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Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, and to the north; the and to the north-east; and to the south-east. The population of million is highly and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is , and its largest city is . The country's other major metropolitan areas are , , and .

Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 60,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century. It is documented that Aborigines spoke languages that can be classified into about 250 groups. After the European exploration of the continent by explorers in 1606, who named it New Holland, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia's . The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy comprising six states and ten territories.

Being the oldest,Korsch RJ. et al. 2011. Australian island arcs through time: Geodynamic implications for the Archean and Proterozoic. Gondwana Research 19: 716–34. flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile , "Well, Australia has by far the world's least fertile soils". Australia has a landmass of . A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east and mountain ranges in the south-east. A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, which boosted the population of the country.. Nevertheless, its population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, remains among the lowest in the world. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications, banking and manufacturing.

(1982). 9780709919308, Taylor & Francis.
Indigenous Australian rock art is the oldest and richest in the world, dating as far back as 60,000 years and spread across hundreds of thousands of sites.Taçon, Paul S. C. (2001). "Australia". In Whitely, David S.. Handbook of Rock Art Research. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 531575.

Australia is a highly developed country, with the world's 13th-largest economy. It has a high-income economy, with the world's tenth-highest per capita income.Data refer mostly to the year 2014. World Economic Outlook Database-April 2015, International Monetary Fund. Accessed on 25 April 2015. Australia is a and has the world's 13th-highest military expenditure. Australia has the world's 9th largest immigrant population with immigrants accounting for 26% of the population.United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (2015). 'International Migration' in International migrant stock 2015. Accessed from International migrant stock 2015: maps on 24 May 2017. Having the third-highest human development index and the eighth-highest ranked globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, , and political rights, with all its major cities faring well in global comparative livability surveys.Dyett, Kathleen (19 August 2014). "Melbourne named world's most liveable city for the fourth year running, beating Adelaide, Sydney and Perth" , ABC News. Retrieved 14 April 2015. Australia is a member of the , G20, Commonwealth of Nations, , Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Pacific Islands Forum and the ASEAN Plus Six mechanism.

The name Australia (pronounced in Australian EnglishAustralian pronunciations: Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ) is derived from the ("southern land"), a name used for a hypothetical continent in the Southern Hemisphere since ancient times. "Australia" – Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 28 October 2015. When Europeans first began visiting and mapping Australia in the 17th century, the name Terra Australis was naturally applied to the new territories.

Until the early 19th century, Australia was best known as "New Holland", a name first applied by the Dutch explorer in 1644 (as Nieuw-Holland) and subsequently anglicised. Terra Australis still saw occasional usage, such as in scientific texts. The name Australia was popularised by the explorer , who said it was "more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth".Flinders, Matthew (1814). A Voyage to Terra Australis. G. and W. Nicol. The first time that Australia appears to have been officially used was in April 1817, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged the receipt of Flinders' charts of Australia from Lord Bathurst. In December 1817, Macquarie recommended to the that it be formally adopted.Weekend Australian, 30–31 December 2000, p. 16 In 1824, the agreed that the continent should be known officially by that name.

(2018). 9781921446306, Commonwealth of Australia. .
The first official published use of the new name came with the publication in 1830 of The Australia Directory by the Hydrographic Office. Brian J. Coman A Loose Cannon, Essays on History, Modernity and Tradition, Ch. 5, " La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo: Captain Quiros and the Discovery of Australia in 1606", p. 40. Retrieved 16 February 2017

Colloquial names for Australia include "Oz" and "the Land Down Under" (usually shortened to just ""). Other epithets include "the Great Southern Land", "the Lucky Country", "the Sunburnt Country", and "the Wide Brown Land". The latter two both derive from Dorothea Mackellar's 1908 poem "". Meanings and origins of Australian words and idioms , ANU


Pre-colonial history
Human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago, with the migration of people by and short sea-crossings from what is now .
(2018). 9781780337531, Little, Brown Book Group. .
These first inhabitants were the ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. At the time of European settlement in the late 18th century, most Indigenous Australians were with complex economies and societies.
(2015). 9789048188918, Springer. .
Indigenous Australians have an with spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the .
(2018). 9781610693424, ABC-CLIO. .
The Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically , obtained their livelihood from seasonal horticulture and the resources of their reefs and seas. The northern coasts and waters of Australia were visited sporadically by fishermen from South Peninsula, Sulawesi.

European arrival
The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland, and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent (in 1606), are attributed to the .
(2018). 9780642278098, National Library of Australia. .
The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the captained by Dutch navigator, .
(2018). 9780387352633, Springer Science. .
He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in early 1606, and made landfall on 26 February at the Pennefather River near the modern town of Weipa on Cape York.. The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines and named the island continent "New Holland" during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement. , an English explorer and privateer, landed on the north-west coast of New Holland in 1688 and again in 1699 on a return trip.
(2018). 9781863977982, Ready-Ed Publications.
In 1770, sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain.
(2018). 9781135088293, Routledge. .

