New South Wales (NSW) is Australia's most populous and oldest state, located in the southeast, north of Victoria and south of Queensland. It was founded in 1788 and originally comprised much of the Australian mainland. During the 19th century large areas were successively separated to form the British colonies of Tasmania (1825), Victoria (1851), Queensland (1859), and South Australia (which at that time included what is now the Northern Territory). In 1901 these colonies plus Western Australia voted to form an independent nation called the "Commonwealth of Australia".
New South Wales is known the world over for the picturesque harbour of its capital, Sydney. Sydney combines one of the twin hearts of the Australian financial sector with a population that loves the outdoor life from beaches and caving, to riding or sailing.
Its three main cities from north to south are Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong which all lie along the coast.Towns include Albury, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Tamworth, Armidale, Lismore, Nowra, and Coffs Harbour.
The state is bordered on the north by Queensland, on the west by South Australia, and on the south by Victoria. Its coast faces the Tasman Sea. New South Wales contains two Federal enclaves: the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and the Jervis Bay Territory.
New South Wales can be divided physically into four sections:
- A thin coastal strip, with climates warming from cool temperate on the far south coast to subtropical near the Queensland border, including the regions south of Sydney such as the Illawarra near Wollongong, the Shoalhaven near Nowra, and the North Coast north of Sydney, as well as others.
- The mountainous areas of the Great Dividing Range and the high country surrounding them. Whilst not particularly steep, many peaks rise above 1,000 m, with the highest Mount Kosciuszko at 2,229 m (7,308 feet). This includes the Southern Highlands, Central Tablelands and the New England regions.
- The agricultural plains that fill a significant portion of the state's area, with a much sparser population than the coast, includes The Riverina area around Wagga Wagga.
- The dry arid plains in the far north-west of the state, which is unsuitable for settlements of any notable size.
Main article: Government of New South Wales
The form of the Government of New South Wales is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1856, although it has been amended many times since then. Since 1901 New South Wales has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Australian Constitution regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth.
Under the Australian Constitution, New South Wales ceded certain legislative and judicial powers to the Commonwealth, but retained complete independence in all other areas. The New South Wales Constitution says: "The Legislature shall, subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, have power to make laws for the peace, welfare, and good government of New South Wales in all cases whatsoever." In practice, however, the independence of the Australian states has been greatly eroded by the increasing financial domination of the Commonwealth.
The State Parliament is composed of two houses, the Legislative Assembly (lower house), and the Legislative Council (upper house). The head of the State government is the Premier, currently Bob Carr.
New South Wales has a Gross Domestic Product of AU$265,966,000,000, which equalled AU$39,950 per capita, in 2003. This was equal to US$26,000, just below the major European Union economies.