Tasmania, Australia, the smallest state in the commonwealth. It consists of the island of Tasmania, the Furneaux Group, and other islands. The state's area is 26,178 square miles (67,800 km 2 ); the island of Tasmania occupies 25,000 square miles (64,750 km 2 ). Tasmania lies 150 miles (240 km) south of the Australian mainland, separated from it by the shallow Bass Strait.
The island of Tasmania is mountainous with a large central plateau and a narrow coastal plain. Mount Ossa, which rises 5,305 feet (1,617 m) above sea level, is the highest peak. Numerous rivers, notably those of the Derwent system, provide abundant hydroelectric power. Tasmania accounts for about half of Australia's hydroelectric potential. The climate is moderate the year long. Hobart, for example, has a mean temperature of 62° F. (17° C.) in January and 46° F. (8° C.) in July. Rainfall varies from roughly 25 to 60 inches (635 to 1,520 mm) a year, depending on the location. Parts of western Tasmania receive considerably more. Both forest and grasslands are extensive.
Tasmania is mainly agricultural, producing fruits (especially apples), vegetables, cereals, beef cattle, sheep, and timber. Mining---particularly of tin, iron ore, copper, silver, lead, and zinc---has long been important. Salmon fishing was developed in the late 1980's and has become an important industry. Among Tasmania's industrial products are refined metals and metal products, textiles, processed foods, and paper. The tourist trade is also important.
In 2001 the population of Tasmania was 456,652; the density was about 17 persons per square mile (6.7 per km 2 ). Nearly all the people are of British origin. Hobart, the capital and leading port, had a population of 191,169.
Education is free and compulsory from age 6 to 16. Primary and secondary schools are maintained by the state. In addition, there are private schools. The University of Tasmania at Hobart was founded in 1890. There are also teacher-training and technical colleges.
The governor represents the British Crown. The government is parliamentary in form, with a premier as head of government. The premier is selected from the majority party in Parliament. Parliament is composed of two houses: the Legislative Council (upper house), whose 19 members are elected to six-year terms; and the House of Assembly (lower house), whose 35 members are elected for four years. The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court of Tasmania and lesser courts. The right to vote was given to women in 1903. Proportional representation was adopted in 1907.