Government of Australia: Branches, Military, International Issues

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Australia is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. It is a member of the British Commonwealth. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Official Name: Commonwealth of Australia; conventional short form: Australia.The name Australia derives from the Latin "australis" meaning "southern"; the Australian landmass was long referred to as "Terra Australis" or the Southern Land.

Capital: Canberra: Geographic Coordinates: 35 16 S, 149 08 E.

Administrative Divisions: Six states and two territories: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia. Dependent Areas: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island.

Independence: 1 January 1901 (from the federation of UK colonies). National Holiday: Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788); ANZAC Day (commemorates the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915).

National Symbols of Australia

Flag: blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth or Federation Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; on the fly half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small, five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

National Symbols: Commonwealth Star (seven-pointed Star of Federation), golden wattle tree (Acacia pycnantha), kangaroo, emu; national colors: green, gold

National Anthem: name: Advance Australia Fair, lyrics/music: Peter Dodds McCORMICK, adopted 1984; although originally written in the late 19th century, the anthem was not used for all official occasions until 1984; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the King" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)

The well-known and much-loved bush ballad "Waltzing Matilda" is often referred to as Australia's unofficial national anthem; the original lyrics were written in 1895 by Australian poet Banjo PATERSON, and were first published as sheet music in 1903; since 2012, a Waltzing Matilda Day has been held annually on 6 April, the anniversary of the first performance of the song in 1895

Constitution and Legal System of Australia

Constitution: approved in a series of referenda from 1898 through 1900 and became law 9 July 1900, effective 1 January 1901. Amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage requires approval of a referendum bill by absolute majority vote in both houses of Parliament, approval in a referendum by a majority of voters in at least four states and in the territories, and Royal Assent; proposals that would reduce a state’s representation in either house or change a state’s boundaries require that state’s approval prior to Royal Assent; amended several times, last in 1977. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Legal System: common law system based on the English model. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

International Law Organization Participation: accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Citizenship: Citizenship by Birth: no; Citizenship by Descent Only: at least one parent must be a citizen or permanent resident of Australia; Dual Citizenship Recognized: yes; Residency Requirement for Naturalization: 4 years. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Elections and Political Parties in Australia

Voting Age: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Legislative Elections: Senate: last held on 21 May 2022 (next to be held on May 2025); House of Representatives: last held on 21 May 2022 (next to be held on May 2025)

Political Parties and Their Leaders: Australian Greens Party or The Greens led by Adam BANDT
Australian Labor Party or ALP led by Anthony ALBANESE
Liberal Party of Australia led by Peter DUTTON
The Nationals led by David LITTLEPROUD
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation or PHON or ONP led by Pauline HANSON.

Executive Branch of Australia

Chief of State: King CHARLES III (since 8 September 2022); represented by Governor General David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)

Head of Government: Prime Minister Anthony ALBANESE (since 23 May 2022). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the prime minister from among members of Parliament and sworn in by the governor general. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Executive Branch Elections and Appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the governor general. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Legislative Branch OF Australia

Australia has a bicameral Federal Parliament consisting of: A) Senate (76 seats; 12 members from each of the 6 states and 2 each from the 2 mainland territories; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 6-year terms with one-half of state membership renewed every 3 years and territory membership renewed every 3 years); and B) House of Representatives (151 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by majority preferential vote; members serve terms of up to 3 years). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Results of the Last Legislative Election for the Senate (initial results): percent of vote by party: Liberal/National coalition 32.13 percent, ALP 29.81 percent, The Greens 13.85 percent, One Nation 4.38 percent, Lambie Network .26 percent; seats by party: Liberal/National coalition 29, ALP 21, The Greens 9, One Nation 1, Lambie Network 1, undecided 14

Results of the Last Legislative Election for the House of Representatives (initial results): percent of vote by party: ALP 32.83 percent, Liberal/National coalition 35.77 percent, The Greens 11.85 percent, Katter's Australian Party 0.4 percent, Centre Alliance 0.24 percent, independents 5.52 percent; seats by party: ALP 76, Liberal/National Coalition 57, The Greens 4, Katter's Australian Party 1, Centre Alliance 1, independent 10, undecided 2

Judicial Branch of Australia

Highest Court: High Court of Australia (consists of 7 justices, including the chief justice); note: each of the 6 states, 2 territories, and Norfolk Island has a Supreme Court; the High Court is the final appellate court beyond the state and territory supreme courts. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Judge Selection and Term of Office for the Highest Court: justices appointed by the governor-general in council for life with mandatory retirement at age 70.

