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Posted by bender 03/29/2009 @ 20:11

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Rio Tinto Shares Gain After Reaffirming Chinalco Deal - Bloomberg
Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board is scheduled to make a recommendation on the deal to the country's Treasurer Wayne Swan by about mid-June. Rio will then put a proposal to investors at meetings in Australia and the UK Du Plessis said last...
Will Intel face antitrust case in Australia? - ZDNet
By Suzanne Tindal ZDNet Australia AMD has not ruled out moving its battle against Intel's antitrust behavior onto Australian soil. The European Commission Wednesday fined Intel more than €1 billion ($1.45 billion) for violating antitrust legislation...
Australia's budget Stimulating stuff - Economist
FOR more than a decade, Australia had enjoyed one of the biggest booms in its history, and a robust series of budget surpluses. When Kevin Rudd led the Labor Party to power in 2007, he promised, as a “fiscal conservative” to keep this ball rolling....
Australia, New Zealand Stocks: BHP Billiton, Guinness Peat - Bloomberg
National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB AU), the nation's biggest lender by assets, added 1.4 percent to A$21.47. Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC AU), the biggest by market value, rose 1.2 percent to A$20.45. Energy & Minerals Australia Ltd. (EMA AU),...
Australia welcomes agreement on Sanzar Super rugby -
Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac Australia has joined New Zealand in welcoming South Africa's decision to agree on a structure for Super rugby from 2011 and beyond. The three Sanzar member countries were in dispute over the best way...
Gambling: paddyPower Expands to Australia -
The Irish online and offline gambling group Paddy Power has taken its aggressive expansion strategy a stage further this week with the A$ 48.5 million acquisition of a controlling stake in the Australian sports betting firm Sportsbet....
Australia shares up 1.3 pct as Rio Tinto recovers - Forbes
(Reporting by Miranda Maxwell and Denny Thomas) DIARIES & DATA: IPO diary & data Asia earnings diary US earnings diary European diary Australia diary Wall Street Week Ahead Eurostocks Week Ahead ....
bofa Merrill Lynch Names New Asia, Australia Heads Of M&A - Wall Street Journal
HONG KONG (Dow Jones)--Bank of America Merrill Lynch named Michael Cho as head of mergers and acquisitions for Asia and David Petrie in the same role for Australia, according to an internal memo seen by Dow Jones Newswires Friday....
Australia Accidentally Reveals Treaty Negotiations - FOXNews
The government acknowledged Thursday that it had made an embarrassing blunder by making public a secret list of Australia's treaty negotiations with countries around the world. The list of more than 200 bilateral treaties under negotiation or review...
Western Australia Expects FY09-10 Surplus A$409M - Wall Street Journal
By Sam Holmes Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--The Western Australia state government Thursday forecast a smaller surplus of A$409 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. West Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell said in a statement that...


The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne was the first building in Australia to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the southern hemisphere comprising the mainland of the world's smallest continent, the major island of Tasmania, and numerous other islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.N4 Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the south-east.

For around 40,000 years before European settlement commenced in the late 18th century, the Australian mainland and Tasmania were inhabited by around 250 individual nations of indigenous Australians. After sporadic visits by fishermen from the immediate north, and European discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, the eastern half of Australia was claimed by the British in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales, founded on 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in the following years; the continent was explored, and during the 19th century another five largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.

On 1 January 1901, the six colonies became a federation, and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth realm. The population is just over 21.7 million, with approximately 60% concentrated in and around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. The nation's capital city is Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Technologically advanced and industrialised, Australia is a prosperous multicultural country and has good results in many international comparisons of national performance such as health care, life expectancy, quality-of-life, human development, public education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights.

The name Australia is derived from the Latin Australis, meaning "Southern". Legends of an "unknown land of the south" (terra australis incognita) date back to Roman times and were commonplace in medieval geography but were not based on any documented knowledge of the continent. In 1521 Spaniards were among the first Europeans to sail the Pacific Ocean. The first use of the word Australia in English was in 1625, in "A note of Australia del Espiritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt", published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumus. The Dutch adjectival form Australische was used by Dutch East India Company officials in Batavia to refer to the newly discovered land to the south in 1638. Australia was used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur dans la Découverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe, a 1676 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny under the pen-name Jacques Sadeur. Alexander Dalrymple then used it in An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean (1771), to refer to the entire South Pacific region. In 1793, George Shaw and Sir James Smith published Zoology and Botany of New Holland, in which they wrote of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia or New Holland". It also appeared on a 1799 chart by James Wilson.

This is the only occurrence of the word Australia in that text; but in Appendix III, Robert Brown's General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis, Brown makes use of the adjectival form Australian throughout, this being the first known use of that form. Despite popular conception, the book was not instrumental in the adoption of the name: the name came gradually to be accepted over the following ten years.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales subsequently used the word in his dispatches to England, and on 12 December 1817 recommended to the Colonial Office that it be formally adopted. In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

Human habitation of Australia is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago. These first Australians may have been ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians; they may have arrived via land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now South-East Asia. Most of these people were hunter-gatherers, with a complex oral culture and spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, were originally horticulturalists and hunter-gatherers. Their cultural practices have always been distinct from those of the mainland Aborigines.

The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland was made by the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, who sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606. During the 17th century, the Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of what they called New Holland, but they made no attempt at settlement. In 1770, James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain.

Cook's discoveries prepared the way for establishment of a new penal colony. The British Crown Colony of New South Wales began a settlement at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date was later to become Australia's national day, Australia Day. Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803 and became a separate colony in 1825. The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Australia in 1829. Separate colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia. South Australia was founded as a "free province"—that is, it was never a penal colony. Victoria and Western Australia were also founded "free" but later accepted transported convicts. The transportation of convicts to the colony of New South Wales ceased in 1848 after a campaign by the settlers.

The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at 350,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement, mainly because of infectious disease. The "Stolen Generation" (removal of Aboriginal children from their families), which historians such as Henry Reynolds have argued could be considered genocide by some definitions, may have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population.

Such interpretations of Aboriginal history are disputed by some conservative commentators, such as former Prime Minister Howard, as being exaggerated or fabricated for political or ideological reasons. Historian Keith Windschuttle has argued that the dominant historical interpretation of the treatment of Aboriginal people on the frontiers of white settlement in Australia amounts to a fabrication. He claims this is the result of work done by a generation of politically inspired academics. That work, he charges, is characterised by poor historical method and by lack of evidence, and they have invented stories, made up figures, suppressed evidence, falsely referenced sources and deceived their readers.

This debate is known within Australia as the History Wars. Following the 1967 referendum, the Federal government gained the power to implement policies and make laws with respect to Aborigines. Traditional ownership of land—native title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) overturned the notion of Australia as terra nullius (literally "no one's land", effectively "empty land") at the time of European occupation.

A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, and the Eureka Stockade rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience. Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire. The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs, defence, and international shipping. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation, and voting. The Commonwealth of Australia was born as a dominion of the British Empire. The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed from a part of New South Wales in 1911 to provide a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra. (Melbourne was the temporary seat of government from 1901 to 1927 while Canberra was being constructed.) The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the Commonwealth in 1911. Australia willingly participated in World War I. Many Australians regard the defeat of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli as the birth of the nation—its first major military action. The Kokoda Track Campaign is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II.

The United Kingdom's Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it in 1942, but backdated it to the beginning of World War II to confirm the validity of legislation passed by the Australian Parliament during the war. The shock of the UK's defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector. Since 1951, Australia has been a formal military ally of the US, under the ANZUS treaty. After World War II, Australia encouraged immigration from Europe; since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia policy, immigration from Asia and elsewhere was also encouraged. As a result, Australia's demography, culture, and self-image have been transformed. The final constitutional ties between Australia and the UK were severed with the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any British role in the government of the Australian States, and ending judicial appeals to the UK Privy Council. At the 1999 referendum, 54% of Australian voters rejected a proposal to become a republic with a president appointed by two-thirds vote of both houses of the Australian Parliament. Since the election of the Whitlam Government in 1972, there has been an increasing focus on the expansion of ties with other Pacific Rim nations while maintaining close ties with Australia's traditional allies and trading partners.

The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional democracy based on a federal division of powers. The form of government used in Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General at federal level and by the Governors at state level. Although the Constitution gives extensive executive powers to the Governor-General, these are normally exercised only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most notable exercise of the Governor-General's reserve powers outside the Prime Minister's direction was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

The bicameral Commonwealth Parliament consists of the Queen, the Senate (the upper house) of 76 senators, and a House of Representatives (the lower house) of 150 members. Members of the lower house are elected from single-member constituencies, commonly known as "electorates" or "seats", allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. In the Senate, each state is represented by twelve senators, and each of the territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) by two. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years, simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms, since only half of places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution. The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms government and its leader becomes Prime Minister.

There are two major political groups that form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party, and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of two parties: the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party. Independent members and several minor parties—including the Greens and the Australian Democrats—have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses. Since the election of 3 December 2007, the Labor Party led by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been in power. Every Australian parliament (federal, state, and territory) then had a Labor government until September 2008 when the Liberal Party formed a minority government in association with the National Party in Western Australia. In the 2004 election, the previous governing coalition led by John Howard won control of the Senate—the first time in more than 20 years that a party (or a coalition) has done so while in government. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over, in each state and territory and at the federal level. Enrolment to vote is compulsory in all jurisdictions except South Australia.

Australia has six states and two major mainland territories. There are also lesser territories that are under the administration of the federal government.

The states are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In most respects these two territories function like states, but the Commonwealth Parliament can override any legislation of their parliaments. By contrast, federal legislation only overrides state legislation in certain areas that are set out in Section 51 of the Australian Constitution; state parliaments retain all residual legislative powers, including powers over hospitals, education, police, the judiciary, roads, public transport, and local government.

Each state and major mainland territory has its own legislature or parliament: unicameral in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Queensland, and bicameral in the remaining states. The states are sovereign, though subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower house is known as the Legislative Assembly (House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania) and the upper house is known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier, and in each territory the Chief Minister. The Queen is represented in each state by a Governor; an Administrator in the Northern Territory, and the Australian Governor-General in the ACT, have analogous roles.