With the loss of its American colonies in 1783, the British Government sent a fleet of ships, the "", under the command of Captain , to establish a new in New South Wales. A camp was set up and the flag raised at , , on 26 January 1788,

(2018). 9780954572600, Grice Chapman Publishing. .
a date which became Australia's national day, . A British settlement was established in Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, in 1803, and it became a separate colony in 1825.. The United Kingdom formally claimed the western part of Western Australia (the Swan River Colony) in 1828.. Separate colonies were carved from parts of New South Wales: 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"—it was never a penal colony.. Victoria and Western Australia were also founded "free", but later accepted transported convicts.. Convict Records Public Record office of Victoria; State Records Office of Western Australia . A campaign by the settlers of New South Wales led to the end of convict transportation to that colony; the last convict ship arrived in 1848. The indigenous population, estimated to have been between 750,000 and 1,000,000 in 1788,
(2018). 9780958563765, Aboriginal History Inc..
declined for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease. Thousands more died as a result of frontier conflict with settlers.Attwood, Bain; Foster, Stephen Glynn. Frontier Conflict: The Australian Experience. National Museum of Australia, 2003. , p. 89. A government policy of "assimilation" beginning with the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 resulted in the removal of many Aboriginal children from their families and communities—often referred to as the Stolen Generations—a practice which may also have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population.
(2018). 9781741145779, Allen & Unwin. .
As a result of the 1967 referendum, the Federal government's power to enact special laws with respect to a particular race was extended to enable the making of laws with respect to Aborigines.
(2018). 9781876633899, Cengage Learning Australia. .
Traditional ownership of land ("native title") was not recognised in law until 1992, when the High Court of Australia held in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) that the legal doctrine that Australia had been ("land belonging to no one") did not apply to Australia at the time of British settlement..

Colonial expansion
A began in Australia in the early 1850s and the 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 .. 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.. This established the Commonwealth of Australia as a of the British Empire.The name "the Commonwealth of Australia" is prescribed in section 3 (covering clause 3) of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (Imp). The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed in 1911 as the location for the future federal capital of Canberra. 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 federal parliament in 1911.
(2018). 9781922057006, Xoum Publishing. .

In 1914, Australia joined Britain in fighting World War I, with support from both the outgoing Commonwealth Liberal Party and the incoming Australian Labor Party.Macintyre, Stuart (1986) The Oxford History of Australia, vol. 4, p. 142C. Bean Ed. (1941). Volume I – The Story of Anzac: the first phase , First World War Official Histories, Eleventh Edition. Australians took part in many of the major battles fought on the Western Front. Of about 416,000 who served, about 60,000 were killed and another 152,000 were wounded.

(2018). 9781851094202, ABC-CLIO. .
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.Macintyre, Stuart (2000). A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, pp. 151–53, .
(2018). 9781920694197, University of Western Australia.
The Kokoda Track campaign is regarded by many as an analogous nation-defining event during World War II.

Britain's Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it in 1942,. but it was backdated to 1939 to confirm the validity of legislation passed by the Australian Parliament during World War II. The shock of the United Kingdom'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 treaty..

After World War II Australia encouraged immigration from mainland Europe. Since the 1970s and following the abolition of the White Australia policy, immigration from Asia and elsewhere was also promoted.. As a result, Australia's demography, culture, and self-image were transformed.. The passing of the Australia Act 1986 ended all possibility for any vestigial role of the British government in the government in Australia and removed the already seldom-used option of judicial appeals to the Privy Council in London. In a 1999 referendum, 55% of voters and a majority in every state rejected a proposal to become a with a president appointed by a two-thirds vote in both Houses of the Australian Parliament. Since the publication of the landmark critique The Lucky Country (1964) by and the election of the in 1972, there has been an increasing focus in foreign policy on ties with other nations, while maintaining close ties with Australia's traditional allies and trading partners.

(1994). 9780582021273, Longman.


General characteristics
Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the and seas, with the lying off the Queensland coast, and the lying between Australia and New Zealand. The world's smallest continent "Most people recognize seven continents—Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia, from largest to smallest—although sometimes Europe and Asia are considered a single continent, Eurasia." and sixth largest country by total area, "Smallest continent and sixth largest country (in area) on Earth, lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans." Australia—owing to its size and isolation—is often dubbed the "island continent", "Being surrounded by ocean, Australia often is referred to as an island continent. As a continental landmass it is significantly larger than the many thousands of fringing islands ..." and is sometimes considered the world's largest island. "Mainland Australia, with an area of 7.69 million square kilometres, is the Earth's largest island but smallest continent." Australia has of coastline (excluding all offshore islands), and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone of . This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory. Apart from , Australia lies between latitudes 9° and 44°S, and longitudes 112° and 154°E.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over . Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. At , on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland. Even taller are (at ), on the remote Australian external territory of Heard Island, and, in the Australian Antarctic Territory, and , at and respectively.

Australia's size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with tropical in the north-east, mountain ranges in the south-east, south-west and east, and dry desert in the centre. The desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the makes up by far the largest portion of land.

(1983). 9780091304607, Hutchinson Group (Australia).
Australia is the driest inhabited continent; its annual rainfall averaged over continental area is less than 500 mm. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a large proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline.

