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Australia, island continent located southeast of Asia and forming, with the nearby island of Tasmania, the commenwealth of Australia, a self governing member of the Commenwealth of Nations. The commenwealth of Australia is made up of six states--News south Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Wester n Australia--and two territories--the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Australia, including Tasmania but excluding external territories, covers a land area of 7,682,300 sq. km, extending from Cape York (100 41’ S) in the north some 3,680 km to Tasmania (430 39’ S), and from Cape Byron (1530 39’ E) in the east some 4,000 km west to Western Australia (1130 9’ E).
Population (estimates), July 1995, 18,322,231, with the age structure under 15 (female 1,929,366; male 2,032,238), 15-64 (female 6,017,362; male 6,181,887), 65 and over(female 1,227,004; male 934,374). Population growth rate is estimated at 1.31% (1995 est.). Literacy rate age 15 and over can read and write (1980 est.).
English is the official language, with modern Australian English a conglomerate of British, American, and their own phraseology and spelling. Because Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world it is possible to find vibrant ethnic communities using almost every other world language.Australian school children have the highest rate of learning Asian languages, particularly Japanese and Chinese, of any industrialized western nation - in recognition of their future as a member of the Asia-Pacific region.
Labor force is 8.63 million(september 1991) by occupation of finance and service 33.8%, public and community services 22.3%, wholesale and reatail trade 20.1%, manufacturing and industry 16.2%, agriculture 6.1%(1987).
Australia has a federal system of government, and a long history as a multiparty parliamentary democracy. There is no written Bill of Rights, but fundamental rights are ensured by law and respected in practice.
The Commonwealth (federal) government and the six state governments operate under written constitutions that draw on the British tradition of a Cabinet Government, led by a Prime Minister, which is responsible to a majority in Parliament's lower house. The Federal Constitution, however, also contains some elements that resemble American practice (e.g., a Senate, in which each state has equal representation). The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth I
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