Norfolk Island is also technically an external territory; however, under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 it has been granted more autonomy and is governed locally by its own legislative assembly. The Queen is represented by an Administrator, currently Owen Walsh.

Over recent decades, Australia's foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the ANZUS pact, and by a desire to develop relationships with Asia and the Pacific, particularly through ASEAN and the Pacific Islands Forum. In 2005 Australia secured an inaugural seat at the East Asia Summit following its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings provide the main forum for cooperation. Australia has energetically pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation. It led the formation of the Cairns Group and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization, and has pursued several major bilateral free trade agreements, most recently the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement and Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand. Australia is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan, with whom Australia has close economic ties as a trusted partner in the Asia Pacific region. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to multilateralism along with its middle power allies Canada and the Nordic countries, and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance. The 2005–06 budget provides A$2.5 billion for development assistance; as a percentage of GDP, this contribution is less than that recommended in the UN Millennium Development Goals. Australia ranks 7th overall in the Center for Global Development's 2008 Commitment to Development Index.

Australia's armed forces—the Australian Defence Force (ADF)—comprise the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in total numbering 73,000 personnel (including 53,000 regulars and 20,000 reservists). Australia's military is 68th largest in the world, but one of the world's smallest in per capita terms. All branches of the ADF have been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping (most recently in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, and Sudan), disaster relief, and armed conflict, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The government appoints the Chief of the Defence Force from one of the armed services; the current Chief of the Defence Force is Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. In the 2006–07 budget, defence spending was A$22 billion, accounting for less than 1% of global military spending. Australia was placed 27th on the 2008 Global Peace Index, primarily due to its presence in Afghanistan. While the Governor-General is the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, he or she does not play an active part in the ADF's command structure as the elected Australian Government controls the ADF.

Australia's landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi) is on the Indo-Australian Plate. Surrounded by the IndianN4 and Pacific oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. Australia has 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands) and claims an extensive exclusive economic zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. At 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island is taller at 2,745 metres (9,006 ft).

By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid lands commonly known as the outback. Australia is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils, and is the driest inhabited continent. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the continent have a temperate climate. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a great proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline. The landscapes of the northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the El Niño southern oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.

Climate change has become an increasing concern in Australia in recent years, with many Australians considering it to be the most important issue facing the country. The first Rudd Ministry has initiated several emission reduction activities; Rudd's first official act, on his first day in office, was to sign the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, lower than only several other industrialised nations including the United States, Canada, and Norway. Rainfall in Australia has increased over the past century, both nationwide and for all four quadrants of the nation. Despite this beneficial effect of climate change, water restrictions are currently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought.

Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the continent's great age, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 64 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 13th in the world on the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index. Australian forests often contain a wide variety of eucalyptus trees and are mostly located in higher rainfall regions.

Most Australian woody plant species are evergreen and many are adapted to fire and drought, including many eucalypts and acacias. Australia has a rich variety of endemic legume species that thrive in nutrient-poor soils because of their symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Among well-known Australian fauna are the monotremes (the platypus and the echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, the koala, and the wombat; the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles; and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra. Australia is home to some of the most venomous snakes in the world. The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE. Many plant and animal species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna; others have become extinct since European settlement, among them the thylacine.

The Australian dollar is the currency of the Commonwealth of Australia, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent Pacific Island states of Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu. The Australian Securities Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange are the largest stock exchanges in Australia.

Australia is one of the most laissez-faire capitalist economies, according to indices of economic freedom. Australia's per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the UK, Germany, and France in terms of purchasing power parity. The country was ranked third in the United Nations 2007 Human Development Index, first in Legatum's 2008 Prosperity Index, and sixth in The Economist worldwide Quality-of-Life Index for 2005. All of Australia's major cities fare well in global comparative liveability surveys; Melbourne reached 2nd place on The Economist's 2008 World's Most Livable Cities list, followed by Perth at 4th, Adelaide at 7th, and Sydney at 9th. The emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactures has underpinned a significant increase in Australia's terms of trade during the rise in commodity prices since the start of the century. Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years. Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% for over 15 years, a period in which the OECD annual average was 2.5%. The Australian economy could fall into recession in 2009 after 17 years of growth, according to the IMF.

The Hawke Government floated the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system. The Howard government followed with a partial deregulation of the labour market and the further privatisation of state-owned businesses, most notably in the telecommunications industry. The indirect tax system was substantially changed in July 2000 with the introduction of a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST), which has slightly reduced the reliance on personal and company income tax that characterises Australia's tax system.

In January 2007, there were 10,033,480 people employed, with an unemployment rate of 4.6%. Over the past decade, inflation has typically been 2–3% and the base interest rate 5–6%. The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for 69% of GDP. Although agriculture and natural resources account for only 3% and 5% of GDP respectively, they contribute substantially to export performance. Australia's largest export markets are Japan, China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Most of the estimated 21.7 million Australians are descended from colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants from Europe, with almost 90% of the population being of European descent. For generations, the vast majority of both colonial-era settlers and post-Federation immigrants came almost exclusively from the British Isles, and the people of Australia are still mainly of British or Irish ethnic origin.

Australia's population has quadrupled since the end of World War I, spurred by an ambitious immigration program. Following World War II and through to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that nearly two out of every seven Australians were born overseas. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and refugees. In 2001, the five largest groups of the 23.1% of Australians who were born overseas were from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam, and China. Following the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, numerous government initiatives have been established to encourage and promote racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism. In 2005–06, more than 131,000 people emigrated to Australia, mainly from Asia and Oceania. The migration target for 2006–07 was 144,000. The total immigration quota for 2008–09 is around 300,000—its highest level since the Immigration Department was created after World War II.

The Indigenous population—mainland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders—was 410,003 (2.2% of the total population) in 2001, a significant increase from the 1976 census, which showed an indigenous population of 115,953. Indigenous Australians suffer from higher rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state"-like conditions.

In common with many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2004, the average age of the civilian population was 38.8 years. A large number of Australians (759,849 for the period 2002–03) live outside their home country.

English is the national language. Australian English is a major variety of the language, with its own distinctive accent and vocabulary (some of which has found its way into other varieties of English), but less internal dialectal variation (apart from small regional pronunciation and lexical variations) than either British or American English. Grammar and spelling are largely based on those of British English. According to the 2001 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for around 80% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are Chinese (2.1%), Italian (1.9%), and Greek (1.4%). A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual. It is believed that there were between 200 and 300 Australian Aboriginal languages at the time of first European contact. Only about 70 of these languages have survived, and all but 20 of these are now endangered. An indigenous language remains the main language for about 50,000 (0.25%) people. Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 6,500 deaf people.

Australia has no state religion. In the 2006 census, 64% of Australians were listed as Christian of any denomination, including 26% as Roman Catholic and 19% as Anglican. "No religion" (which includes humanism, atheism, agnosticism, and rationalism) accounted for 19%; and a further 12% declined to answer or did not give a response adequate for interpretation. The fastest-growing and second largest religion in Australia is Buddhism, followed by Hinduism and Islam. Overall less than 6% of Australians identify with non-Christian religions. Surveys have found Australia to be one of the least devout nations in the developed world, with religion not described as an important part in many Australians' lives. As in many Western countries, the level of active participation in church worship is low and in decline; weekly attendance at church services in 2004 was about 1.5 million: about 7.5% of the population.

School attendance is compulsory throughout Australia. In Most Australian States at 5–6 years of age all children receive 11 years (10 years in South Australia and Tasmania) of compulsory education, then can move on to complete two more years (years 11 and 12), contributing to an adult literacy rate that is assumed to be 99%. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), currently ranks Australia's education as the eighth best in the world, significantly higher than the average world ranking among the thirty OECD countries. Government grants have supported the establishment of Australia's 38 universities; and although several private universities have been established, the majority receive government funding. There is a state-based system of vocational training, higher than colleges, known as TAFE Institutes, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications, and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. The ratio of international to local students in tertiary education in Australia is the highest in the OECD countries.

Since 1788, the primary basis of Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic, although distinctive Australian features soon arose from the country's natural environment and Indigenous cultures. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian culture has been influenced by American popular culture (particularly television and cinema), by Australia's Asian neighbours, and by large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking countries.

Australian visual arts are thought to have begun with the cave and bark paintings of its Indigenous peoples. The traditions of Indigenous Australians are largely transmitted orally and are tied to ceremony and the telling of the stories of the Dreamtime. Australian Aboriginal music, dance, and art have influenced contemporary Australian visual and performing arts. From the time of European settlement, a theme in Australian art has been the Australian landscape, seen for example in the works of Albert Namatjira, Arthur Streeton and others associated with the Heidelberg School, and Arthur Boyd. Australian artists who were influenced by the modern American and European art at the time include cubist Grace Crowley, surrealist James Gleeson, abstract expressionist Brett Whiteley, and pop artist Martin Sharp. The National Gallery of Australia and the various state galleries maintain Australian and overseas collections. From early in the 20th century until the present, the country's landscape remains sources of inspiration for Australian modernist artists; it has been depicted in acclaimed works by artists such as Sidney Nolan, Grace Cossington Smith, Fred Williams, Sydney Long, and Clifton Pugh.

Many of Australia's performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each of the states' capital cities, and a national opera company, Opera Australia, which became prominent through the singer Joan Sutherland. Nellie Melba was her famous predecessor. Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state dance companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.

The Australian cinema industry began with 1906 release of the The Story of the Kelly Gang, a 70-minute account of the Australian bush ranger Ned Kelly, which is regarded as being the world's first feature-length film. The New Wave of Australian cinema in the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, some exploring the nation's colonial past, such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Wave. Later hits included Mad Max and Gallipoli. More recent successes included Shine, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and Happy Feet. Australia's diverse landscapes and cities have served as primary locations for many other films, such as The Matrix, Peter Pan, Superman Returns, and Finding Nemo. Recent well-known Australian actors include Judith Anderson, Errol Flynn, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe, Toni Collette, Naomi Watts, and current joint director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Cate Blanchett.