Eastern Australia is marked by the Great Dividing Range, which runs parallel to the coast of , New South Wales and much of Victoria. The name is not strictly accurate, because parts of the range consist of low hills, and the highlands are typically no more than in height.

(2018). 9780521767415, Cambridge University Press.
The coastal uplands and a lie between the coast and the mountains, while inland of the dividing range are large areas of grassland. These include the western plains of New South Wales, and the Einasleigh Uplands, , and of inland Queensland. The northernmost point of the east coast is the tropical-rainforested Cape York Peninsula.

The landscapes of the and the their tropical climateinclude forest, , wetland, , rainforest and desert. At the north-west corner of the continent are the sandstone cliffs and gorges of The Kimberley, and below that the . To the south of these and inland, lie more areas of grassland: the Ord Victoria Plain and the Western Australian Mulga shrublands.

(2018). 9781864501872, Lonely Planet.
At the heart of the country are the uplands of central Australia. Prominent features of the centre and south include (also known as Ayers Rock), the famous sandstone monolith, and the inland , Tirari and Sturt Stony, , Great Sandy, Tanami, and Great Victoria deserts, with the famous on the southern coast.
(2018). 9780778793434, Crabtree Publishing Company.

Lying on the Indo-Australian Plate, the mainland of Australia is the lowest and most primordial landmass on Earth with a relatively stable geological history.Pirajno, F., Occhipinti, S. A. and Swager, C. P., 1998. Geology and tectonic evolution of the Palaeoproterozoic Bryah, Padbury and Yerrida basins, Western Australia: implications for the history of the south-central Capricorn orogen. Precambrian Research, 90: 119–140.Pain, C.F., Villans, B.J., Roach, I.C., Worrall, L. & Wilford, J.R. (2012): Old, flat and red – Australia's distinctive landscape. In: Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia. Blewitt, R.S. (Ed.) Geoscience Australia and ANU E Press, Canberra. pp. 227–75 The landmass includes virtually all known rock types and from all geological time periods spanning over 3.8 billion years of the Earth's history. The is one of only two pristine 3.6-2.7 Ga (billion years ago) crusts identified on the Earth.Gray DR & Foster DA. 2004. Tectonic review of the Lachlan Orogen: historical review, data synthesis and modern perspectives. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 51: 773–817.

Having been part of all major , the Australian continent began to form after the breakup of in the , with the separation of the continental landmass from the continent and Indian subcontinent. It separated from over a prolonged period beginning in the and continuing through to the .Hawkesworth CJ et al. 2010. The generation and evolution of the continental crust. Journal of the Geological Society 167: 229–48. When the last glacial period ended in about 10,000 BC, rising sea levels formed , separating Tasmania from the mainland. Then between about 8,000 and 6,500 BC, the lowlands in the north were flooded by the sea, separating New Guinea, the , and the mainland of Australia.Hillis RR & Muller RD. (eds) 2003. Evolution and dynamics of the Australian Plate. Geological Society of Australia Special Publication 22: 432 p. The Australian continent is currently moving toward at the rate of 6—7 centimetres a year.Cawood PA. 2005. Terra Australis Orogen: breakup and development of the Pacific and Iapetus margins of Gondwana during the Neoproterozoic and Paleozoic. Earth-Science Reviews 69: 249–79.

The Australian mainland's continental crust, excluding the thinned margins, has an average thickness of 38 km, with a range in thickness from 24 km to 59 km.McKenzie et al. (ed) 2004. Australian Soils and Landscapes: an illustrated compendium. Publishing: 395 p. Australia's geology can be divided into several main sections, showcasing that the continent grew from west to east: the Archaean shields found mostly in the west, in the centre and sedimentary basins, metamorphic and in the east.Bishop P & Pillans B. (eds) 2010. Australian Landscapes. Geological Society of London Special Publication 346.

The Australian mainland and Tasmania are situated in the middle of the , and currently have no active volcanoes, but due to passing over the East Australia hotspot, recent volcanism has occurred during the , in the Newer Volcanics Province of western Victoria and southeastern South Australia. Volcanism also occurs in the island of New Guinea (considered geologically as part of the Australian continent), and in the Australian external territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands.Van Ufford AQ & Cloos M. 2005. Cenozoic tectonics of New Guinea. AAPG Bulletin 89: 119–140. Seismic activity in the Australian mainland and Tasmania is also low, with the greatest number of fatalities having occurred in the 1989 Newcastle earthquake.

The climate of Australia is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low-pressure system that produces in northern Australia. These factors cause rainfall to vary markedly from year to year. Much of the northern part of the country has a tropical, predominantly summer-rainfall (monsoon). The south-west corner of the country has a Mediterranean climate. The south-east ranges from (Tasmania and coastal Victoria) to humid subtropical (upper half of New South Wales), with the highlands featuring and subpolar oceanic climates. The interior is to .

