Queensland, the second largest of Australia's
six states, occupying the northeast quadrant of the continent. Queensland
has an area of 666,876 square miles (1,727,200 sq km), 22.5 percent of
the total area of Australia, and a coastline of more than 3,200 miles (5,100
km). It is bounded on the northwest by the Gulf of Carpentaria, on the
northeast and east by the Coral Sea and South Pacific Ocean, on the south
by New South Wales, on the southwest by South Australia, and on the west
by the Northern Territory. The long, fingerlike Cape York Peninsula points
north toward New Guinea, from which it is separated by the Torres Strait.
The Great Barrier Reef lies to the east and parallels most of the coast.
Brisbane, the state capital, is in the extreme southeast.
Queensland is divided into three major geographic regions: the eastern mountains and plateaus of the Coast Range and the Great Dividing Range, a belt of rolling grassland on the western slopes of the highlands, and a vast semiarid plain farther west. The Great Dividing Range is a series of disconnected mountains and plateaus varying in height between 2,000 and 5,000 feet (600-1,500 meters). The highest point in Queensland, Mount Bartle Frere, 5,287 feet (1,611 meters) high, lies in the northeast. The rivers of the eastern slopes are mostly short and swift and flow throughout the year. Those of the west, however, are long and sluggish and many flow only in the rainy season. The Darling River tributary system of the great Murray River drains part of southeast Queensland. Other large rivers are in the Gulf of Carpentaria area and include the Leichhardt, Cloncurry, Gilbert, and Mitchell.
More than half of Queensland lies in the tropics and its climate is warm. The temperature is higher in the north than in the south. At Brisbane, in the southeast, the annual average temperature is 69°F. (21°C.), with an average high around 78°F. (26°C.), in January, and the average low around 60°F. (16°C.), in July. Rainfall varies greatly with the season, falling mainly between December and March. It also varies with location, the heaviest falls occurring on the east coast, which in the north in places receives as much as 175 inches (4,450 mm) a year and in the south from 40 to 70 inches (1,000-1,780 mm). Rainfall decreases steadily westward into the interior, where in some places in the southwest it is less than 6 inches (150 mm).
The population according to the 1991 census was 2,978,617, about 17.7 percent of the total population of Australia. Seventy-nine percent of the state's population was classified as urban in 1986. There were 1,205,300 persons in the urban center of Brisbane. Other major urban centers, with their populations, are the Gold Coast (including Southport), 219,700 in 1987; Townsville, 105,600 in 1991; and Toowoomba, 71,362 in 1986. Toowoomba is west of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is on the coast south of Brisbane, and Townsville lies about midway along the east coast. About 70,000 aborigines lived in the state in 1991.
The nominal head of the state government is the governor, appointed by the British Crown. Actual executive powers are exercised by a cabinet of ministers, headed by a premier and responsible to the legislature. Queensland, unlike the other states and the national government, has a legislature of only one house, the Legislative Assembly, with 89 members elected for a three-year term by universal, adult suffrage.
Agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and tourism are all important to the Queensland economy.
Farming and Herding
The pastoral industries of Queensland are slightly more important than the growing of crops in terms of value of production. Almost half of Australia's beef comes from Queensland. Dairying is important in areas of heavy rainfall, and wool is also a leading product, output depending on weather. A major crop is sugarcane, grown in the northeast. The most acreage is sown to wheat, fodder, and sorghum. In some areas quantities of fruits and vegetables are raised, mostly for local consumption, some for export. Other crops include peanuts, cotton, and tobacco. Forestry yields both paper products and fine hardwoods.
The chief mining centers are the concentration of bauxite at Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula; the Mount Isa complex in the northwest, mined for copper, lead, zinc, and silver; and the rich black coal reserves increasingly exploited in the Bowen Basin inland from the southeastern coast. Production of bauxite was developed from a mere 10,000 metric tons of bauxite in the early 1960's to 9.6 million metric tons in 1979 before gradually declining. The amount of black coal produced increased from less than 3 million metric tons annually in the early 1960's, to 37 million metric tons in 1980, to 83 million metric tons in 1986, almost half of Australia's total. The output of copper in the state, mostly from Mount Isa, rose to about 70 percent of the national total by that year. Strikes of petroleum and natural gas were made west of Brisbane in the early 1960's.
Queensland's industry expanded more than tenfold between the end of World War II and 1970, and by 1974 it had surpassed primary production in terms of value of products. Processing of food, beverages, and tobacco is the largest category. The proximity of black coal, oil, and natural gas to the cities of the southeast have made Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, and Rockhampton important manufacturing centers, with metalware and machinery the principal capital goods produced. The alumina refinery at Gladstone, using Weipa bauxite, opened in 1968.
Surfing beaches off the south coast, particularly near Gold Coast, and the Great Barrier Reef offshore attracted considerable tourism from home and abroad in the latter 20th century. Rain forest touring also increased.
Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. It is free in state primary and secondary schools. Most private schools are under religious auspices, mainly Roman Catholic and the Church of England. Higher education is provided at the University of Queensland, the James Cook University of North Queensland, Griffith University, Bond University, University College of Central Queensland, and Queensland University of Technology.
Queensland was known to Dutch navigators at least as early as 1606, and Captain James Cook explored the east coast in 1770. The Queensland of today was originally known as Moreton Bay, being the northern district of New South Wales. The first settlement was a penal colony, established in 1824. Agitation for separation from New South Wales developed soon after the arrival of free settlers in the 1840's. Although it was represented in the legislature of New South Wales, the separation movement continued until 1859, when Queensland became a separate British colony.
The economic life of the colony was based
principally on the raising of sheep and cattle, the production of sugarcane,
and to some extent on gold mining. Difficulties in the pastoral industry
over the problem of water were largely solved in the 1880's by the digging
of deep wells. Meanwhile, in the coastal area of the colony tropical agriculture
was being established. During the American Civil War unsuccessful experiments
were made to grow cotton. Sugarcane, however, gained a firm hold, and by
1872 the colony was exporting both sugar and rum.
The use of Kanaka labor (imported Melanesians) met with much resistance from other parts of the colony and from the Aborigines Protection Society and the Anti-Slavery Society. The great distance of the northern electorates of Queensland from the capital and the disparity in economic interests between the northern and southern parts of the colony led to a separation movement in the north. Colonial legislation was passed in 1885 to give government aid in the erection of modern refineries in which only white labor should be used. Kanaka labor in the cane fields was, however, continued. In 1904 the commonwealth government prohibited the importation of more island laborers and required that, with certain exceptions, they be deported. The sugar industry has since been aided by tariffs and bounties. In the 1940's grain varieties that flourish on the Darling Downs were developed, adding to the already extensive livestock industry there.
Imperialistic expansion of European countries
in the western Pacific posed a possible threat to Queensland, so it took
the bold action of seizing possession of southeastern New Guinea in April
1883. Two years later, in an agreement with Germany, Great Britain acquired
the territory and dictated that the Australian colonies contribute to the
cost of governing it.
In the two decades before the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, labor became a strong political force in Queensland. William Lane preached the idea of socialism and was able in 1889 to bring about the formation of the Australian Labour Federation. Australia's first (but short-lived) Labour Party government was formed in Queensland under Anderson Dawson in 1899. Labour remained the leading political force for most of the first half of the 20th century. The Country (later National) and Liberal parties held power either alone or in coalition from 1957 to 1989, when Labour returned. A major figure was Joh Bjelke-Petersen, 20 years the state premier, who resigned in 1987 under charges of corruption. His National Party then declined.