Australian literature has also been influenced by the landscape; the works of writers such as Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, and Dorothea Mackellar captured the experience of the Australian bush. The character of colonial Australia, as represented in early literature, is popular with modern Australians. They believe it emphasised egalitarianism, mateship, and anti-authoritarianism. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Australian to have achieved this. Colleen McCullough, David Williamson, and David Malouf are also renowned writers.

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the multicultural Special Broadcasting Service), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services, and numerous public, non-profit television and radio stations. Each major city has daily newspapers, and there are two national daily newspapers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. According to Reporters Without Borders in 2008, Australia was in 25th position on a list of 173 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (7th) and the United Kingdom (23rd) but ahead of the United States (48th). This low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia; in particular, most Australian print media are under the control of News Corporation and John Fairfax Holdings.

23.5% Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities in Australia. Australia has strong international teams in cricket, field hockey, netball, rugby league, rugby union and it performs well in cycling, rowing, and swimming. Some of Australia's best-known sportspersons are swimmers Dawn Fraser and Ian Thorpe, sprinter Cathy Freeman, tennis players Rod Laver and Margaret Court, and cricketer Donald Bradman. Nationally, other popular sports include Australian rules football, horse racing, soccer, and motor racing. Australia has participated in every summer Olympic Games of the modern era, and every Commonwealth Games. Australia hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and has ranked among the top six medal-takers since 2000. Australia has also hosted the 1938, 1962, 1982, and 2006 Commonwealth Games. Other major international events held in Australia include the Grand Slam Australian Open tennis tournament, international cricket matches, and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. The highest-rating television programs include sports coverage such as the summer Olympic Games, State of Origin, and the grand finals of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League.

Dark blue: Countries and territories where English is spoken natively by a significant population.

Light blue: Countries where English is an official language but not native. English is also one of the official languages of the European Union. Click on the coloured regions to view the related article.

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Australia national football (soccer) team

Australia faces Germany in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup

The first Australian national team was constituted in 1922 for a tour of New Zealand. During that tour, Australia suffered two defeats and scraped a draw. Australia, New Zealand, China and South Africa became regular opponents in "Test" or "Friendly" matches for the next 25 years. With the advent of cheap air travel, Australia diversified its range of opponents. However, its geographical isolation continued to play a role in its destiny for the next 80 years. During this period the team was subject to media denigration by a concentrated media controlled by media moguls with financial interest in other codes.

Australia plays their home games all around the country, but most of their games are played at ANZ Stadium, Etihad Stadium, MCG, Sydney Football Stadium and Suncorp Stadium. These are usually listed as Australia's home stadiums.

The Australian national team first played at the World Cup finals in West Germany in 1974. It would prove to be their only appearance until 2006.

The road to the 1974 World Cup began with a series of home and away matches against Iraq, New Zealand, and Indonesia. The Socceroos, having won this tournament, then played and won a two-legged fixture against one of the Socceroos' biggest rivals Iran, managing to hold on to a slim overall lead in front of 120,000 Iranian fans in the Azadi Stadium, Tehran, during the second leg. South Korea, having itself knocked out Israel at the equivalent stage, was then drawn as Australia's final hurdle. Over the course of another two-legged playoff the scores remained even, and so a deciding match was played in Hong Kong. Australia won this match, through a Jimmy Mackay goal, scored off a free kick.

The team performed with honour at the 1974 World Cup, and although unable to overcome the professional teams from host nations East and West Germany, the Socceroos, captained by local amateur Peter Wilson, did manage a scoreless draw against Chile. It was to be the last appearance for the Australian team until the World Cup tournament returned to Germany more than three decades later. Over that 32 year time span, the Australian team was known for its near misses in its attempts to qualify for the World Cup, most notably 1998 against Iran and 2002 against Uruguay.

Australia's road to USA 94 is an example of the difficult qualifying path which members of the Oceania confederation have had to endure. In order to qualify for USA 94, Australia had to endure 3 playoff stages. The first stage was the Oceania playoff. Australia finished on top of Group 1 in Oceania going undefeated in four games against weaker sides Tahiti and the Solomon Islands and scoring thirteen goals over the four games. Australia played New Zealand in the Oceania playoff. The first leg was played in New Zealand on 30 May 1993, with Australia winning the game 1-0. Australia won the return leg 3-0 to win the playoff stage with a 4-0 aggregate score. Having won the Oceania playoff, Australia now had to win a 2-leg playoff against Canada, the CONCACAF runner up. The first leg was played in Canada on 31 July 1993, with the Canadians winning the 1st leg 2-1. In the second leg, which was played on 15 August 1993 in Sydney, Australia managed a 2-1 win which saw the game go into extra time after a 3-3 aggregate scoreline. The game went into a penalty shootout which was won by Australia 4-1. Australia then qualified for the 2-leg playoff against the South American group 1 runner up, Argentina. The first leg was played in Sydney on 31 October 1993. The 1st leg ended with a 1-1 draw. On 17 November 1993, the second leg was played in Argentina, with Argentina winning 1-0 and denying Australia a place at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. After the game Argentine legend Diego Maradona was so impressed with the Socceroos performance that he said to then captain Paul Wade "Your tears of pain, will one day be tears of joy". Just to qualify for the 1994 World Cup Australia would have had to beat Argentina, the runners-up from the 1990 World Cup, and ranked 9th in the world at that time.

In 1997, after winning the OFC qualifying tournament, Australia had to play Iran over two legs in one week, with the winner progressing to the World Cup finals to be held in France. Australia, under coach Terry Venables, tied the away leg 1-1 and looked like they were going to proceed to the finals in France, initially leading 2-0 in the home game in Melbourne, until Iran managed to score two late goals. This match has been named one of the most memorable matches by many of the retired Australian and Iranian football players. The atmosphere at the MCG after the game was described as "like that of a graveyard" by many fans - At the time the crowd that packed the MCG was the highest ever for a football match in Australia, and after being very confident of progressing to the FIFA World Cup with only 30 minutes to go - suddenly being eliminated was devastating. Harry Kewell, who would become possibly the greatest Socceroo of all announced his arrival in this tie, with goals in both the away and home legs.

In 2001 Australia again won the Oceania Confederation qualifying tournament for 2002 FIFA World Cup. Second and third-string lineups thrashed a number of tiny island nations in a competition that made a mockery of the Confederation, including a world-record 22-0 win against Tonga, then smashed that record with a 31-0 demolition of American Samoa only two days later. Still missing Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, Australia comfortably beat New Zealand, their only real threat in the Oceania confederation. Australia then once again had to win a two leg playoff in November, in order to advance to the World Cup finals to be held in South Korea and Japan.

On this occasion the opposition was the 5th placed South American team, Uruguay. In the preceding four months Uruguay's preparation had been six World Cup qualifying matches, as follows: beat #2 ranked Brazil 1:0; drew 1:1 with #8 ranked Colombia; drew 1:1 with #2 ranked Argentina. In contrast, Australia's preparation had included no qualifying games since two matches in 4 days in June, against #81 ranked New Zealand, although had played two friendly matches - a loss to Japan in August and a 1:1 draw with France in November.

In the first leg in Melbourne, Australia won 1-0 after Kevin Muscat scored from a penalty kick; however, Australia's qualification campaign ended unsuccessfully as they lost 3-0 in the away leg in Montevideo just five days later with the South Americans proving too strong.

The team's previously miserable record in World Cup competition was not reflected in their reasonable performances against strong European and South American sides, with victories in the 2001 Confederations Cup against France and Brazil. Australia finished the competition in 3rd place after a 3rd place play-off win against Brazil.

Australia also drew with France 1-1 in Melbourne in November 2001. A particular highlight for Australian football, and the one that attracted most public attention, was the 3-1 victory over traditional sporting rivals England in a friendly in London in 2003.

In 2004, the team took the first steps towards qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup by topping the round-robin stage of the Oceania Football Confederation World Cup qualification tournament. The team drew 2-2 with the Solomon Islands, which combined with other results put that team ahead of New Zealand in the standings and meaning that the Solomon Islands qualified for the final playoff rather than the expected New Zealand.

Coach Frank Farina stood down from the position by "mutual consent" on 29 June 2005 after Australia failed to win a game at the 2005 Confederations Cup, citing ever increasing speculation over his position. On 22 July, Guus Hiddink was announced by FIFA as the new national coach. This announcement came after intense speculation by the Australian media over potential candidates and even a premature announcement from Hiddink himself. Hiddink combined his roles as manager of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven with that of Australia, and remained the coach of Australia until the end of the Australian team's 2006 World Cup campaign, after which he accepted a position coaching Russia.

After some initial training sessions with the Australian team in the Netherlands, his first campaign as national coach resulted in a 11-1 aggregate win over the Solomon Islands in the OFC Qualifying Tournament Final. The remaining task for Hiddink and Australia was the Oceania-South America playoff against the fifth placed team from the CONMEBOL Qualifying Tournament for a place in the World Cup.

In October 2005, Australia beat Jamaica 5-0 in a friendly in London. The win was the Socceroos' biggest win against a team ranked higher than them in the FIFA World Rankings list and also Australia's biggest win against a country which has participated in the World Cup.

Australia, ranked #49, then moved on to play 18th ranked Uruguay in a rematch of the qualifying matches in 2001. Again, there was a huge contrast in preparation. Australia had only two recent qualifying matches, against #138 Solomon Islands, only three days apart. Uruguay's preparation had included four qualifying matches, in the previous two months, including: beaten #26 Colombia, drawn with #33 Ecuador, and beaten #4 Argentina.

Fearing a repeat of security problems which occurred in Montevideo in 2001, Australia announced that they would hold their training sessions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and would only stay in Montevideo for the game. Uruguay called for the first leg to be moved a day earlier, to 11 November. This idea was rejected by Australia. As a result, Uruguay had announced that they had moved the kick off time back five hours to 9:00 p.m. local time on 12 November. This meant that Australia would miss their direct flight back to Sydney for the second leg. This would also mean that Uruguay would have an extra day of preparation for the second leg.

However, this plan backfired on the Uruguayans. Their plans to charter a plane for a direct flight to Sydney fell through (they ended up flying over in "economy" class seating on a regular commercial flight). When Uruguay asked to move the kickoff back, Australia, which by that time had arranged, with their sponsor Qantas, a specially fitted out 767 (which included massage tables, and much room and space) for immediately after the game, refused. Eventually, FIFA stepped in and ordered the kickoff moved back to 6:00 p.m. local time.

Uruguay defeated Australia 1-0 in Montevideo on 12 November 2005, after a header from Dario Rodriguez. Australia had the better of their Uruguayan opponents for a lot of the match, but they could not capitalise on their opportunities. In Sydney, on 16 November for the second leg of the qualifying series and in front of 83,000 fans at Telstra Stadium, and 3.4 million more watching the televised broadcast, and an estimated 4 million more watching in pubs and clubs, Australia led Uruguay 1-0 after 90 minutes following a goal by Mark Bresciano in the first half. The aggregate was tied, and extra time was played. Neither team scored after two periods of extra time, bringing the game to a penalty shootout. Australia won the penalty shootout 4-2, making Australia the only team to ever qualify for a World Cup via a penalty shootout. Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made two saves and John Aloisi scored the winning penalty.

The resulting win led to scenes of wild jubilation across the country, as fans rejoiced at the Socceroos qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, their first qualification in 32 years.

Germany were also the hosts the last time Australia qualified for the World Cup back in 1974.

Immediately after that qualification, Australia went into the 2006 World Cup as the second lowest-ranked side. Their ranking on the FIFA World Rankings improved in subsequent months, leapfrogging other qualified countries. ...

Many commentators and fans felt that the only way for Australia to progress was to abandon the Oceania Football Confederation. Football had developed over time to place increasing importance on tournaments rather than friendly matches. This established the Continental championships and their qualifiers as the major source of competitive matches for national teams. This served to starve Australia of potential opponents and resulted in long gaps between fixtures for the national team.

One respected football(soccer) broadcaster and former Socceroos captain, expressed his desire for Australia to join Asia. Despite previous attempts to do so, each notoriously ending in failure, a story was leaked from Tokyo in March 2005 suggesting that FFA had entered into secret discussions with the AFC on this very issue. On 23 March, the AFC Executive Committee made a unanimous decision to invite Australia to join the AFC.

AFC President, Mohammed Bin Hammam, outlined reasons for this decision.

On 17 April, the OFC executive committee unanimously endorsed Australia's proposed move. FIFA approved the move on 30 June, and it took effect on 1 January 2006. Earlier, on 1 December, the AFC Executive Committee announced that Australia will be put into the ASEAN zone. Currently, Australia is an invitee member of ASEAN Football Federation.

Australia was duly entered into the 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification. On 4 January, Australia was drawn into group D, alongside Bahrain, Lebanon and Kuwait. Lebanon later withdrew due to recent military conflict in the area. Australia's first game as a member of the AFC was on 22 February, a 3-1 win away to Bahrain in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification. They subsequently qualified for the finals on 16 August after defeating Kuwait 2-0.

Australia was placed into 2006 World Cup Group F, along with defending champions Brazil, Croatia and Japan.

In late December 2005, Coach Guus Hiddink appointed former Dutch player, Johan Neeskens, as Assistant Coach, to work alongside Graham Arnold, Ron Smith, Tony Franken and Anthony Crea.

On 13 February 2006, Australia launched a new home and away strip for the World Cup. The home strip, similar to the 1974 outfit, is an entirely yellow shirt with green shorts. The away strip is entirely obsidian blue with yellow trimmings (the heraldic colours of Australia). The jerseys were launched at a lavish ceremony at the Berlin Olympic Stadium in Berlin. On 17 March 2006, the FIFA World Cup trophy visited Sydney on its tour around the world.

In preparation for the upcoming World Cup, Socceroos player Tony Vidmar was ruled out of the World Cup after being diagnosed with a heart condition. In all, the squad that won the qualification matches saw 5 changes in the lead-up the World Cup finals. Joel Griffiths, Ahmad Elrich, Ljubo Milicevic, Tony Vidmar and Michael Thwaite were replaced by Joshua Kennedy, Mile Sterjovski, Michael Beauchamp, Craig Moore and Mark Milligan respectively.

As part of a national support effort for the Socceroos in Australia, the television network SBS put on a competition, "Song for the Socceroos", in order to select a World Cup anthem for the Socceroos. The winning song "Green and Gold" was announced on 16 May..

On 25 May 2006 in Melbourne, Australia played a friendly against Greece, current European Champions, and ranked #20 in FIFA rankings. Australia won 1-0 thanks to a Josip Skoko volley early on in the match. The match, at the 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, was sold out in only 2 hours, and was a great sendoff for Australia from home soil, despite the questionable quality of the Greek performance.

Australia played the Netherlands in a friendly match in Rotterdam on 4 June. The Dutch, ranked #3 in the world, went ahead in the 9th minute after goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer parried a Ruud van Nistelrooy shot, the Socceroos failed to clear the ball and van Nistelrooy scored with a follow-up strike. Australia's Tim Cahill equalised in the 53rd minute following a goal-line scramble after Mark Viduka hit the crossbar from a penalty kick. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. The only blemish was the dismissal of defender Luke Wilkshire in the 61st minute, after a wild challenge on Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The next day, the Socceroos left for Germany.

Australia played a final pre-World Cup friendly against 123rd-ranked Liechtenstein on 7 June. Defender Lucas Neill headed an own goal in the 8th minute, giving Liechtenstein the lead until Mile Sterjovski equalised in the 20th. Australia struggled to gain a lead on their opponents until the final 15 minutes when a goal each from Joshua Kennedy and John Aloisi won Australia the game 3-1.

While in Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Socceroos stayed in the town of Öhringen. Just days before Australia's first World Cup match against Japan, it was reported in the west that the Japan Football Association chairman claimed the Socceroos were "guilty of a lot of dirty fouls" and that "they target ankles in particular." However, a further scrutiny of the original Japanese script reveals that there was a misinterpretation by the western media, possibly to spice up the competition. While it is unclear who started this mistranslation, deliberately or otherwise, Saburo Kawabuchi of Japan Football Association later commented that this would not be the first or the last time mistranslation happens and should not be taken too seriously.

On 12 June, the Socceroos defeated Japan 3-1 in their opening game in Kaiserslautern, with Tim Cahill scoring two goals (84', 89') and John Aloisi scoring one (92+') in the last eight minutes to claim their first World Cup finals victory. An early controversial call by Egyptian referee Essam Abd El Fatah, that awarded a goal (26') to Shunsuke Nakamura, despite an apparent foul to Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, had the Australians playing catch-up until the last eight minutes. Schwarzer and Viduka claimed that Abd El Fatah apologised over allowing Nakamura's goal to stand after the incident, admitting he had made a mistake, although Abd El Fatah later denied making an apology and said that "FIFA's refereeing committee... agreed unanimously that Japan's goal against Australia was correct." Both Cahill and Aloisi came in as substitutes in the second half of the game. Their goals are the first ever scored by Australia in the World Cup Finals, and Australia became the first team in the 2006 tournament to come back after being 1-0 down. Also, no other team has scored three goals in the last seven minutes of a match in World Cup finals history.

On 18 June, hours before Australia's second game against world champions Brazil, a British newspaper claimed that several Australian players had placed bets amongst themselves, which was said to be against FIFA regulations . Tim Cahill admitted that teammates Lucas Neill and Archie Thompson bet that Cahill would score the first ever Australian goal at the World Cup. Mark Viduka also said that the players were taking bets on who was going to be the first to score, and that goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac was the bookmaker. FIFA have since cleared all players of any wrongdoing, by interpreting their regulations as referring to betting with professional bookmakers, rather than betting within a team.

Australia met Brazil in their second Group F game in Munich on 18 June. The Australians held Brazil to a 0-0 half time scoreline before Adriano put Brazil in front (49'). Brazil substitute Fred scored (90') with the help of substitute Robinho to give Brazil a 2-0 win, which saw the Brazilians go through to the second round.

A day later, following the Brazil game, Harry Kewell was in hot water after an altercation with the referee from the Brazil game. FIFA announced that it would investigate the incident. On 20 June, charges were dismissed against Kewell due to "inconsistent reporting by match officials", allowing him to play the next game against Croatia.

On 22 June, Australia faced Croatia in Stuttgart. The final score was 2-2. A goal from Darijo Srna in the second minute put Australia on the back foot. Australia equalised with a penalty goal from Craig Moore (38'). Niko Kovac gave Croatia a 2-1 lead before Australia equalised again through Harry Kewell (79') in a moment described by SBS broadcast commentator Simon Hill as "well, it had to be Harry". Kewell appeared to be offside for the goal, in a match riddled with errors. The referee Graham Poll dismissed calls for a penalty in the 5th minute when Croatia's Josip Šimunić literally wrestled Mark Viduka to the ground near goal, missed one of two clear handballs by the Croatian defence in the penalty area, blew the final whistle at the moment that John Aloisi scored what would have been a winning goal, and, in an extraordinary error, presented Simunic with three yellow cards before sending him off after the final whistle. Here, Simunic is the world record holder for "Most Yellow Cards in a Football Match." Poll issued eight yellow cards resulting in three expulsions. Brett Emerton was sent off for his second bookable offence (although he was already suspended for the next match for receiving his second yellow card of the group stage earlier in the match). The Daily Telegraph reported on 25 June that Graham Poll was dismissed from World Cup refereeing duties by FIFA, who claimed that his mistake was "unacceptable". As Brazil beat Japan 4-1, Australia proceeded to the next round to face Italy.

On 26 June, Australia met Italy in Kaiserslautern. Kewell was unavailable for the game, entering the stadium on crutches reportedly suffering from an attack of gout and infected blisters (later diagnosed as septic arthritis). The score at half-time was 0-0. Italy went down to 10 men due to the red card (51') given to Marco Materazzi. Otherwise, six yellow cards were issued in total. Almost three minutes into stoppage time, a controversial penalty was awarded to Italy when Fabio Grosso simulated a dive under a Lucas Neill challenge in the final seconds of the match. Francesco Totti scored from the spot (95') and the game ended immediately with Australia eliminated. Coach Guus Hiddink officially ended his reign as the coach of the Socceroos following the 1-0 loss to Italy and took the managerial job with Russia. Australian assistant coach Graham Arnold branded the penalty a "joke", to the agreement of several Australian players, including Tim Cahill, who believed Grosso should have been cautioned for diving. However, further analysis of the incident in slow motion clearly shows Neil using his hands to bring down Grosso after the ball had passed the Australian defender, but also shows that Fabio Grosso moves his foot into Neill, and still had time to get around him, but nonetheless, it was still an offence, and a clear-cut foul. Italian coach Marcello Lippi denied that Grosso had dived, describing the incident as "a clear foul".. Australia became the team to go out of a World Cup with the last kick of the ball (in regular time). The decision for the penalty is still argued with between Australian and Italian supporters, with an increasing grudge happening in Australia between the two fans.

Australia, led by Graham Arnold, went to their first Asian Cup sending a strong squad which included 15 players from the World Cup team. Australia was drawn in Group A alongside (co-host) Thailand, Oman and Iraq.

In their first match, Australia were only able to earn a 1-1 draw against a lower-ranked Oman team. Australia played poorly, with Oman leading for most of the match after Badar Al-Maimani scored in the 32nd minute, but were once again saved by Tim Cahill who scored a late equaliser in the 92nd minute after coming on as a substitute in the second half.

Australia lost their second group match 3-1 to eventual Asian Cup winners Iraq, with Lucas Neill receiving a red card (90'), following two yellow cards. Mark Viduka scored the lone goal for the Australians in the 47th minute of the match which at that point in the game was the equaliser but Iraq scored another two goals to win.

In the third match of the group stage, Australia defeated Thailand 4-0 with Mark Viduka scoring two goals, with Michael Beauchamp and Harry Kewell scoring one goal each. The victory assured Australia's progression to the quarter final stage of the tournament.

After drawing 1-1 with Japan after extra time, Australia exited the tournament on penalties at the quarter final stage. The first two Australian penalty kicks were both unsuccessful by Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill with Australia eventually bowing out 4-3 to end their inaugural participation in Asia's most prestigious football tournament.

In a friendly international at the MCG on the 11th of September, 2007, the Socceroos were defeated by Argentina one goal to nil. The friendly was Graham Arnold's last game as head coach. It had been widely speculated that Dutchman Dick Advocaat would take over as Head Coach for the Socceroos 2010 World Cup Qualifiers by the end of 2007 but he backed out of a contract with the FFA to continue coaching Zenit Petersburg. It has been reported that FFA is considering legal action against both person and club. As a result the Socceroo's head coach position was left open, with technical director Rob Baan the caretaker for a match against Nigeria at Loftus Road, London (Australia winning 1-0.) The position was filled on the 6th of December 2007 when the FFA announced Pim Verbeek as the new head coach.

The Socceroos were seeded to enter the AFC qualification campaign in the third round alongside Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan. They were drawn into a group comprising of Qatar, Iraq and China with the media dubbing it the "group of death". Fixtures started in February 2008, with a home match against Qatar at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne giving Australia a 3-0 victory. This was Pim Verbeek's first competitive match in charge of the Socceroos. The majority of the Australian squad consisted of overseas, mainly European based, players after Pim Verbeek announced the local A-league was not yet up to World Cup standards. A week after the match, Australia moved up to 38th on the FIFA World Rankings.

In the second group game, Australia drew 0-0 with China with Mark Schwarzer saving a penalty in the last few minutes. In their 3rd out of 6 qualifiers on Sunday, 1 June, Australia beat Iraq at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 1-0, with a headed goal from Harry Kewell proving the difference between the two teams early in the 2nd half of play. In the return match in Dubai, Iraq defeated Australia 1-0 through a wonder strike from Emad Mohammed. Australia then defeated Qatar 3-1 on 14 June in Doha to progress to the fourth round of the AFC qualifiers.

Australia have been drawn alongside Japan, Bahrain, Qatar and Uzbekistan in the fourth round of Asian World Cup qualification, which commenced with a 1-0 victory over the Uzbeks in Tashkent on September 10 2008. Scott Chipperfield's run was unmarked and he comfortably headed in a Luke Wilkshire cross. They then proceeded to beat Qatar 4-0 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, to go top of the group, with goals scored by Tim Cahill and Josh Kennedy with Brett Emerton scoring a brace for the home side. The game was delayed 30min (and close to abandoned) after a torrential rainstorm hit Brisbane Stadium prior to the match. Their next match was against Bahrain on the 19th of November. Australia managed a 1-0 victory despite a brilliant performance by the Bahrainis and a disappointing performance by Australia. Both the Australian coach and players admitted they were lucky to take the points which came courtesy of a Marco Bresciano goal in the 93rd minute. They dedicated the win to Craig Moore who missed the match following surgery for testicular cancer. Australia remained top of the group with 10 points after 4 games following a 0-0 draw away against Japan.

Following the group matches on 28 March 2009 (Japan 1 Bahrain 0, Uzbekistan 4 Qatar 0), the Socceroos have the opportunity to clinch qualification on 1 April. A win over Uzbekistan in Sydney, combined with a draw between Bahrain and Qatar in Manama, will leave Australia guaranteed a top-two finish in the group, which will mean direct qualification for South Africa 2010.

One obstacle for the Socceroos is that some promising players end up playing for other nations. As many Australians have roots in Europe and qualify for European passports, they are eligible to play for non-Australian national teams.

Click on a year for more details about fixtures played during that year.

The following is a list of all international games that Australia has played in their history. They have played New Zealand the most times with 62 matches. Their best record against another country is 100% (9 wins from 9 games) against Tahiti. Their worst record against another country is 0% (0 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws) against Czechoslovakia.

See also Australian national football team results for all results of all games.

No longer an OFC member.

The following squad has been called up to the 2010 World cup Qualifier against Uzbekistan in Sydney on the 1st of April 2009.

The following players have also been called up to the Australian squad in the past 12 months.

Sponsorship has generally been hard to find for the Socceroos as until 2005 football (soccer) in Australia was not seen as an attractive investment for companies. After Australia qualifed for the 2006 World Cup potential sponsors saw the Socceroos profile rise and jumped on board the so called bandwagon.

Currently the Socceroos are sponsored by Qantas, the Major Sponsor, and Nike, the Kit Supplier. Other sponsors include Foxtel, Hyundai, NAB, Powerade, Optus & Westfield.

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Victoria (Australia)

Map of Australia with  Victoria highlighted

Victoria is a state located in the southeastern corner of Australia. It is the smallest mainland state in area but the most densely populated and urbanised. Prior to European settlement, some 30,000 Indigenous Australians are estimated to have lived in the area now occupied by the state. By contrast, over five million people now inhabit the region. European settlement in Victoria began in the 1830s as a farming community. The discovery of gold in 1851 transformed it into a leading industrial and commercial centre. Victoria is the second most populous Australian state, after New South Wales, with an estimated population of 5,205,200 as of June 2007. Melbourne is Victoria's capital and largest city, with more than 70% of all Victorians living there.

Victoria, like Queensland, was named after Queen Victoria, the monarch at the time.

After the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788, the continent was divided into an eastern half named New South Wales, and a western half named New Holland, under the administration of the colonial government in Sydney. The first European settlement in Victoria which was established in October 1803 under Lieutenant-Governor David Collins at Sullivan Bay, Victoria on Port Phillip Bay. It consisted of 308 convicts, 51 marines, 17 free settlers, 12 civil officers, a missionary and his wife. They had been sent from England in HMS Calcutta under the command of Captain Daniel Woodriff, principally out of fear that the French, who had been exploring the area, might establish their own settlement and thereby challenge British 'rights' to the continent.

Victoria's next settlement was at Portland, on the west coast of what is now Victoria. Melbourne was founded in 1835 by John Batman.

From settlement the region around Melbourne was known as the Port Phillip District, and this gained some administrative status prior to separation from New South Wales and declaration as the Colony of Victoria in 1851.

In 1851 gold was discovered near Ballarat, and subsequently at Bendigo. Later discoveries occurred at many sites across Victoria. This triggered one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. The colony grew rapidly in both population and economic power. In ten years the population of Victoria increased sevenfold from 76,000 to 540,000. All sorts of gold records were produced including the "richest shallow alluvial goldfield in the world" and the largest gold nugget. Victoria produced in the decade 1851-1860 20 million ounces of gold, one third of the world's output.

Immigrants arrived from all over the world to search for gold, especially from Ireland and China. Many Chinese miners worked in Victoria, and their legacy is particularly strong in Bendigo and its environs. Although there was some racism directed at them, there was not the level of anti-Chinese violence that was seen at the Lambing Flat riots in New South Wales. However, there was a riot at Buckland Valley near Bright in 1857. Conditions on the gold fields were cramped and unsanitary; an outbreak of typhoid at Buckland Valley in 1854 killed over 1,000 miners.

In 1854 there was an armed rebellion against the government of Victoria by miners protesting against mining taxes (the "Eureka Stockade"). This was crushed by British troops, but some of the leaders of the rebellion subsequently became members of the Victorian Parliament, and the rebellion is still sometimes regarded as a pivotal moment in the development of Australian democracy.

The first foreign military action by the colony of Victoria was to send troops and a warship to New Zealand as part of the Maori Wars. Troops from New South Wales had previously participated in the Crimean War.

In 1901 Victoria became a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. As a result of the gold rush, Melbourne had by then become the financial centre of Australia and New Zealand. Between 1901 and 1927, Melbourne was the capital of Australia while Canberra was under construction. It was also the largest city in Australia at the time and the second largest city in terms of population of the British Empire (after London, England). Whilst Melbourne remains an important and influential financial centre, home to many national and international companies, it was slowly overtaken by Sydney in business importance around the 1970s and 1980s.

