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Transport, defence

Transport  
The majority of Australia’s rail network was laid down in the second half of the 19th century by colonies independent of each other and trading primarily with Great Britain. One result of this is that the tracks tend to radiate inland from the ports, with relatively few cross-country lines. Another legacy is the four different rail gauges found in the states; some states have more than one gauge. However, under a Commonwealth standardization programme, the state capitals are now linked by a single-gauge track which is the same (1,435 mm/56.5 in) as that operated by the federal railway company on its trans-Australia and Capital Territory lines, and on most of the central Australian railway to Alice Springs. Economic rationalization during the 1980s and competition from road transport has led to the closure of many rural and suburban lines. In the early 1990s there were about 36,652 km (22,775 mi) of track owned and operated by the federal and state governments. There are also private railways, notably serving the Western Australia iron ore fields. National Rail, a federal corporation, began operations in 1993, with the aim of taking over interstate freight operations and ownership of federal rail assets.

The main road network follows a similar pattern to that of the railways—radiating from the ports, and especially the state capitals. Australia has approximately 816,370 km (507,270 mi) of roads, including some 16,000 km (9,941 mi) of national highways. Many main roads were improved during the 1980s under a bicentennial federal programme, but road quality generally is variable. In the early 1990s, more than 10 million motor vehicles (equivalent to more than one vehicle for every two people) were registered. The capital cities are connected by inexpensive bus services. 

A comprehensive network of airline services links major cities and remote settlements. Because of the long distances between cities, and the country’s ideal flying conditions, Australians are frequent users of air travel. In the early 1990s, domestic airlines carried more than 18 million passengers a year. The domestic airlines were deregulated in 1990, ending agreements between the national domestic carrier, Australian Airlines, and its sole private sector competitor, Ansett, allowing duplication of times and services. The ending of their monopoly allowed smaller private operators to enter the market. In 1992, Australian Airlines merged with Qantas Airways, Australia’s privatized international line. Qantas operates services to more than 20 countries; some 43 international airlines flew to Australia in the early 1990s. The main national and international airports are at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) and Melbourne (Tullamarine); the other state capitals also have international airports, as does Cairns. 

Coastal and transoceanic shipping is vital to the Australian economy. There are about 70 ports of commercial significance, most of them on the east coast. Sydney, with adjacent Botany Bay, is the most important port for mixed freight. Other major ports include Port Hedland, specializing in bulk iron ore shipments, Melbourne, Fremantle, Newcastle, Port Kembla, Geelong, Brisbane, Port Gladstone, and Port Walcott. 

Defence

The system of defence employed by Australia dates from 1911, when the Commonwealth government instituted compulsory military service. The Royal Australian Navy was founded in 1913. Australians were on active service with the Royal Flying Corps in World War I; the Royal Australian Air Force was not established until 1921. The first enemy attack on Australian territory was the aerial bombing of Darwin by the Japanese early in World War II. Australian forces took part in several 19th-century British military campaigns, including the rimean War, the Sudan campaign (1897-1899), and the Boer War. Australian troops also participated in both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. See Anzac Forces. 

Service in the Australian armed forces is voluntary. In 1995 the total number of active armed forces personnel was 56,100. The army numbered about 23,700, including 2,600 women; the navy, 15,000; and the air force, 17,425, including 2,700 women. Although small in number, Australia’s armed forces are equipped with modern weapons. Women have been eligible for combat duties since 1993. 

The focus of Australia’s defence policy since the early 1950s has been the ANZUS mutual defence and support treaty (1952) with the United States and New Zealand. New Zealand’s refusal to allow warships with nuclear weapons into its ports during the mid-1980s led the United States to suspend ANZUS arrangements with that country; the pact with Australia continued to operate. Australia also maintains military ties with New Zealand. 

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