According to the Bureau of Meteorology's 2011 Australian Climate Statement, Australia had lower than average temperatures in 2011 as a consequence of a La Niña weather pattern; however, "the country's 10-year average continues to demonstrate the rising trend in temperatures, with 2002–2011 likely to rank in the top two warmest 10-year periods on record for Australia, at above the long-term average". Furthermore, 2014 was Australia's third warmest year since national temperature observations commenced in 1910.

Water restrictions are frequently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought. Throughout much of the continent, major flooding regularly follows extended periods of drought, flushing out inland river systems, overflowing dams and inundating large inland flood plains, as occurred throughout Eastern Australia in 2010, 2011 and 2012 after the 2000s Australian drought.

Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, lower than those of only a few other industrialised nations. A was introduced in 2012 and helped to reduce Australia's emissions but was scrapped in 2014 under the Liberal Government. Since the carbon tax was repealed, emissions have again continued to rise.

Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from heaths to tropical rainforests. Fungi typify that diversity; an estimated 250,000 species—of which only 5% have been described—occur in Australia.Pascoe, I.G. (1991). History of systematic mycology in Australia. History of Systematic Botany in Australasia. Ed. by: P. Short. Australian Systematic Botany Society Inc. pp. 259–64. Because of the continent's great age, extremely variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are . Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species.
(2018). 9780226468280, University of Chicago Press. .
Besides Antarctica, Australia is the only continent that developed without species. may have been introduced in the 17th century by Dutch shipwrecks, and later in the 18th century by European settlers. They are now considered a major factor in the decline and extinction of many vulnerable and endangered native species. Fact check: Are feral cats killing over 20 billion native animals a year? ABC News, 13 November 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2017.

Australian forests are mostly made up of evergreen species, particularly trees in the less arid regions; replace them as the dominant species in drier regions and deserts. Among well-known Australian animals are the (the and ); a host of , including the , , and , and birds such as the and the . Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world."Snake Bite", The Australian Venom Compendium. The was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 . Many animal and plant species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna; others have disappeared since European settlement, among them the .

Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced animal, , fungal and plant species. All these factors have led to Australia's having the highest mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 65 are listed under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 natural World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 21st out of 178 countries in the world on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index.

Government and politics
Australia is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with at its apex as the Queen of Australia, a role that is distinct from her position as monarch of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in Australia by the Governor-General at the federal level and by the Governors at the state level, who by convention act on the advice of her ministers.. Thus, in practice the Governor-General has no actual decision-making or de facto governmental role, and merely acts as a legal figurehead for the actions of the Prime Minister and the Federal Executive Council. The Governor-General does have extraordinary which may be exercised outside the Prime Minister's request in rare and limited circumstances, the most notable exercise of which was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in the constitutional crisis of 1975.

The federal government is separated into three branches:

  • Legislature: the bicameral Parliament, defined in section 1 of the constitution as comprising the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), the Senate, and the House of Representatives;
  • Executive: the Federal Executive Council, which in practice gives legal effect to the decisions of the cabinet, comprising the prime minister and ministers of state who advise the Governor-General;
  • Judiciary: the High Court of Australia and other federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the Governor-General on advice of the Federal Executive Council.

In the Senate (the upper house), there are 76 senators: twelve each from the states and two each from the mainland territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). The House of Representatives (the lower house) has 150 members elected from single-member electoral divisions, commonly known as "electorates" or "seats", allocated to states on the basis of population, with each original state guaranteed a minimum of five seats. Elections for both chambers are normally held every three years simultaneously; senators have overlapping six-year terms except for those from the territories, whose terms are not fixed but are tied to the electoral cycle for the lower house; thus only 40 of the 76 places in the Senate are put to each election unless the cycle is interrupted by a double dissolution.

Australia's electoral system uses preferential voting for all lower house elections with the exception of Tasmania and the ACT which, along with the Senate and most state upper houses, combine it with proportional representation in a system known as the single transferable vote. Voting is compulsory for all enrolled citizens 18 years and over in every jurisdiction, as is enrolment (with the exception of South Australia). The party with majority support in the House of Representatives forms the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. In cases where no party has majority support, the Governor-General has the constitutional power to appoint the Prime Minister and, if necessary, dismiss one that has lost the confidence of Parliament.

There are two major political groups that usually form government, federally and in the states: the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition which is a formal grouping of the Liberal Party and its minor partner, the National Party. Within Australian political culture, the Coalition is considered and the Labor Party is considered .

(2018). 9781486001385, Pearson Higher Education AU.
Independent members and several minor parties have achieved representation in Australian parliaments, mostly in upper houses.

In September 2015, successfully challenged for leadership of the Coalition, and was sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia. The most recent federal election was held on 2 July 2016 and resulted in the Coalition's forming a majority government. On 24 August 2018, Turnbull resigned after his party voted for a leadership spill. Treasurer was elected as party leader and was sworn in as prime minister later that day.

States and territories
Australia has six states—New South Wales (NSW), (QLD), (SA), (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA)—and two major mainland territories—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT). In most respects these two territories function as states, except that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to modify or repeal any legislation passed by the territory parliaments. Australian Constitution, section 122 - Australian Legal Information Institute website.

