Why did prisoners colonize Australia?

Great Britain decided to use prisoners, or convicts, to colonise the Australian continent for several reasons.

There was a major problem in England. Britain's prisons were overcrowded with petty thieves who had resorted to minor theft of food and clothing just to survive - but Britain was determined to incarcerate them as punishment. Unemployment was rife - a side-consequence of the Industrial Revolution - but the country could not provide jobs for them all. The British authorities decided that, by establishing a new penal colony in a land which showed promise for eventually becoming self-supporting, they could also solve this problem of too many criminals. Britain had been sending their excess prisoners to North America, but the American War of Independence put a stop to the practice. Following this, the English were no longer able to transport surplus prisoners who couldn't legally be executed to North America.

Australia was remote, and there would be few people willing to travel there as free settlers, until it was more established. Convicts could be sent there; they had nowhere to escape to; and they could help build up the colony, thereby adding to the British presence in the South pPacific - a desirable outcome in the days of the war against France. Not only would this expand the British empire, but it would prevent the French from gaining a foothold in the Australian continent or in the southwest Pacific.