As of 2002, government-operated railways totaled about 33,819 km (21,015 mi). There are also some private railways, mainly for the iron ore industry in Western Australia. Australian railway systems do not interconnect well, and rail travel between principal cities involves changing trains. Modern equipment is gradually replacing older stock. As of August 1991, all interstate freight movements by rail were brought under the control of the National Rail Corporation (NRC).
Inland water transport is negligible, but ocean shipping is important for domestic and overseas transport. Most overseas trade is carried in non-Australian ships, while most coastwise vessels are of Australian registry. Although the fine natural harbors of Sydney and Hobart can readily accommodate ships of 11 m (36 ft) draft, many other harbors have been artificially developed. Other international shipping ports include Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Devonport, Fremantle, Geelong, Launceston, Mackay, Melbourne, and Townsville. All main ports have ample wharfage, modern cargo-handling equipment, and storage facilities. There are some 70 commercially significant ports. The nation's merchant marine in 2001 included 55 vessels of 1,000 GRT or over, with a combined GRT of 1,767,387. Highways provide access to many districts not served by railroads. As of 2001, there were 913,000 km (567,338 mi) of roads, about 353,331 km (219,560 mi) of which were paved. Motor vehicles in 2000 totaled about 10,618,744, including 8,310,244 passenger cars and 2,308,500 commercial trucks and buses.
Australia had 421 airports in 2001, 294 of which had paved runways. Principal airports include Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne International at Melbourne, Perth International at Perth, and Kingsford International at Sydney. In 1997, the government began privatizing many of the country's airports. The first round of such sales early in 1997 included the Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth airports, which raised A $3.34 billion ( US $2.5 billion)—far exceeding government projections. The main Sydney airport was explicitly excluded from the privatization plan. Domestic air services are operated primarily by the privately owned Ansett Airlines. The Australian overseas airline, Qantas, carries more than three million passengers per year to and from Australia, nearly 40% of the total carried by all airlines serving Australia. The airline was owned by the Commonwealth government until it was privatized in 1995. In 2001 Australian air carriers had 33,477,400 passengers and carried 1,678,000 freight ton km (1,042,709 freight ton mi).