Under the constitution, the States essentially have to legislate on any subject, whereas the Commonwealth (federal) Parliament may legislate only within the subject areas enumerated under section 51. For example, State parliaments have the power to legislate with respect to education, criminal law and state police, health, transport, and local government, but the Commonwealth Parliament does not have any specific power to legislate in these areas. However, Commonwealth laws prevail over State laws to the extent of the inconsistency.Australian Constitution, section 109. In addition, the Commonwealth has the power to levy income tax which, coupled with the power to make grants to States, has given it the financial means to incentivize States to pursue specific legislative agendas within areas over which the Commonwealth does not have legislative power.

Each state and major mainland territory has its own parliament— in the Northern Territory, the ACT and Queensland, and bicameral in the other states. The states are sovereign entities, although subject to certain powers of the Commonwealth as defined by the Constitution. The lower houses are known as the Legislative Assembly (the House of Assembly in South Australia and Tasmania); the upper houses are known as the Legislative Council. The head of the government in each state is the Premier and in each territory the . The Queen is represented in each state by a governor; and in the Northern Territory, the Administrator. In the Commonwealth, the Queen's representative is the Governor-General.

The Commonwealth Parliament also directly administers the following external territories: Ashmore and Cartier Islands; Australian Antarctic Territory; ; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Coral Sea Islands; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; and Jervis Bay Territory, a naval base and sea port for the national capital in land that was formerly part of New South Wales. The external territory of previously exercised considerable autonomy under the Norfolk Island Act 1979 through its own legislative assembly and an Administrator to represent the Queen. In 2015, the Commonwealth Parliament abolished self-government, integrating Norfolk Island into the Australian tax and welfare systems and replacing its legislative assembly with a council. is administered by Tasmania, and Lord Howe Island by New South Wales.

Foreign relations
Over recent decades, Australia's foreign relations have been driven by a close association with the United States through the , 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, and in 2011 attended the Sixth East Asia Summit in Indonesia. Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings provide the main forum for co-operation. Australia has pursued the cause of international trade liberalisation.
(2018). 9780521785259, Cambridge University Press.
It led the formation of the 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, with another free trade agreement being negotiated with China—the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement—and Japan, in 2011, Australia–Chile Free Trade Agreement, and has put the Trans-Pacific Partnership before parliament for ratification.

Australia maintains a deeply integrated relationship with neighbouring New Zealand, with free mobility of citizens between the two countries under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and free trade under the Australia–New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement. New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom are the most favourably viewed countries in the world by Australian people, sharing a number of close diplomatic, military and cultural ties with Australia. There is considerable public and political support to extend the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and Closer Economic Relations Agreement to include Canada and the United Kingdom under a proposal known by the acronym "" - with 73% of Australian residents stating that they would endorse the proposition in principle.

Along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore, Australia is party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a regional defence agreement. A founding member country of the United Nations, Australia is strongly committed to and maintains an international aid program under which some 60 countries receive assistance. The 2005–06 budget provides A$2.5 for development assistance.Australian Government. (2005). Budget 2005–2006 Australia ranks fifteenth overall in the Center for Global Development's 2012 Commitment to Development Index.Center for Global Development. Commitment to Development Index: Australia, Retrieved 5 January 2008.

Australia's armed forces—the Australian Defence Force (ADF)—comprise the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), in total numbering 81,214 personnel (including 57,982 regulars and 23,232 reservists) . The titular role of Commander-in-Chief is vested in the Governor-General, who appoints a Chief of the Defence Force from one of the armed services on the advice of the government. Day-to-day force operations are under the command of the Chief, while broader administration and the formulation of defence policy is undertaken by the Minister and Department of Defence.

In the 2016–17 budget, defence spending comprised 2% of GDP, representing the world' Https://< /ref> Australia has been involved in UN and regional peacekeeping, disaster relief and armed conflict, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq; it currently has deployed about 2,241 personnel in varying capacities to 12 international operations in areas including and Afghanistan.

A wealthy country, Australia has a , a high GDP per capita, and a relatively low rate of poverty. In terms of average wealth, Australia ranked second in the world after Switzerland from 2013 until 2018. In 2018, Australia overtook Switzerland and become the country with the highest average wealth. Australia's poverty rate increased from 10.2% to 11.8%, from 2000/01 to 2013. It was identified by the Credit Suisse Research Institute as the nation with the highest median wealth in the world and the second-highest average wealth per adult in 2013.

The Australian dollar is the currency for the nation, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Norfolk Island, as well as the independent of , , and . With the 2006 merger of the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Australian Securities Exchange became the ninth largest in the world.

Ranked fifth in the Index of Economic Freedom (2017), Australia is the world's twelfth largest economy and has the sixth highest per capita GDP (nominal) at US$56,291. The country was ranked second in the United Nations 2016 Human Development Index. Melbourne reached top spot for the fourth year in a row on 's 2014 list of the world's most liveable cities, followed by Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth in the fifth, seventh, and ninth places respectively. Total government debt in Australia is about A$190 – 20% of GDP in 2010. Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest levels in the world.