On Saturday 7 February 2009 ("Black Saturday"), the state was affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The fires have so far resulted in at least 200 deaths, and 100 people have been admitted to hospitals across Victoria with burns, at least 20 in a critical condition, and 9 on life support or in intensive care.

Victoria has a parliamentary form of government based on the Westminster System. Legislative power resides in the Parliament consisting of the Governor (the representative of the Queen), the executive (the Government), and two legislative chambers. The Parliament of Victoria consists of the lower house Legislative Assembly, the upper house Legislative Council and the Queen of Australia.

Eighty-eight members of the Legislative Assembly are elected to four-year terms from single-member electorates.

In November 2006, the Victorian Legislative Council elections were held under a new multi-proportional representation system. The State of Victoria was divided into eight electorates with each electorate represented by five representatives elected by Single Transferable Vote proportional representation. The total number of upper house members was reduced from 44 to 40 and their term of office is now the same as the lower house members — four years. Elections for the Victorian Parliament are now fixed and occur in November every four years. Prior to the 2006 Election the Legislative Council consisted of 44 members elected to eight-year terms from 22 two-member electorates.

The Premier of Victoria is the leader of the political party or coalition with the most seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Premier is the public face of government and, with Cabinet, sets the legislative and political agenda. Cabinet consists of representatives elected to either house of parliament. It is responsible for managing areas of government that are not exclusively the Commonwealth's, by the Australian Constitution, such as education, health and law enforcement. The current premier of Victoria is Mr John Brumby.

Executive authority is vested in the Governor of Victoria who represents and is appointed by Queen Elizabeth II. The post is usually filled by a retired prominent Victorian. The governor acts on the advice of the premier and cabinet.

Victoria has a written constitution. Enacted in 1975, but based on the 1855 colonial constitution, it establishes the parliament as the state's law-making body for matters coming under state responsibility. The Victorian Constitution can be amended by the parliament of Victoria. Under new provisions to be enacted, changes to the Victorian Constitution will be subjected to a plebiscite of votes, voting in a referendum.

The centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP), the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia and the rural-based National Party of Australia are Victoria's major political parties. Traditionally, Labor is strongest in Melbourne's inner, working class and western and northern suburbs, Morwell, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. The Liberals' main support lies in Melbourne's more affluent eastern and outer suburbs, and some rural and regional centres. The Nationals are strongest in Victoria's North Western and Eastern rural regional areas. The ALP government of former Premier Steve Bracks has been in office in Victoria since 1999 and was re-elected in 2002 and on 25 November 2006. See Victorian state election, 2006, and 2006 Victorian election campaign.

Following the 2006 Victorian election, the balance of power in the Legislative Council is now held by the Australian Greens. This means that by combining with the Liberal and National Party members, the Greens can defeat proposed Government legislation.

On 27 July 2007, Premier Steve Bracks announced his resignation from politics, saying that he needed to spend more time with his family. The deputy premier, John Thwaites, announced later that day that he too would resign. Former Treasurer John Brumby was elected unopposed by the Labor caucus as the new leader and became the 45th Premier of Victoria on Monday 30 July 2007.

Victorian voters elect 49 representatives to the Parliament of Australia, including 37 members of the House of Representatives and 12 members of the Senate. Since 2007, the ALP has held 21 Victorian house seats, the Liberals 14 and the Nationals two. As of 1 July 2008, the Liberals will hold six senate seats, the ALP five and the Family First Party one.

Victoria is incorporated into 79 municipalities for the purposes of local government, including 39 shires, 32 cities, seven rural cities and one borough. Shire and city councils are responsible for functions delegated by the Victorian parliament, such as city planning, road infrastructure and waste management. Council revenue comes mostly from property taxes and government grants.

The 2006 Australian census reported that Victoria had 4,932,422 people resident at the time of the census, an increase of 6.2% on the 1996 figure. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that by June 2007 the state's population reached 5,205,200 and may well reach 7.2 million by 2050. Victoria's founding Anglo-Celtic population has been supplemented by successive waves of migrants from southern and eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and, most recently, the Horn of Africa and Middle East. Victoria's population is ageing in proportion with the average of the remainder of the Australian population. The government predicts that nearly a quarter of Victorians will be aged over 60 by 2021. The 2006 census reveals that Australian average age has crept upward from 35 to 37 since 2001 which reflects the population growth peak of 1969-72.

More than 70% of Victorians live in Melbourne, located in the state's south. The greater Melbourne metropolitan area is home to an estimated 3.64 million people. Leading urban centres include Geelong , Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura, Warrnambool and the Latrobe Valley. Victoria is Australia's most urbanised state, with nearly 90% of residents living in cities and towns. Since 1871, more than half of all Victorians have lived in urban areas. Today, just over 12% of Victorians live in rural areas. The drift of people into Melbourne continues despite government efforts to encourage Victorians to settle in regional areas.

About 72% of Victorians are Australian-born. This figure falls to around 66% in Melbourne but rises to higher than 95% in some rural areas in the north west of the state. Around two-thirds of Victorians claim Australian, English or Irish ancestry. Less than 1% of Victorians identify themselves as Aboriginal. The largest groups of people born outside Australia came from the British Isles, China, Italy, Vietnam, Greece and New Zealand.

In 2007, Victoria recorded a TFR of 1.87, the highest after 1978.

About 60.5% of Victorians describe themselves as Christian. Roman Catholics form the single largest religious group in the state with 27.5% of Victorian population, followed by Anglicans and members of the Uniting Church. Catholics and Protestants (including Anglicans) in Victoria each form around 30% of the population. Buddhism, the state's largest non-Christian religion, is also the fastest growing with 132,634. Victoria is also home of 109,370 Muslims and 41,105 Jews. Around 20% of Victorians claim no religion.

Victoria's state school system dates back to 1872, when the colonial government legislated to make schooling both free and compulsory. The state's public secondary school system began in 1910. Before then, only private secondary schooling was available. Today, a Victorian school education consists of seven years of primary schooling, including one preparatory year and six years of secondary schooling. The final years of secondary school are optional for children aged over 15 (16 as of 2007). Victorian children generally begin school at age five. On completing secondary school, students earn the Victorian Certificate of Education. Students who successfully complete their secondary education also receive a tertiary entrance ranking, or ENTER score, to determine university admittance.

Victorian schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools, also known as state or government schools, are funded and run directly by the Victoria Department of Education . Students do not pay tuition fees, but some extra costs are levied. Private fee-paying schools include parish schools run by the Roman Catholic Church and elite independent schools similar to English public schools. Independent schools are usually affiliated with Protestant churches. Victoria also has several private Jewish and Islamic primary and secondary schools. Private schools also receive some public funding. All schools must comply with government-set curriculum standards.

As of August 2005, Victoria had 1,613 public schools, 484 Catholic schools and 208 independent schools. Just under 537,000 students were enrolled in public schools, and 289,000 in private schools. Nearly two-thirds of private students attend Catholic schools. More than 455,000 students were enrolled in primary schools and more than 371,000 in secondary schools. Retention rates for the final two years of secondary school were 77% for public school students and 90% for private school students. Victoria has about 60,200 full-time teachers.

Victoria has nine universities. The first to offer degrees, the University of Melbourne, enrolled its first student in 1855. The largest, Monash University, has an enrolment of nearly 56,000 students—more than any other Australian university. Both the University of Melbourne and Monash University are purportedly ranked highly among the world's best universities requiring a fairly high entry score, passing of mature age entrance exams or direct payment for student admission into their courses. The number of students enrolled in Victorian universities was 241,755 at 2004, an increase of 2% on the previous year. International students made up 30% of enrolments and account for the highest percentage of pre-paid university tuition fees. The largest number of enrolments were recorded in the fields of business, administration and economics, with nearly a third of all students, followed by arts, humanities, and social science, with 20% of enrolments.

Victoria also has 19 government run TAFE institutes. The first vocational institution in the state was the Melbourne Mechanics Institute (established in 1839), which is now the Melbourne Athenaum. More than 1,000 adult education organisations are registered to provide recognised TAFE programs. In 2004, there were about 480,700 students enrolled in vocational education programs in the state.

The State Library of Victoria is the State's research and reference library. It is responsible for collecting and preserving Victoria's documentary heritage and making it available through a range of services and programs. Material in the collection includes books, newspapers, magazines, journals, manuscripts, maps, pictures, objects, sound and video recordings and databases. Many local government councils maintain local libraries, some with more than one branch in their areas.

The Victorian economy is the second largest in Australia, accounting for a quarter of the nation's gross domestic product. The total gross state product (GSP) at current prices for Victoria was at just over A$222 billion, with a GSP per capita of A$44,443. The economy grew by 3.4% in 2004, less than the Australian average of 5.2%. Finance, insurance and property services form Victoria's largest income producing sector, while the community, social and personal services sector is the state's biggest employer. Despite the shift towards service industries, the troubled manufacturing sector remains Victoria's single largest employer and income producer.

Victoria experienced an economic slump from 1989 to 1992 during the term of John Cain. This was largely attributable to lagging property markets, reduced protection of manufacturing sectors as well as a financial crash involving industry giants such as the Pyramid Building Society and the collapse of The State Bank of Victoria, in particular its merchant banking arm Tricontinental. The result was a loss of employment and a drain of population to New South Wales and Queensland.

In the mid to late 1990s, the Victorian state government of Premier Jeff Kennett (LIB) sought to reverse this trend with massive cuts to state expenditure, shrinking of the state public sector and the aggressive development of new public works, mainly centred around the state capital of Melbourne. These included the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre (nicknamed "Jeff's Shed"), Crown Casino, capital works such as the CityLink tollway, the sale of state assets (including the State Electricity Commission and some state schools), the pruning of state services and a public relations campaign promoting Melbourne's merits, aimed at Melbourne residents and visitors alike.

Under the government of former Premier Steve Bracks (ALP), there was less emphasis on capital works and more on expansion of public services. Population increase now outstrips the national trend.

