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Australia Essay, Research Paper

Australia

INTRODUCTION

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).

Basic Data

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).

Political System

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 II, the

reigning British monarch, but she exercises her functions through personal

representatives who live in Australia (i.e., Australian citizens who serve as

the Governor-General of Australia, and the Governors of the six states).

Australians are debating whether their country should become a republic, give up

ties with the Queen, revise the constitution, and adopt a new flag.

Members of the Federal House of Representatives are elected for three years, and

national elections were last held in March, 1993. Lower-house elections, thus,

are due no later than mid-1996, but earlier scheduling is a matter of discretion.

(The Prime Minister may recommend that the House be dissolved at any time, and

the Governor-General traditionally follows such advice.) Current political

commentary focuses on two likely “windows” for national elections: August-

October, 1995, and March-May, 1996.

Members of the Senate are elected for six years. June 30, 1996 is the next date

on which Senators’ terms expire, and a regular election for half the members of

the Senate is due before that time, but no earlier than July, 1995.

Under complex conditions specified in the federal Constitution — in essence,

extended deadlock between the House and Senate — both houses may be dissolved

simultaneously, so that ensuing national elections would involve all seats in

Parliament. This “double dissolution” is unusual, and has occurred only six

times since the Constitution entered into effect (1901).

All major parties support the U.S.-Australia alliance and stress the importance

of close relations between Australia and the United States. Thus, this

longstanding and stable pattern is essentially unaffected by the outcome of

national elections.

The ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) maintains close ties to the trade union

movement and has held office since 1983. During that period, the government has

carried out major restructuring of the economy (e.g., floating the Australian

dollar, cutting tariffs by substantial amounts, reducing and simplifying

regulations that affect business). Liberalizing trade and enhancing economic

integration with Asia-Pacific countries are major tenets of the ALP and, in

particular, of the incumbent Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

The opposition Liberal-National Coalition is often described to Americans as the

more “conservative” party. It upholds traditional social values and stresses

the importance of a free market, entrepreneurial approach to economic growth

(i.e., it promotes an updated version of the classical liberalism originated by

Adam Smith). The Liberal Party is the senior partner, holding 79 of the

Coalition’s 101 seats in the current Parliament. The National Party is

identified closely with the interests of farmers, and its supporters reside

mainly in rural areas.

Two minor parties, the Australian Democrats and the Western Australia “Greens”,

are represented only in the Senate but have political and media effects that are

disproportionate to their numbers. They take highly visible stands on various

economic, political, environmental, and social issues, challenging the major

parties to respond in ways that meet their concerns.

KEY ECONOMIC DATA

Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a percapita

GDP comparable to levels in industrialized West European countries. Rich in

natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products,

minerals, metals, and fossil fuels. Primary products account for more than 60%

of the value of total exports, so that, as in 1983-84, a downturn in world

commodity prices can have a big impact on the economy. The government is pushing

for increased exports of manufactured goods, but competition in international

markets continues to be severe. Australia has suffered from the low growth and

high unemployment characterizing the OECD countries in the early 1990s. In 1992-

93 the economy recovered slowly from the prolonged recession of 1990-91, a major

restraining factor being weak world demand for Australia’s exports. Growth

picked up so strongly in 1994 that the government felt the need for fiscal and

monetary tightening by year end. Australia’s GDP grew 6.4% in 1994, largely due

to increases in industrial output and business investment. A severe drought in

1994 is expected to reduce the value of Australia’s net farm production by $825

million in the twelve months through June 1995, but rising world commodity

prices are likely to boost rural exports by 7.7% to $14.5 billion in 1995/96,

according to government statistics.

DOMESTIC ECONOMY STATISTICS

(all figures in millions of U.S. dollars*)

Calendar Year 1994 1995 1996

(e) (p)

1. Gross Domestic Product 298,613 309,038 337,700

(89-90 prices)

2. GDP Growth Rate (%)** 5.1 4.2 3.6

3. GDP per Capita 16,682 17,074 18,449

4. Government Spending 26.7 25.1 25.0

(% of GDP)

5. Inflation (%) 2.5 3.5 4.2

6. Unemployment Rate (%) 9.7 8.5 8.0

7. Foreign Exchange Reserves 10,130 12,400 13,500

(year end)

8. Avg. Exchange Rate 1.36 1.37 1.30

(US$=1.00)

9. Net Foreign Debt (year end) 119,291 118,300 123,200 10. Debt Service

Ratio (%) 11.4 12.1 12.4 11. U.S. Economic/Military

NA NA NA

Assistance

* Exchange rate fluctuations must be considered when analyzing data. **

Percent changes are calculated in Australian dollars. (e) Estimate (p)

Projection

1. General Policy Framework

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1994 was estimated to be US $317.6

billion. Real GDP is estimated to have grown by 4.3 percent, a substantial

improvement from 1993’s 3.2 percent. Nevertheless, the impact of the recession

which began during the third quarter of 1989 and ended in 1991 continued to be

felt; unemployment hovered between 9.5 and 10 percent during 1994.