An emphasis on exporting commodities rather than manufactured goods has underpinned a significant increase in Australia's terms of trade since the start of the 21st century, due to rising commodity prices. Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large deficits for more than 50 years. Australia has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% for over 15 years, in comparison to the OECD annual average of 2.5%.

Australia was the only advanced economy not to experience a recession due to the global financial downturn in 2008–2009. However, the economies of six of Australia's major trading partners have been in recession, which in turn has affected Australia, significantly hampering its economic growth in recent years. From 2012 to early 2013, Australia's national economy grew, but some non-mining states and Australia's non-mining economy experienced a recession.

The floated the Australian dollar in 1983 and partially deregulated the financial system. The Howard Government followed with a and the further 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). In Australia's tax system, personal and company income tax are the main sources of government revenue.

, there were 12,640,800 people employed (either full- or part-time), with an unemployment rate of 5.2%.

Data released in mid-November 2013 showed that the number of welfare recipients had grown by 55%. In 2007 228,621 Newstart unemployment allowance recipients were registered, a total that increased to 646,414 in March 2013. According to the Graduate Careers Survey, full-time employment for newly qualified professionals from various occupations has declined since 2011 but it increases for graduates three years after graduation.

Since 2008, 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 about 70% of GDP. Rich in natural resources, Australia is a major exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat and wool, minerals such as iron-ore and gold, and energy in the forms of liquified natural gas and coal. 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.. Australia is the world's fourth largest exporter of wine, and the wine industry contributes A$5.5 billion per year to the nation's economy.

Until the Second World War, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from the , and a majority of Australians have some British or Irish ancestry. These Australians form an ethnic group known as Anglo-Celtic Australians. In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were English (36.1%), (33.5%),The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that most who list "Australian" as their ancestry are part of the Anglo-Celtic group. (11.0%), Scottish (9.3%), Chinese (5.6%), Italian (4.6%), German (4.5%), Indian (2.8%), (1.8%), and (1.6%).

Australia's population has quadrupled since the end of World War I, much of this increase from immigration. Following World War II and through to 2000, almost 5.9 million new immigrants arrived and settled in the country. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and . By 2050, Australia's population is currently projected to reach around 42 million." Australia's population to grow to 42 million by 2050, modelling shows ". 17 April 2010

In 2016, more than a quarter (26%) of Australia's population were born overseas; the five largest immigrant groups were those born in (3.9%), New Zealand (2.2%), (2.2%), (1.9%), and the (1%). 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 . In 2015–16, there were 189,770 permanent immigrants admitted to Australia, mainly from Asia.

The Indigenous population—Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders—was counted at 649,171 (2.8% of the total population) in 2016. The increase is partly due to many people with Indigenous heritage previously having been overlooked by the census due to undercount and cases where their Indigenous status had not been recorded on the form. Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are, respectively, 11 and 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having ""-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.Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library (7 March 2005). Australia's aging workforce. A large number of Australians (759,849 for the period 2002–03;Parliament of Australia, Senate (2005). Inquiry into Australian Expatriates. 1 million or 5% of the total population in 2005

(2018). 9781741143829, Allen & Unwin. .
) live outside their home country.

Although Australia has no official language, English has always been entrenched as the national language. "English has no de jure status but it is so entrenched as the common language that it is de facto the official language as well as the national language." Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon, and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling."The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005. General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

According to the 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 72.7% of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are (2.5%), (1.4%), (1.2%), Vietnamese (1.2%) and (1.2%). A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are .

Over 250 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact,Walsh, Michael (1991) "Overview of indigenous languages of Australia" in

(1991). 9780521339834, Cambridge University Press. .
of which fewer than twenty are still in daily use by all age groups. About 110 others are spoken exclusively by older people. At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous Australians, representing 12% of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home. Australia has a known as , which is the main language of about 5,500 deaf people.

Australia has no ; Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making any law to establish any religion, impose any religious observance, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion. In the 2016 census, 54.6% of Australians were counted as , including 22.6% as Roman Catholic and 13.3% as ; 30.1% of the population reported having "no religion"; 7.3% identify with non-Christian religions, the largest of these being (2.6%), followed by (2.5%), (1.9%), Sikhism (0.6%) and (0.4%). The remaining 9.6% of the population did not provide an adequate answer. Those who reported having no religion increased conspicuously from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22%) and 2016 (30.1%), when a further 2.2 million people reported having no religion.

Before European settlement, the animist beliefs of Australia's indigenous people had been practised for many thousands of years. Mainland Aboriginal Australians' spirituality is known as the and it places a heavy emphasis on belonging to the land. The collection of stories that it contains shaped Aboriginal law and customs. Aboriginal art, story and dance continue to draw on these spiritual traditions. The spirituality and customs of Torres Strait Islanders, who inhabit the islands between Australia and New Guinea, reflected their Melanesian origins and dependence on the sea. The 1996 Australian census counted more than 7000 respondents as followers of a traditional Aboriginal religion.

Since the arrival of the of British ships in 1788, Christianity has become the major religion practised in Australia. Christian churches have played an integral role in the development of education, health and welfare services in Australia. For much of Australian history, the Church of England (now known as the Anglican Church of Australia) was the largest religious denomination. However, multicultural immigration has contributed to a decline in its relative position, and the Roman Catholic Church has benefitted from recent immigration to become the largest group. Similarly, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism have all grown in Australia over the past half-century.