During 2003-04, the gross value of Victorian agricultural production increased by 17% to $8.7 billion. This represented 24% of national agricultural production total gross value. As of 2004, an estimated 32,463 farms occupied around 136,000 square kilometres (52,500 sq mi) of Victorian land. This comprises more than 60% of the state's total land surface. Victorian farms range from small horticultural outfits to large-scale livestock and grain productions. A quarter of farmland is used to grow consumable crops.

More than 26,000 square kilometres (10,000 sq mi) of Victorian farmland is sown for grain, mostly in the state's west. More than 50% of this area is sown for wheat, 33% for barley and 7% for oats. A further 6,000 square kilometres (2,300nbsp;sq mi) is sown for hay. In 2003-04, Victorian farmers produced more than 3 million tonnes of wheat and 2 million tonnes of barley. The state also grows about half of Australia's tobacco. Victorian farms produce nearly 90% of Australian pears and third of apples. It is also a leader in stone fruit production. The main vegetable crops include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Last year, 121,200 tonnes of pears and 270,000 tonnes of tomatoes were produced.

More than 14 million sheep and 5 million lambs graze over 10% of Victorian farms, mostly in the state's north and west. In 2004, nearly 10 million lambs and sheep were slaughtered for local consumption and export. Victoria also exports live sheep to the Middle East for meat and to the rest of the world for breeding. More than 108,000 tonnes of wool clip was also produced—one-fifth of the Australian total.

Victoria is the centre of dairy farming in Australia. It is home to 60% of Australia's 3 million dairy cattle and produces nearly two-thirds of the nation's milk, almost 6.4 million litres. The state also has 2.4 million beef cattle, with more than 2.2 million cattle and calves slaughtered each year. In 2003-04, Victorian commercial fishing crews and aquaculture industry produced 11,634 tonnes of seafood valued at nearly $A109 million. Blacklipped abalone is the mainstay of the catch, bringing in $A46 million, followed by southern rock lobster worth $A13.7 million. Most abalone and rock lobster is exported to Asia.

Machinery and equipment manufacturing is the state's most valuable activity, followed by food and beverage manufacturing and petroleum, coal and chemical manufacturing. More than 15% Victorian workers are employed in manufacturing industries. Victoria has 318,000 manufacturing workers. The state is marginally behind New South Wales in the value of manufacturing output.

Major industrial plants belong to the car manufacturers Ford, Toyota and Holden; Alcoa's Portland and Point Henry aluminium smelters; oil refineries at Geelong and Altona; and a major petrochemical facility at Laverton.

Victoria also plays an important role in providing goods for the defence industry. Melbourne is the centre of manufacturing in Victoria, followed by Geelong. Energy production has aided industrial growth in the Latrobe Valley.

Mining in Victoria contributes around A$3 billion to the gross state product but employs less than 1% of workers. The Victorian mining industry is concentrated on energy producing minerals, with brown coal, petroleum and gas accounting for nearly 90% of local production. The oil and gas industries are centred off the coast of Gippsland in the state's east, while brown coal mining and power generation is based in the Latrobe Valley.

In the 2005/2006 fiscal year, the average gas production was over 700 million cubic feet (20,000,000 m3) per day (M cuft/d) and represented 18% of the total national gas sales, with demand growing at 2% per year.

In 1985, oil production from the offshore Gippsland Basin peaked to an annual average of 450,000 barrels per day. In 2005-2006, the average daily oil production declined to 83,000 bbls/d, but despite the decline Victoria still produces almost 19.5% of crude oil in Australia.

Brown coal is Victoria's leading mineral, with 66 million tonnes mined each year for electricity generation in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland. The region is home to the world's largest known reserves of brown coal.

Despite being the historic centre of Australia's gold rush, Victoria today contributes a mere 1% of national gold production. Victoria also produces limited amounts of gypsum and kaolin.

The service industries sector is the fastest growing component of the Victorian economy. It includes the wide range of activities generally classified as community, social and personal services; finances, insurance and property services, government services, transportation and communication, and wholesale and retail trade. Most service industries are located in Melbourne and the state's larger regional centres. As of 2004-05, service industries employed nearly three-quarters of Victorian workers and generated three-quarters of the state's GSP. Finance, insurance and property services, as a group, provide a larger share of GSP than any other economic activity in Victoria. More than a quarter of Victorian workers are employed by the community, social and personal services sector.

Victoria's northern border is the southern bank of the Murray River. It also rests at the southern end of the Great Dividing Range, which stretches along the east coast and terminates west of Ballarat. It is bordered by South Australia to the west and shares Australian's shortest land border with Tasmania. The official border between Victoria and Tasmania is at 39°12' S, which passes through Boundary Islet in the Bass Strait for 85 metres. Victoria contains many topographically, geologically and climatically diverse areas, ranging from the wet, temperate climate of Gippsland in the southeast to the snow-covered Victorian alpine areas which rise to almost 2,000 metres (6,500 ft), with Mount Bogong the highest peak at 1,986 m; (6,516 ft). There are extensive semi-arid plains to the west and northwest.

There is an extensive series of river systems in Victoria. Most notable is the Murray River system. Other rivers include: Ovens River, Goulburn River, King River, Campaspe River, Loddon River, Wimmera River, Elgin River, Barwon River, Thomson River, Snowy River, Latrobe River, Yarra River, Maribyrnong River, Mitta River, Hopkins River, Merri River and Kiewa River.

The state symbols include the Pink Heath (state flower), Leadbeater's Possum (state animal) and the Helmeted Honeyeater (state bird).

The state's capital, Melbourne, contains approximately 70% of the state's population and dominates its economy, media, and culture. For other cities and towns, see List of localities (Victoria) and Local Government Areas of Victoria.

Victoria has the highest population density in any state in Australia, with population centres spread out over most of the state, with only the far northwest and the Victorian Alps lacking permanent settlement.

The Victorian road network services the population centres, with highways generally radiating from Melbourne and other major cities and rural centres with secondary roads interconnecting the highways to each other. Many of the highways are built to freeway standard ("M" freeways), while most are generally sealed and of reasonable quality.

Rail transport in Victoria is provided by several private and public railway operators who operate over government-owned lines. Major operators include: Connex Melbourne which runs an extensive, electrified, passenger system throughout Melbourne and suburbs; V/Line which is now owned by the Victorian Government, operates a concentrated service to major regional centres, as well as long distance services on other lines; Pacific National, CFCLA, El Zorro which operate freight services; Great Southern Railway which operates The Overland Melbourne-Adelaide; and CountryLink which operates XPTs Melbourne-Sydney. There also are several smaller freight operators and numerous tourist railways operating over lines which were once parts of a state-owned system. Victorian lines mainly use the 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge. However, the interstate trunk routes, as well as a number of branch lines in the west of the state have been converted to 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. Two tourist railways operate over 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge lines, which are the remnants of five formerly government-owned lines which were built in mountainous areas.

Melbourne has the world's largest tram network, currently operated by Yarra Trams. As well as being a popular form of public transport, over the last few decades trams have become one of Melbourne's major tourist attractions. There are also tourist trams operating over portions of the former Ballarat and Bendigo systems. There are also tramway museums at Bylands and Haddon.

Melbourne Airport is the major domestic and international gateway for the state. Avalon Airport is the state's second busiest airport, which is complements Essendon and Moorabbin Airports to see the remainder of Melbourne's air traffic. Hamilton Airport, Mildura Airport, Mount Hotham and Portland Airport are the remaining airports with scheduled domestic flights. There are no fewer than 27 other airports in the state with no scheduled flights.

The Port of Melbourne is the largest port for containerised and general cargo in Australia, and is located in Melbourne on the mouth of the Yarra River, which is at the head of Port Phillip Bay. Additional seaports are at Westernport Bay, Geelong, and Portland.

Victoria has a varied climate despite its small size. It ranges from semi-arid and hot in the north-west, to temperate and cool along the coast. Victoria's main land feature, the Great Dividing Range, produces a cooler, mountain climate in the centre of the state.

Victoria's southernmost position on the Australian mainland means it is cooler and wetter than other mainland states and territories. The coastal plain south of the Great Dividing Range has Victoria's mildest climate. Air from the Southern Ocean helps reduce the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Melbourne and other large cities are located in this temperate region. The Mallee and upper Wimmera are Victoria's warmest regions with hot winds blowing from nearby deserts. Average temperatures top 30 °C (86°F) during summer and 15 °C (59°F) in winter. Victoria's highest maximum temperature of 48.8°C (119.8°F) was recorded in Hopetoun on 7 February 2009. The Victorian Alps in the northeast are the coldest part of Victoria. The Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range mountain system extending east-west through the centre of Victoria. Average temperatures are less than 9°C (48°F) in winter and below 0°C (32°F) in the highest parts of the ranges. The state's lowest minimum temperature of -12.8°C (9.0°F) was recorded at Mount Hotham on 13 August 1947.

Victoria is the wettest Australian state after Tasmania. Rainfall in Victoria increases from north to south, with higher averages in areas of high altitude. Median annual rainfall exceeds 1,800 millimetres (71 inches) in some parts of the northeast but is less than 250 millimetres (10 inches) in the Mallee. Rain is heaviest in the Otway Ranges and Gippsland in southern Victoria and in the mountainous northeast. Snow generally falls only in the mountains and hills in the centre of the state. Rain falls most frequently in winter, but summer precipitation is heavier. Rainfall is most reliable in Gippsland and the Western District, making them both leading farming areas. Victoria's highest recorded daily rainfall was 375 millimetres (14.7 in) at Tanybryn in the Otway Ranges on 22 March 1983.

Average January temperatures: Victoria's north is always hotter than coastal and mountainous areas.

Average July temperatures: Victoria's hills and ranges are coolest during winter. Snow also falls there.

Average yearly precipitation: Victoria's rainfall is concentrated in the mountainous north-east and coast.

The climate of Victoria's capital Melbourne, which is located on Victoria's central south coast, as measured and recorded at the Regional Office (altitude 31.2m).

The climate of Mildura on the Murray River on the north-western border of Victoria as measured and recorded at the Airport (altitude 50m).