U.S. economic interests in Australia are substantial, including direct

investment worth approximately US $16 billion and a bilateral trade surplus of

approximately US $6 billion (up by approximately US $600 million from 1993).

Although in area Australia is the size of the contiguous United States, its

domestic market is limited by a small population (17.7 million people). The

production of agricultural commodities and primary products is an important

component of the economy; Australia leads the world in wool production, is a

significant supplier of wheat, barley, dairy produce, meat, sugar, and fruit,

and a leading exporter of coal, minerals and metals, particularly iron ore, gold,

alumina, and aluminum. Export earnings are not well diversified; in 1993,

primary products accounted for 60 percent of the total value of goods and

services exports.

The drought which Australia suffered in 1994 affected the agricultural sector

severely. The wheat crop, for example, was cut by an estimated 51 percent from

the previous year, reducing export earnings and necessitating the importation of

wheat, corn, and sorghum. Some commentators believe that the drought may reduce

otherwise-attainable real GDP growth (as shown in the data table above) by

approximately 0.5 percent.

To increase Australia’s international competitiveness, the government has

continued its longstanding effort to reduce protective trade barriers and

deregulate large segments of the economy. Privatization of government services

at both the federal (airlines, banks, telecommunications) and state level (water

treatment, transportation, electricity, banks) is being pursued. The government

intends to sell the remaining 75 percent of Qantas to the public in 1995. Trade

reforms begun in June 1988 resulted in an end to import quotas on all but

textiles, clothing, and footwear, and lower tariffs on most imports. Although

the 20 percent preference given by the federal government to Australian and New

Zealand firms bidding on government contracts was abolished November 1, 1989,

and civil offsets in December 1992, some state and territory governments

continue to apply preferences in their contracts.

The Australian Government continued to provide substantial fiscal stimulus to

the domestic economy in 1994. The budget deficit reached US $9.6 billion (3.4

percent of GDP). Public sector borrowing more than funded the deficit, and took

the form of treasury notes (US $427 million), treasury bonds (US $10.1 billion),

and cash drawdowns (US $4.9 billion). As part of its Australian Fiscal Year

(AFY) 1994-95 budget, the government announced its intention to cut the deficit

to 1 percent of GDP by AFY 1996-97.

The money supply is controlled through an open-market trading system of nine

dealers who act as a conduit between the Reserve Bank and the financial system.

Transactions may involve purchases, sales, or trade in repurchase agreements of

short-term treasury securities. Depending on liquidity conditions, the Reserve

Bank may bypass dealers and buy or sell short-term treasury notes directly with

banks on a cash basis. Banks do not normally hold liquid deposits of any size

with the Reserve Bank. Instead, they hold call-funds with the authorized

dealers. If a bank needs cash on a given day, it either borrows from other

banks or withdraws funds it has on deposit with the dealers. Under the above

money supply control system, foreign exchange flows and government deficits and

credits have only limited impact on the money supply. The government also uses

interest rate changes to influence the money supply. In 1994, official

government interest rates were increased twice, by 75 basis points in August,

and a full percentage point in October, to reach 6.5 percent.

A strong supporter of the Uruguay Round negotiations liberalizing international

trade, the Australian government moved rapidly to ratify the Uruguay Round

agreements and became a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on

January 1, 1995. Australia also advocates liberalizing trade within the Asia-

Pacific region; it is a leading member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

(APEC) forum, and strongly supported the November 1994 Bogor Declaration, in

which APEC leaders set the goal of free trade in the region by the year 2020.

The challenge the government will face in 1995 is to maintain moderately high

real growth and reduce unemployment without causing a revival of inflation and a

massive increase in the current account deficit (by virtue of the impact growth

has on the demand for imports). Many economists believe that the desired gains

in growth and employment will come, but are worried that unless the government

cuts the budget deficit faster than currently planned, both of the feared side

effects could be produced by an overheating economy.

2. Exchange Rate Policies

Australian Dollar (A$) exchange rates are determined by international currency

markets. Official policy is not to defend any particular exchange rate level.

In practice, however, the Reserve Bank has a comfort range in mind when looking



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