.S.-Australia alliance under the ANZUS Treaty remains in full force. AUSMIN meetings are supplemented by consultations between the U.S. Combatant Commander, Pacific and the Australian Chief of Defence Force. There also are regular civilian and military consultations between the two governments at lower levels.

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 to numerous smaller-scale exercises, assigning officers to each other's armed services, and standardizing, where possible, equipment and operational doctrine. The two countries operate joint defense facilities in Australia.

As a result of terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, then-Prime Minister Howard and U.S. President George W. Bush jointly invoked the ANZUS Treaty for the first time on September 14, 2001. Australia was one of the earliest participants in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) participated in coalition military action against Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Australian combat forces began their withdrawal from Iraq in mid-2008 and forces were fully removed by July 2009. Australia has approved the deployment of approximately 1,550 troops to Afghanistan and also provides significant development and capacity building assistance to the country. The Australian Army is projected to grow from 28,811 in FY 2010-2011 to 30,098 in FY 2013-2014. This will enable the establishment of two Army battalions.

The Australian Government has stated its intention to maintain its investment in future capability of the ADF. To do so, the government has committed to a 3% annual growth in real defense funding through 2018--and 2.2% annual real growth beyond--to ensure the ADF can continue to meet capability and interoperability goals. The 2010-2011 budget projects $A6.3 billion (U.S. $5.7 billion) for approximately 57,000 full-time ADF personnel, plus 6,000 new recruits. The Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) front-line fleet currently includes 12 frigates, including 4 of the Adelaide class and 8 Australian-built ANZAC class. In August 2004, Australia selected the Aegis Combat Control System for its three air warfare destroyers (AWD), which will start coming into service in 2014. In a joint venture with the U.S. Navy, Australia is upgrading its Replacement Combat System (RCS), and its associated support infrastructure, for its six Collins class submarines. The F/A-18 fighter, built in Australia under license from the U.S. manufacturer, is the principal combat aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force, backed by the U.S.-built F-111 strike aircraft. In October 2002, Australia became a Level III partner in the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. Additionally, the Australian Government signed the JSF Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development memorandum of understanding in 2006. Australia is projected to buy up to 100 JSF aircraft with deliveries starting in 2014. Australia’s first operational JSF squadron is planned to be ready for operations in 2018. The F-111 strike aircraft are scheduled to exit service by the end of 2010 and be replaced by 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters as an interim strike capability, with deliveries commencing March 2010. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) took delivery of the last aircraft in its buy of 4 Boeing C-17 strategic airlift aircraft in 2008. In addition, Boeing will provide the Commonwealth of Australia's RAAF with an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system based on the Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft as the airborne platform. Recent U.S. sales to the Australian Army include the M1A1 AIM tank, as well as Hellfire and JAVELIN munitions. Future opportunities include CH-47 helicopter replacements, navy helicopter replacements, light and medium cargo aircraft replacements, and artillery systems.

In May 2009, the Australian Government released its Defence White Paper, outlining Australia’s long-term strategic outlook. In addition to buying the JSF aircraft, the White Paper proposes to double Australia’s submarine fleet to 12, replace the ANZAC class frigates, and replace the army’s armored personnel carriers.

The U.S. and Australia signed a Defense Cooperation Treaty in Sydney in September 2007. This treaty, when implemented, will facilitate the trade of defense equipment and technology between the countries.

The World War II experience, similarities in culture and historical background, and shared democratic values have made U.S. relations with Australia exceptionally strong and close. Ties linking the two nations cover the entire spectrum of international relations--from commercial, cultural, and environmental contacts to political and defense cooperation. Two-way trade reached almost $A53 billion (U.S. $47.7 billion) in 2008-2009. Around 488,300 Americans visited Australia in the 12 months to March 2010. In September 2007, the United States and Australia signed an agreement launching a 12-month exchange student work and travel pilot program. While Australia enjoys a similar program with approximately 20 other countries, this was the first program of its kind for the United States. The pilot program will facilitate the hands-on experience of Australian and Americans working in each others' country and will deepen and enhance our bilateral relationship even further.

Traditional friendship is reinforced by the wide range of common interests and similar views on most major international questions. For example, both attach high priority to controlling and eventually eliminating chemical weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and anti-personnel landmines; and both work closely on global environmental issues such as slowing climate change and preserving coral reefs. 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. Recent Presidential visits to Australia (in 1991, 1996, 2003, and 2007), a Vice Presidential visit in February 2007, and Australian Prime Ministerial visits to the United States (in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009) have underscored the strength and closeness of the alliance.

The bilateral Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) entered into force on January 1, 2005. This comprehensive agreement, only the second FTA the U.S. had negotiated with a developed nation, substantially liberalized an already vibrant trade and investment relationship. The AUSFTA also creates a range of ongoing working groups and committees designed to explore further trade reform in the bilateral context. Both countries share a commitment to liberalizing global trade. They work together very closely in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and both are active members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

A number of U.S. 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. In 2005, a bilateral science and technology agreement was renewed. Under another agreement dating back to 1960 and since renewed, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) maintains in Australia one of its largest and most important programs outside the United States, including a number of tracking facilities vital to the U.S. space program. Indicative of the broad-ranging U.S.-Australian cooperation on other global issues, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was concluded in 1997, enhancing already close bilateral cooperation on legal and counter-narcotics issues. In 2001, the U.S. and Australia signed a new tax treaty and a bilateral social security agreement. The U.S. Studies Centre was launched in 2006 at the University of Sydney with Commonwealth funding of A$25 million (U.S. $20 million). In April 2010, Australia and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen emergency management cooperation including during bushfires, major storms, and other severe natural disasters.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Jeffrey L. Bleich
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jason P. Hyland
Consular Affairs Coordinator--Thurmond Borden (resident in Sydney)
Economic Counselor--Jonathan Fritz
Political Counselor--Nan Fife
Management Counselor--Chris R. Riche
Public Affairs Counselor--Judy A. Moon
Defense and Air Attache--Col. Gavin Ketchen, USAF
Agricultural Counselor--Grant A. Pettrie
Senior Commercial Officer--David Murphy (resident in Sydney)
Melbourne Consul-General--Michael Thurston
Sydney Consul-General--Niels Marquandt
Perth Consul-General--Aleisha Woodward

The U.S. Embassy in Australia is located at Moonah Place, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600 (tel. 61-2-6214-5600; fax 61-2-6214-5970). Consulates General are in Sydney, (address: MLC Centre, Level 59, 19-29 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000; tel. 61-2-9373-9200; fax 61-2-9373-9125); Melbourne (address: 553 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004; tel. 61-3-9526-5900; fax 61-3-9510-4646); and Perth (address: 13th Floor, 16 St. George's Terrace, Perth, WA 6000; tel. 61-8-9202-1224; fax. 61-8-9231-9444).