The Tasmanian State Government was created on 1 January 1901 when Federation occurred. Previously, it was the Colony of Tasmania.
The Tasmanian State Government reflects the two-house Westminster system and as such is made up of an Upper House (also known as the legislative council) and the lower house (house of assembly).
The Tasmanian State Government was profoundly shaped by the penal past of the Colony of Van Diemens Land. Stefan Petrown (2005) noted that 'Tasmanians failed to develop a political theory of a strong state; for some time they feared that a strong or bureaucratic state would result in a return to the despotism of the convict period'. This meant that the State Government of Tasmania, particularly in its earlier days, shared a lot of its power with multiple local governments.
These local governments often handled the provision of basic community services and infrastructure such as schools. However not all local governments excelled, leading to inconsistent outcomes across Tasmania - in such cases the State Government intervened. The fear of a return to convict days could also be seen in the decisions by some local governments to not provide certain services - for fear the cost in taxes to fund such initiatives would alienate voters. The fractured nature of the many local governments also complicated state-wide initiatives that required cooperation and consistency across all of Tasmania.
Over time new departments at the state level were formed to deal with state-wide problems that local government couldn't resolve. For example the health department was established following a smallpox epidemic in 1903, and the establishment of the Metropolitan Water Board in 1961 following water shortages. This growth in the state continued until the 1980s when the State Government began to privatise government assets and enterprises, and amalgamate departments.
This meant that depending on where you lived in Tasmania, at certain periods of time (particularly before the First World War) you may have had different legislation and services. No doubt in many cases this meant that services could better reflect the needs of specific communities but it also had its problems.
Prepared by: Elizabeth Daniels
Created: 10 December 2014, Last modified: 26 May 2015