Australia has one of the lowest levels of religious adherence in the world. In 2001, only 8.8% of Australians attended church on a weekly basis. NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance , National Church Life Survey, Media release, 28 February 2004.

Australia's life expectancy is the third highest in the world for males and the seventh highest for females. Life expectancy in Australia in 2010 was 79.5 years for males and 84.0 years for females. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, while is the largest preventable cause of death and disease, responsible for 7.8% of the total mortality and disease. Ranked second in preventable causes is at 7.6%, with obesity third at 7.5%. Smoking – A Leading Cause of Death. The National Tobacco Campaign. Australia ranks 35th in the world % Global prevalence of adult obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²): country rankings 2012 IASO and near the top of developed nations for its proportion of obese adults and nearly two thirds (63%) of its adult population is either overweight or obese.

Total expenditure on health (including private sector spending) is around 9.8% of GDP. Australia introduced universal health care in 1975. Known as Medicare, it is now nominally funded by an income tax surcharge known as the , currently set at 2%. The states manage hospitals and attached outpatient services, while the Commonwealth funds the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (subsidising the costs of medicines) and general practice.

School attendance, or registration for home schooling, is compulsory throughout Australia. Education is the responsibility of the individual states and territories so the rules vary between states, but in general children are required to attend school from the age of about 5 until about 16. In some states (e.g., Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales), children aged 16–17 are required to either attend school or participate in vocational training, such as an .

Australia has an adult literacy rate that was estimated to be 99% in 2003. However, a 2011–12 report for the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Tasmania has a literacy and numeracy rate of only 50%. In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries (member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Catholic education accounts for the largest non-government sector.

Australia has 37 government-funded universities and two private universities, as well as a number of other specialist institutions that provide approved courses at the higher education level. The OECD places Australia among the most expensive nations to attend university. Education at a Glance 2006 . Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development There is a state-based system of vocational training, known as TAFE, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. About 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. Education at Glance 2005 by OECD: Percentage of foreign students in tertiary education. In addition, 30.9 percent of Australia's population has attained a higher education qualification, which is among the highest percentages in the world.

Since 1788, the primary influence behind Australian culture has been , with some Indigenous influences.Jupp, pp. 796–802.Teo and White, pp. 118–20. The divergence and evolution that has occurred in the ensuing centuries has resulted in a distinctive Australian culture..Teo and White, pp. 125–27. Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, particularly through television and cinema.Teo and White, pp. 121–23. Other cultural influences come from neighbouring Asian countries, and through large-scale immigration from non-English-speaking nations.Jupp, pp. 808–12, 74–77.

Traditional designs, patterns and stories infuse contemporary Indigenous Australian art, "the last great art movement of the 20th century"; its exponents include Emily Kame Kngwarreye.Smith, Terry (1996) "Kngwarreye Woman, Abstract Painter", p. 24 in Emily Kngwarreye – Paintings, North Ryde NSW: Craftsman House / G + B Arts International. . Early colonial artists, trained in Europe, showed a fascination with the unfamiliar land. The works of , and others associated with the 19th-century Heidelberg School—the first "distinctively Australian" movement in Western art—gave expression to a burgeoning Australian nationalism in the lead-up to Federation. Australian art , Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 27 August 2014. While the school remained influential into the new century, such as , and, later, and , explored new artistic trends. The landscape remained a central subject matter for , and other post-World War II artists whose works, eclectic in style yet uniquely Australian, moved between the and the . Brett Whiteley: Nature , Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 15 April 2015. The national and state galleries maintain collections of local and international art.
(1990). 9789768097026, Craftsman House.
Australia has one of the world's highest attendances of art galleries and museums per head of population.Ron Radford, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, quoted in

Australian literature grew slowly in the decades following European settlement though Indigenous , many of which have since been recorded in writing, are much older.Sarwal, Amit; Sarwal, Reema (2009). Reading Down Under: Australian Literary Studies Reader. SSS Publications. p. xii. . 19th-century writers such as and captured the experience of using a distinctive Australian vocabulary. Their works are still popular; Paterson's "" (1895) is regarded as Australia's unofficial national anthem.O'Keeffe, Dennis (2012). Waltzing Matilda: The Secret History of Australia's Favourite Song. Allen & Unwin. p. back cover. . is the namesake of Australia's most prestigious literary prize, awarded annually to the best novel about Australian life. Miles Franklin Literary Award, Retrieved 18 April 2015. Its first recipient, , went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973. Australia's Nobel Laureates and the Nobel Prize , Retrieved 17 April 2015. Australian winners of the Booker Prize include Peter Carey, and .Hughes-D'Aeth, Tony (15 October 2014). "Australia's Booker prize record suggests others will come in Flanagan's wake" , The Conversation. Retrieved 17 April 2014. Author , playwright and poet Les Murray are also renowned literary figures..