Subordinate Courts: at the federal level: Federal Court; Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia; at the state and territory level: Local Court: New South Wales; Magistrates' Courts – Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory; District Courts – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia; County Court – Victoria; Family Court – Western Australia; Court of Petty Sessions – Norfolk Island

Government Spending, Taxes and Revenues

Government Budget: revenues: $479.33 billion (2019 estimate)
expenditures: $532.579 billion (2019 estimate)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) -0.5 percent (of GDP) (2017 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 60. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Public Debt: 69.41 percent of GDP (2020 estimate)
60.25 percent of GDP (2019 estimate)
54.49 percent of GDP (2018 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 61. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Taxes: 22.61 percent (of GDP) (2020 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 66. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military of Australia

Military and Security Forces: Australian Defense Force (ADF): Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force (2023). The Army includes a Special Operations Command, while the Navy includes a Naval Aviation Force. The Australian Federal Police is an independent agency of the Attorney-General’s Department; it, along with state and territorial police forces are responsible for internal security; the Australian Border Force is under the Department of Home Affairs. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

The ADF is an experienced and professional force equipped with modern weapons; its missions include protecting Australia’s borders and maritime interests, responding to domestic natural disasters, and deploying overseas for humanitarian, peacekeeping, and other security-related missions; it trains regularly and participates in international exercises; the Army’s principal combat forces include a divisional headquarters with 3 mechanized brigades and a special operations command; the Navy operates over 40 surface craft and submarines, including 11 destroyers and frigates, 2 landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious assault ships, and 6 attack-type submarines; the RAF has an air combat group with more than 140 modern combat aircraft, as well as transport and surveillance air groups (2023)

Military Expenditures: 2 percent of GDP (2022 estimate)
2.1 percent of GDP (2021)
2.1 percent of GDP (2020)
2 percent of GDP (2019)
1.9 percent of GDP (2018); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 53.[Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military Personnel: approximately 60,000 active troops (30,000 Army; 15,000 Navy; 15,000 Air Force) (2022). In 2020-2021, women comprised nearly 20 percent of the military. Military Service: 17 years of age for voluntary military service (with parental consent); no conscription (abolished 1973); women allowed to serve in all roles, including combat arms, since 2013 (2022). note 1: foreign nationals who are permanent residents, particularly New Zealanders, or those who have applied for citizenship or overseas candidates who have appropriate experience and qualifications from an overseas military can apply to join the ADF.

Military Equipment: the military's inventory includes a mix of domestically produced and imported Western weapons systems; in recent years, the U.S. has been the largest supplier of arms; the Australian defense industry produces a variety of land and sea weapons platforms; the defense industry also participates in joint development and production ventures with other Western countries, including the U.S. and Canada (2023). note: in 2023, the Australian defense ministry announced a new strategic review that called for the acquisition of more long-range deterrence capabilities, including missiles, submarines, and cyber tools. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military deployments: Since the 1990s, Australia has deployed more than 30,000 personnel on nearly 100 UN peacekeeping and coalition military operations, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, and East Timor

Australian Military Alliances

Australia has been part of the Australia, New Zealand, and US Security (ANZUS) Treaty since 1951; Australia is also a member of the Five Powers Defense Arrangements (FPDA), a series of mutual assistance agreements reached in 1971 embracing Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK; the FPDA commits the members to consult with one another in the event or threat of an armed attack on any of the members and to mutually decide what measures should be taken, jointly or separately; there is no specific obligation to intervene militarily. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Australia has a long-standing military relationship with the US; Australian and US forces first fought together in France in 1918 at the Battle of Hamel, and have fought together in every major US conflict since; Australia and the U.S. signed an agreement in 2014 that allowed for closer bi-lateral defense and security cooperation, including annual rotations of US Marines and enhanced rotations of US Air Force aircraft to Australia; Australian military forces train often with US forces; Australia has Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status with the US, a designation under US law that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation

Australia also has long-standing defense and security ties to the UK, including a Defense and Security Cooperation Treaty signed in 2013; in 2020, Australia and the UK signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the building of a next generation of frigates for their respective navies; the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) is their premier bilateral forum on foreign policy, defense, and security issues

in 2021, Australia, the UK, and the U.S. announced an enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” which would build on existing bilateral ties, including deeper integration of defense and security-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains, as well as deeper cooperation on a range of defense and security capabilities; the first initiative under AUKUS was a commitment to support Australia in acquiring conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy

Australian International Relations and Issues

International Organization That Australia Participates In: ADB, ANZUS, APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, C, CD, CP, EAS, EBRD, EITI (implementing country), FAO, FATF, G-20, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NEA, NSG, OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club, PCA, PIF, SAARC (observer), Quad, SICA (observer), Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNMIT, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, Wassenaar Arrangement, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

International Disputes: Australia-Indonesia (Maritime Boundary): All borders between Indonesia and Australia have been agreed upon bilaterally, but a 1997 treaty that would settle the last of their maritime and EEZ boundary has yet to be ratified by Indonesia's legislature. Indonesian groups challenge Australia's claim to Ashmore Reef. Australia closed parts of the Ashmore and Cartier reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Australia-Timor-Leste (Maritime Boundary): In 2007, Australia and Timor-Leste agreed to a 50-year development zone and revenue sharing arrangement and deferred a maritime boundary. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: refugees (country of origin): 12,180 (Iran), 8,741 (Afghanistan), 5,042 (Pakistan) (mid-year 2022); stateless persons: 7,649 (2022).[Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Illegal Drugs: amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and cannabis dominate the domestic illicit drug market and shown potential for expansion, with ATS accounting for the preponderance of detected imports; domestic heroin market is small, but also shown some growth; as of 2020, Malaysia was the primary embarkation point for heroin and ATS imports other than MDMA (ecstasy) for which South Korea was the primary embarkation point although MDMA is increasingly being produced domestically with number of detected labs nearly doubled. The U.S. is the principal embarkation point for imported cannabis; Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of licit opiate products; government maintains strict controls over areas of opium poppy cultivation and output of poppy straw concentrate; major consumer of cocaine and amphetamines. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

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