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William Clark Haines

1810 – 1866

William Clark Haines (1810-1866), first premier of Victoria, was educated at Charterhouse and Caius College Cambridge and practised as a surgeon in England before sailing to Victoria in 1842. He bought property near Geelong, which he subdivided over the 1850s, earning his lifelong nickname ‘Farmer Haines’. Having performed various public offices, in 1851 he was a government nominee in the first Legislative Council, but he resigned in 1852, protesting against the issue of leases to squatters, to which he remained opposed. A member again from 1853 to 1855, he helped to draft the Victorian Constitution. At the end of 1854 he became colonial secretary – Victoria’s chief public servant, right-hand man to the governor. In this post he was to address the financial crisis of 1854-1855, improve administration of the goldfields and implement the beginnings of local government in suburbs, shires and towns. Following the passing of the Victorian Constitution Act the first ministerial cabinet was formed; Haines was the nominal leader of the government in the Legislative Council. In the first parliament under the new constitution in November 1856 he was member for South Grant in the Legislative Assembly and led the first ministry. In March 1857, his ministry was defeated; Sir John O’Shannassy took office, but by the end of April Haines had been reinstated and was appointed the second vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. In February 1858 his government was defeated by a mixed crowd who had come together over the question of redistribution of electorates. Haines left for North America and Europe later that year, but in 1860 he was back, representing Portland in the Legislative Assembly from November and serving as treasurer under O’Shannassy until June 1863. During this period he became a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground; he was also grand master of the Scottish Freemasons and a prominent Anglican. In 1864 Haines was elected to the Legislative Council for Eastern Province. By late 1865 he had become debilitated by debates over the constitutional aspects of the tariff appropriation bills and he died, aged just 55, of a carbuncle at the beginning of 1866.

Updated 2018