New South Wales, the most populous of Australia's
six states. Lying in the southeast part of the country, it is the fourth
largest state, with an area of 309,500 square miles (801,600 sq km), 10.4
percent of the total area of Australia. New South Wales is bounded on the
north by Queensland, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by
Victoria, and on the west by South Australia.
New South Wales was the first English colony established in Australia, and at one time included the areas which are now the states of South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland; the Northern Territory; and the Capital Territory, which includes the national capital Canberra. Its present area was attained in 1915, following the transfer of a site at Jervis Bay to the government for the development of a port to serve the land-locked Capital Territory.
New South Wales has four main topographical
regions, which run in north-south bands: 1) the coastal lowland, a belt
50 miles (80 km) wide in the north and 20 miles (32 km) wide in the south,
along the coast; 2) the eastern highlands, a series of plateaus and ranges
standing 3,000 feet (900 meters) or more above sea level and including
Mount Kosciusko, 7,310 feet (2,228 meters) high, the highest point in Australia;
3) the western slopes, descending gently inland from the highlands; and
4) the western plains; which cover almost two thirds of the state.
The coastline is about 700 miles (1,130 km) long and has many good harbors. The most important are Port Jackson, serving Sydney; Port Hunter, serving Newcastle; and Port Kembla, serving the Wollongong area. There are also several good beaches located along the coast.
Many short rivers, such as the Hunter, Wollondilly, and Clarence, flow from the highlands to the east coast and, while not navigable except for small craft over short distances, provide good land for agriculture along their valley floors and a source for hydroelectric power. The rivers draining toward the interior, such as the Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, and Macquarie, are longer, and are navigable for river boats over considerable distances at certain times of the year. The Murray and Darling also provide water for irrigation in the western plains.
New South Wales lies within the temperate zone and has a mild climate, with a normal annual variation in temperature of only about 15°F. (8°C.). The average annual temperature at Sydney, the capital, is about 64°F. (18°C.), with the average maximum, in the low 70's (21°C. to 22°C.), occurring in December and January, and the average low, in the mid-50's (12°C. to 14°C.), in July. Temperatures average higher in the north than in the south, and the range increases inland from the coast. The average annual rainfall decreases from a maximum of about 80 inches (2,000 mm) in the northeast to about 7 inches (180 mm) in the northwest. About 60 percent of the state averages less than 20 inches (500 mm) per year. Rainfall in the western plains is undependable. The southwest receives most of its rain in winter and the northeast in summer. The central part, a transitional zone, has rain in both seasons.
In 1991 the population of New South Wales was 5,731,926, about 34 percent of the total population of Australia. The average density was about 18 persons per square mile (7.2 per sq km). In 1991 more than 87 percent of the population was urban, including 3,143,900 persons living in the urban center of Sydney, the state capital and Australia's largest city. Newcastle, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Sydney, was the second largest city in the state, with a population of 270,300. Greater Wollongong, south of Sydney, was the third largest urban center, with a population of 216,800. Central Coast, an urban center that includes Gosford and nearby urban settlements, about 53 miles (85 km) north of Sydney, had about 171,000 people.
New South Wales has a parliamentary form of government similar to that of the national government of Great Britain. The nominal head of government is the governor, who serves as the local representative of the British Crown. Actual executive functions are exercised in the name of the governor by the premier and cabinet ministers, who form the executive council. The premier and ministers, who normally represent the majority party in the parliament, are responsible to the parliament. Their normal term of office is four years, but a defeat in the legislative assembly can end a government at any time.
The parliament consists of two houses: the 45-member legislative council, the upper house; and the 109-member legislative assembly. The assembly is elected by popular vote for a maximum four-year term. Voting is compulsory for all British subjects over 18 who have lived for at least six months in Australia, three months in the state, and one month in any one electoral district. The members of the legislative council, originally appointed by the governor, are elected for 12-year terms by popular vote. One third of the membership is elected every four years.
The total revenue of New South Wales for the fiscal year 1986-1987 was A$12,181 million (U.S.$7,430 million) and expenditures totaled A$12,181 million (U.S.$7,430 million). The major sources of revenue were state taxes, Commonwealth grants, and the earnings of the state-owned railroad. The major items of expenditure were education, health, and servicing of the state debt.
New South Wales contributes more than one third of the net value of Australia's total production. It ranks first among the six states in value of factory production, forestry, and livestock. In 1984-1985 the value of New South Wales' factory production was almost three times that of the total contributed by its agriculture, mining, and other primary production.
There are three main economic regions: the coastal region, the tablelands, and the western plains. The warm northern coastal area produces sugarcane and bananas, while the southern part is devoted largely to dairying and mixed farming, with some lumbering. The central coastal area is dominated by the coal-mining and industrial district which runs from Newcastle on the north to Wollongong on the south and includes Sydney, the state capital. The tablelands, lying between the coastal region and the western plains, are devoted primarily to the raising of livestock, mainly wool-producing sheep. The western plains region includes the most important wool- and wheat-producing area of the state and the lead- and zinc-mining center of Broken Hill.
The Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong area is the greatest industrial district of Australia and, together with Whyalla in South Australia, produces almost all of the country's steel. The almost 16,000 manufacturing establishments in the state in 1987-1988 represented 44 percent of all Australian establishments and employed about 379,000 persons, or about one third of all manufacturing workers.
New South Wales is Australia's second most productive wheat-producing state, accounting for about 33 percent of the national total in 1987-1988 and, of Australia's 1989 total of 161 million sheep, about 36 percent were in New South Wales. Wool and meat production are important, and there is considerable dairying and general farming.
The state's rich mineral resources have long been exploited, and today coal, lead, and zinc remain of major importance. High-quality coal is mined extensively in the Hunter Valley and along the coast south of Sydney. Production in 1986-1987 was 63,945,000 metric tons, about 46 percent of the national total. The Broken Hill district produces a large proportion of Australia's lead and zinc.
New South Wales has about 6,210 miles (10,000 km) of railroads, most of which is owned by the state. There are about 127,000 miles (205,000 km) of roads. Sidney is Australia's principal overseas air terminal.
School attendance in New South Wales is compulsory from the age of 6 to 15. In 1989 there were about 2,200 state-supported schools, with a total enrollment of approximately 750,000 students, and about 860 private schools, with about 285,000 students. Private schools, most of which are sponsored by religious groups, primarily Roman Catholic and Church of England, are subject to state inspection. Higher education is provided at the universities of Sydney, New South Wales, New England, Macquarie, Newcastle, Wollongong, Charles Sturt, Western Sydney, and the University of Technology.
From the annexation of the eastern seaboard of Australia in 1770 until the middle of the 19th century, the history of New South Wales is the history of Australia, and is discussed in the history section of Australia.
The Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850 inaugurated a new era in the history of New South Wales. The area which became the state of Victoria was separated from New South Wales, and New South Wales, along with South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania, was granted the right to draw up a new constitution. The new constitution provided for a bicameral legislature which could, by British constitutional usage, practice the English system of cabinet government. In 1858, three years after the inauguration of responsible government, universal manhood suffrage was adopted in New South Wales.
New South Wales was not so profoundly affected by the discovery of gold as was the newly created colony of Victoria, since the digging there was not so rich; however, Sydney and that part of New South Wales nearest the Victoria gold fields experienced an influx of population and a temporary increase in food prices. New South Wales, like Victoria, levied license fees upon the miners, but in 1857 abolished them and imposed an export duty on gold. In the decade of the 1860's New South Wales wrestled with the land problem. The interests of the pastoralists had been recognized in 1847 by an order in council offering rights of purchase according to the type of land and guaranteeing the leases and preemptive rights desired. The object of the land acts was to permit the purchase of land for agricultural purposes, but they had only a limited success. The increase in land under cultivation was very small in comparison with the acreage sold, owing to a practice whereby a squatter hired "dummies" to purchase lands in the squatter's interest. Moreover, the passage of land legislation by the assembly had displeased the legislative council, where the squatter influence was strong. The governor packed the council with 21 new members, the majority of the old council resigned, and in 1861 the legislation passed the new Council without difficulty. There was a futile attempt in 1872 to introduce an elective element into the legislative council. New South Wales refused to follow Victoria in the adoption of a protective tariff, concentrating instead on grazing, agriculture, and foreign trade. After 1870 the population of New South Wales gained on that of Victoria, passing it by 1892. With federation in 1901 New South Wales was subject to the Commonwealth policy of tariff protection.
New South Wales refused to adopt the Federal Council Act of 1885. In 1898 the state legislature required a favorable vote of at least 80,000 in the referendum on the proposed federal constitution. The vote of the colony was insufficient, despite a majority of 5,367 in favor. In a second referendum in 1899, however, federation was approved.
In the 1890's the Labour Party in the assembly followed a policy of "support in return for concessions." A voluntary but ineffective labor conciliation law was passed in 1892; New South Wales was influenced by New Zealand in the adoption of a system of industrial arbitration. It provided leadership in civil service reform in the passage of the Public Service Act in 1895, providing for open competition and standard classification for government employees, and for control by a public service commission.
New South Wales voted against conscription
in the World War I referendums of 1916 and 1917. During that war it also
instituted an extensive system of price control. In the depression of the
early 1930's, under the leadership of Premier J. T. Lang, New South Wales
opposed the government's economic policy. It refused to pay the interest
on its bonds in 1931, and reduced official salaries. The Commonwealth government
paid the interest, and Lang was dismissed from office. In World War II,
because of its economic importance and strategic location, New South Wales,
particularly Sydney, played a major role as supply depot and point of embarcation
for the early campaigns in the southwestern Pacific. Since the war it has
continued to occupy a leading position in the political and economic affairs
of the Commonwealth.