Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
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 Dutch 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 national day. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades, and by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies 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 federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories.
Being the oldest, flattest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils, Australia has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi). 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. 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.
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The Liberal Movement, usually referred to as the LM, was a minor South Australian political party that flourished in the 1970s. Stemming from discontent within the ranks of the Liberal and Country League, it was first formed by former Premier Steele Hall as an internal group in 1972 in response to a lack of reform within its parent. A year later, when tensions heightened between the LCL's conservative wing and the LM, it was established on its own as a progressive liberal party. When still part of the league, it had eleven representatives; on its own, it initially had three. In the federal election of 1974, it succeeded in electing Hall to the Australian Senate, and in the 1975 state election, it gained an additional member, narrowly failing to dislodge the incumbent Don Dunstan-led Labor Government in coalition with other non-Labor parties. The limited success of the LM and internal decline led to it being absorbed back into the LCL in 1976, newly renamed as the Liberal Party of Australia. A wing of the LM did not rejoin the Liberals and instead formed a new party, the New LM. The New LM, along with the Australia Party and Don Chipp, went on form the nucleus of the Australian Democrats, which subsequently went on to hold the balance of power in both federal and state upper houses. The LM and its successor parties were an early voice for what is termed small-l liberalism in Australia.
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For a topic outline on this subject, see Outline of Australia.