Many of Australia's performing arts companies receive funding through the federal government's Australia Council. There is a symphony orchestra in each state, and a national opera company, , well known for its famous . At the beginning of the 20th century, was one of the world's leading opera singers. Ballet and dance are represented by The Australian Ballet and various state companies. Each state has a publicly funded theatre company.

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world's first film, spurred a boom in Australian cinema during the era. After World War I, monopolised the industry, and by the 1960s Australian film production had effectively ceased. With the benefit of government support, the Australian New Wave of the 1970s brought provocative and successful films, many exploring themes of national identity, such as Wake in Fright and Gallipoli, while "Crocodile" Dundee and the movement's Mad Max series became international blockbusters.Moran, Albert; Vieth, Errol (2009). The A to Z of Australian and New Zealand Cinema. Scarecrow Press. , p. 35. In a film market flooded with foreign content, Australian films delivered a 7.7% share of the local box office in 2015.Quinn, Karl (6 December 2015). "Australian film has had its biggest year at the box office ever. Why?" , The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 February 2016. The are Australia's premier film and television awards, and notable Academy Award winners from Australia include , , and . "Ten Great Australian Moments at the Oscars" (26 February 2014), Retrieved 7 February 2016.

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 at least one daily newspaper, and there are two national daily newspapers, and The Australian Financial Review. In 2010, Reporters Without Borders placed Australia 18th on a list of 178 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (8th) but ahead of the United Kingdom (19th) and United States (20th). This relatively low ranking is primarily because of the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia;Barr, Trevor. " Media Ownership in Australia ", Retrieved 2 January 2008. most print media are under the control of and .

Most Indigenous Australian tribal groups subsisted on a simple hunter-gatherer diet of native fauna and flora, otherwise called . The first settlers introduced to the continent, much of which is now considered typical Australian food, such as the . Multicultural immigration transformed Australian cuisine; post-World War II European migrants, particularly from the Mediterranean, helped to build a thriving Australian , and the influence of Asian cultures has led to Australian variants of their staple foods, such as the -inspired and .
(1999). 9780781807371, .
, pavlova, and meat pies are regarded as iconic Australian foods.
(2018). 9781743050941, Wakefield Press.
is produced mainly in the southern, cooler parts of the country.

Australia is also known for its and in , which has influenced coffee culture abroad, including New York City. Australia was responsible for the coffee–purported to have originated in a Sydney cafe in the mid-1980s.

Sport and recreation
About 24% of Australians over the age of 15 regularly participate in organised sporting activities.

Australia is unique in that it has professional leagues for four football codes. Australian rules football, the world's oldest major football code and Australia's most popular sport in terms of revenue and spectatorship, originated in Melbourne in the late 1850s, and predominates in all states except New South Wales and Queensland, where holds sway, followed by . Soccer, while ranked fourth in popularity and resources, has the highest overall participation rates.

(2018). 9781317969051, Routledge.

The Australian national cricket team have participated in every edition of the Cricket World Cup. Australia have been very successful in the event, winning the tournament five times, the record number.

Australia is a powerhouse in water-based sports, such as swimming and surfing.

(2018). 9789812347992, Langenscheidt Publishing Group.
The movement originated in Australia, and the volunteer lifesaver is one of the country's icons.
(2018). 9780714681788, Routledge.
Nationally, other popular sports include horse racing, basketball, and motor racing. The annual horse race and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race attract intense interest. In 2016, the Australian Sports Commission revealed that swimming, cycling and soccer are the three most popular participation sports.

Australia is one of five nations to have participated in every of the modern era,

(2018). 9780756610838, DK.
and has hosted the Games twice: 1956 in Melbourne and 2000 in Sydney.. Australia has also participated in every Commonwealth Games, hosting the event in 1938, 1962, 1982, 2006 and 2018. Australia made its inaugural appearance at the in 2015. As well as being a regular FIFA World Cup participant, Australia has won the OFC Nations Cup four times and the AFC Asian Cup once – the only country to have won championships in two different FIFA confederations. The country regularly competes among the world elite basketball teams as it is among the global top three teams in terms of qualifications to the Basketball Tournament at the Summer Olympics. Other major international events held in Australia include the tennis grand slam tournament, international cricket matches, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. The highest-rating television programs include sports telecasts such as the Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, , Rugby League State of Origin, and the of the National Rugby League and Australian Football League."Australian Film Commission. What are Australians Watching?" Free-to-Air, 1999–2004 TV. Skiing in Australia began in the 1860s and snow sports take place in the and parts of Tasmania.

See also
  • Outline of Australia
  • Index of Australia-related articles



Further reading
  • Denoon, Donald, et al. (2000). A History of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific. Oxford: Blackwell. .
  • Goad, Philip and Julie Willis (eds.) (2011). The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. .
  • Hughes, Robert (1986). The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding. Knopf. .
  • Powell, J. M. (1988). An Historical Geography of Modern Australia: The Restive Fringe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Robinson, G. M., Loughran, R. J., and Tranter, P. J. (2000). Australia and New Zealand: Economy, Society and Environment. London: Arnold; New York: Oxford University Press. paperback, hardback.

External links

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