The climate of Wilsons Promontory which constitutes the southernmost tip of Victoria and the Australian mainland as measured and recorded at the Lighthouse (altitude 88.7 m/291 ft).

Other popular tourism activities are gliding, hang-gliding, hot air ballooning and scuba diving.

Major events also play a big part in tourism in Victoria, particularly cultural tourism and sports tourism. Most of these events are centred around Melbourne, but others occur in regional cities, such as the V8 Supercars and Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool and the Australian International Airshow at Geelong and numerous local festivals such as the popular Port Fairy Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, Bells Beach SurfClassic and the Bright Autumn Festival.

Victoria is the home of Australian rules football, with ten of the sixteen clubs of the Australian Football League based in Victoria, and the traditional Grand Final held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground usually on the last Saturday in September.

Victoria's cricket team, the Victorian Bushrangers play in the national Sheffield Shield cricket competition, and is represented in Football (soccer) by Melbourne Victory in the A-League. Victoria also has one team each represented in the National Rugby League and the Australian Rugby Championship, the Melbourne Storm and Melbourne Rebels respectively.

Melbourne has held the 1956 Summer Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth Games, FINA World Swimming Championship, and is home to the annual Australian Open tennis tournament, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

Victoria is also home to Bells Beach, which is the home of the world's longest-running surfing competition, the Bells Beach SurfClassic, which is part of The ASP World Tour.

Possibly Victoria's most famous island, Phillip Island, is home of the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix which features MotoGP (the world's premier motorcycling class), as well as the Australian round of the World Superbike Championship and the domestic V8 Supercar racing, which also visits Sandown Raceway and the rural Winton Motor Raceway circuit.

Australia's most prestigious footrace, the Stawell Gift, is an annual event.

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is one of the biggest horse racing events in the world and is one of the world's largest sporting events. The main race is for the $6 million Melbourne Cup, and crowds for the carnival exceed 700,000.

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Prime Minister of Australia

Coat of arms of Australia

The Prime Minister of Australia is the head of government of the Commonwealth of Australia, holding office on commission from the Governor-General. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful political office in Australia. Despite being at the apex of executive government in the country, the Prime Minister is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia and exists through an unwritten constitutional convention.

The current Prime Minister of Australia is Kevin Rudd.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General under section 64 of the Australian Constitution. This empowers the Governor-General to appoint Ministers of the Crown, and requires such ministers to be members of the House of Representatives or the Senate, or become members within three months of the appointment. Before being sworn in as a minister, a person must first be sworn in as a member of the Federal Executive Council if they are not already a member. Membership of the Federal Executive Council entitles the member to the title "the Honourable" (usually abbreviated to "the Hon") for life, barring exceptional circumstances. The senior members of the Executive Council constitute the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister is, like other ministers, normally sworn in by the Governor-General and then presented with the commission (Letters patent) of office. When defeated in an election, or on resigning, the Prime Minister is said to "hand in the commission" and actually does so by returning it to the Governor-General. In the event of a Prime Minister dying in office, or becoming incapacitated, the Governor-General can terminate the commission. Ministers hold office "during the pleasure of the Governor-General" (s. 64 of the Constitution), so theoretically, the Governor-General can dismiss a minister at any time, by notifying them in writing of the termination of their commission; however, his or her power to do so except on the advice of the Prime Minister is heavily circumscribed by convention.

Despite the importance of the office of Prime Minister, the Constitution does not mention the office by name. The conventions of the Westminster system were thought to be sufficiently entrenched in Australia by the authors of the Constitution that it was deemed unnecessary to detail them.

If a government cannot get its appropriation (budget) legislation passed by the House of Representatives, or the House passes a vote of "no confidence" in the government, the Prime Minister is bound by convention to resign immediately. The Governor-General's choice of replacement Prime Minister will be dictated by the circumstances.

Most of the Prime Minister's powers derive from his or her position as the head of the Cabinet. In practice, the Federal Executive Council will act to ratify all decisions made by the Cabinet, and in practice, decisions of the Cabinet will always require the support of the Prime Minister. The powers of the Governor-General – to grant Royal Assent to legislation, to dissolve and prorogue Parliament, to call elections, and to make appointments – are exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The power of the Prime Minister is subject to a number of limitations. If the Prime Minister is removed as leader of his or her party, or if the government they lead loses a vote of no-confidence in the House of Representatives, they must resign the office or be dismissed by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister's party will normally have a majority in the House of Representatives, and party discipline is exceptionally strong in Australian politics, so the passage of government-proposed legislation through the House is mostly a formality. Attaining the support of the Senate can be more difficult, since there the government will often lack an absolute majority.

The Prime Minister is the highest-paid member of parliament.

Ministerial salary is expressed as an additional percentage on top of the basic parliamentary salary. The Remuneration Tribunal's Report Number 1 of 2006 confirms the Prime Minister's additional salary as 160% of his parliamentary salary, ie. he earns in total 260% of the salary of an ordinary parliamentarian.

The Royal Australian Air Force's 34 Squadron transports the Prime Minister within Australia and overseas by specially converted Boeing Business Jets and smaller Challenger aircraft. The aircraft contain secure communications equipment as well as office, conference room and sleeping compartments. The call-sign for the aircraft is "Envoy".

The Prime Minister's official residence is The Lodge in Canberra, but not all Prime Ministers choose to make use of it. Jim Scullin preferred to live at the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt Hotel); Ben Chifley lived in the Kurrajong Hotel; and John Howard made Kirribilli House in Sydney his primary residence, using The Lodge when in Canberra on official business. The official residences are fully staffed and catered for both the Prime Minister and his family. A considerable amount of official entertaining is conducted at these residences.

The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has a staff at the Lodge consisting of a senior chef and an assistant chef, a child carer, one senior house attendant, and two junior house attendants. At Kirribilli House in Sydney, there is one full-time chef and one full-time house attendant.

In June 2007, businessman and former President of the Liberal Party in Victoria, Michael Kroger, announced that he and other Australian businessmen, a group dubbed the "Melbourne Lodgers", were examining properties in Melbourne for the Prime Minister to use as a residence while in that city. Despite Kroger's political affiliation, he maintained that if bought, the residence would be offered for the use of all Prime Ministers regardless of party affiliation. Chief on the list was Stonnington Mansion in the suburb of Malvern.

Prime Ministers continue to have benefits after leaving office, such as free office space, the right to hold a Life Gold Pass and budgets for office help and staff assistance. The Life Gold Pass entitles the holder to travel within Australia for "non-commercial" purposes at government expense.

Former Prime Ministers continue to be important national figures, and in some cases go on to successful post-prime ministerial careers. Some notable examples have included: Edmund Barton, who was a justice of the High Court; George Reid, who was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; and Arthur Fadden, who was Treasurer under another Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.

Below is a list of Prime Ministers of Australia by name, date assumed office, date left office, political party, total time in office and state represented in Parliament. The state(s) represented in parliament is not necessarily the one with which the person had the strongest association; the most extreme example being Bob Hawke who was born in South Australia, spent his formative years in Western Australia, worked in and represented Victoria and retired to New South Wales.

The parties shown are those to which the Prime Ministers belonged at the time they held office. Several Prime Ministers belonged to parties other than those given before and after their prime ministerships.

For a list showing further details, see List of Prime Ministers of Australia.

The most recently deceased Prime Minister is Sir John Gorton, who died on 19 May 2002.

Seven former Prime Ministers were alive during the periods 18 November 1941 – 13 July 1945, and 30 July 1947 – 13 June 1951.

Seventeen Prime Ministers were born prior to the Federation of Australia, 1 January 1901. The earliest-born Prime Minister was Sir George Reid, born 25 February 1845.

The first (and currently the only) person born after the Second World War to serve as Prime Minister, is the incumbent, Kevin Rudd, born 21 September 1957.

The only Prime Ministers born during either of the world wars are Gough Whitlam, born 11 July 1916, during WWI, and Paul Keating, born 18 January 1944, during WWII.

Six Prime Ministers were born in the month of September, two more than the next most popular month, August. The six were: John Gorton (9 September), Joseph Lyons (15th), James Scullin (18th), Kevin Rudd (21st), Ben Chifley (22nd) and Billy Hughes (25th). None were born in June, October or November.

The only two Prime Ministers who shared the same birthday are Sir Edmund Barton and Paul Keating – both born 18 January (1849 and 1944 respectively).

The only two Prime Ministers who shared the same death day are James Scullin and Frank Forde – both died 28 January (1953 and 1983 respectively).

The only two Prime Ministers who were born and died in the same month of the calendar were: Sir Edmund Barton (18 January 1849–7 January 1920), and Sir Arthur Fadden (13 April 1895–21 April 1973).

The only case of a former Prime Minister dying on another Prime Minister's birthday was Sir Earle Page, who died on 20 December 1961, the then-incumbent Sir Robert Menzies' 67th birthday.

Three Prime Ministers died in office – Joseph Lyons (1939), John Curtin (1945) and Harold Holt (1967). Holt's was a most unusual case – he disappeared while swimming, was declared presumed dead two days later, and his body was never recovered. It was not until almost 38 years later, in 2005, that he was officially declared by the Victorian Coroner to have drowned at the time of his disappearance.

No two former Prime Ministers have died in the same year. The former Prime Minister Stanley Bruce died in August 1967, the same year as the then-incumbent Harold Holt drowned.

Nine ex-Prime Ministers (Bruce, Cook, Fadden, Forde, Fraser, Gorton, Hughes, Watson, and Whitlam) have lived more than 25 years after leaving the office, and all but two of these survived longer than 30 years (Hughes lasted 29 years and 8 months; Fraser has lasted 25 years but is still living).

The longest-surviving was Stanley Bruce, who died 37 years and 10 months after leaving the Prime Ministership. Should Gough Whitlam live till 25 September 2013, he will exceed Bruce's record (he would then be 97 years old).

At the other extreme, excluding the three Prime Ministers who died in office and the most recent ex-incumbent John Howard, all but two ex-Prime Ministers survived more than ten years. The two exceptions were Ben Chifley – 1 year 6 months; and Alfred Deakin – 9 years 5 months.

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Source : Wikipedia