Queensland is a member state of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is bordered by New South Wales to the south, South Australia to the south-west, the Northern Territory to the west, the Coral Sea to the east, and the Torres Strait to the north. The capital city is Brisbane. Unlike the other states, more people live outside the capital than in it: of the four million residents, under two million are in the big smoke.
Under its constitution, Queensland is a unicameral parliamentary democracy (it used to be bicameral, until the Labour Party made it a principal policy goal to abolish the Senate some decades back). The Premier (currently Campbell Newman) is the principal minister of the Crown, appointed by the British monarch, King or Queen of Australia (currently Queen Elizabeth II) who is ordinary represented by the Governor of Queensland (currently Penelope Wensley). The premier commands a majority in Parliament and is assisted by a cabinet of ministers also drawn from Parliament in running the Government, in impeccable Westminster tradition.
There are shires and incorporated municipalities at the local level, each with its elected Mayor and Council. Just under half of them (72) have recently been forcibly abolished or merged into neighbouring council areas by Act of the state Parliament. In the other direction, the Queensland government must also interact with the federal government of Australia, which has a majority of the taxation powers but leaves most health, education and law enforcement to the states.
Queensland has a robust and diversified economy centred on primary production (a booming mining industry notably including coal in the Bowen Basin, iron at Mount Isa and bauxite at Weipa, crops of all kinds in the southern tablelands, and sheep and cattle stations everywhere else). In recent years the state government has pursued a deliberate strategy of cultivating knowledge-based industries; the relevant slogan is 'the Smart State'. This has resulted in a noticeable biotechnology cluster centred on the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, as well as others centred around the other ten universities.
The place is renowned for its natural beauty, including the Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast, Heron Island and the other northern tropical islands in the Coral Sea, the Darling River basin, the rainforests of Cape York Peninsula, and the sparse dry glory of the outback. These, plus the pleasant subtropical climate, bring a steady stream of immigrants from southern states and tourists from all over the world.
In theory there is a crisis of drought gripping most of the state, and has been for the last half-decade.