William Irvine (Australian politician)
Sir William Hill Irvine, GCMG (6 July 1858 – 20 August 1943), Irish born-Australian politician and judge, was the 21st Premier of Victoria. Irvine was born in Newry in County Down, Ireland, into a Scottish-Presbyterian family; he was the nephew of Irish revolutionary John Mitchel. He was educated at the Royal School, Armagh and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in law in 1879 before migrating to Melbourne, where he taught in Presbyterian schools and read law at Melbourne University, gaining a master’s degree in arts and law. He soon became a leading Melbourne barrister.
In 1894, Irvine was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as a liberal. He was Attorney-General 1899–1900 and 1902–03 and Solicitor-General in 1903. He succeeded George Turner as leader of the Victorian Liberals, but was much more conservative than either Turner or the federal Protectionist Party leader, Alfred Deakin. In 1902 he displaced the more liberal Alexander Peacock and became Premier and Treasurer, holding office until 1904, when he was succeeded by Thomas Bent.
In 1906, Irvine was elected to the Australian House of Representatives for the seat of Flinders. First elected as an independent Protectionist, he became a member of Deakin’s Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1908. He was Attorney-General in Joseph Cook‘s Liberal government of 1913–14. He was considered a potential Prime Minister of Australia, but his abrupt manner and hard-line conservatism made him unacceptable to many Liberals: he was known in Parliament as “Iceberg Irvine.”
Recognising this, Irvine accepted the appointment as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, which is the highest ranking court in the Australian State of Victoria. He held this position from 1918 until 1935.
He was knighted KCMG in 1914 and made GCMG in 1936. A keen motorist, he was a founding member of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) and was its patron from 1938 through 1943. In 1932 a painting of Irvine by Ernest Buckmaster won the Archibald Prize, Australia’s best-known portrait prize.
1902 Irvine Ministry
On appointment 10 June 1902:
- Premier and Attorney-General : William Irvine
- Treasurer : William Shiels
- Solicitor-General : John Mark Davies
- Minister of Railways : Thomas Bent
- Minister of Education and Health : Robert Reid
- Minister of Public Works and Agriculture : Mr. Taverner
- President of Board of Lands : Mr. McKenzie
- Minister of Mines : Mr. Cameron
- Chief Secretary and Minister of Labour : Mr. Murray
- Biography – Sir William Hill Irvine – Australian Dictionary of Biography
- “Latest intelligence – The new Victorian Cabinet”. The Times (36790). London. 10 June 1902. p. 7.
- Geoff Browne, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1900–84, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1985
- Don Garden, Victoria: A History, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1984
- Kathleen Thompson and Geoffrey Serle, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1856–1900, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1972
- Raymond Wright, A People’s Counsel. A History of the Parliament of Victoria, 1856–1990, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992
Victorian Legislative Assembly Preceded by
Member for Lowan
Attorney-General of Victoria
Premier of Victoria
Sir Samuel Gillott
Attorney-General of Victoria
Solicitor-General of Victoria
Feb – Sep 1903
Parliament of Australia Preceded by
Member for Flinders
Attorney-General of Australia
Government offices Preceded by
Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria
Legal offices Preceded by
Chief Justice of Victoria
- Town Accommodation: