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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Gillies, Hon. Duncan

Gillies, Hon. Duncan, M.L.A., sometime Premier of Victoria, the son of the late Duncan Gillies and Margaret his wife, was born at Glasgow in Jan. 1834, and went to Victoria in Dec. 1852, when he proceeded to the Ballarat goldfields, where he engaged as a working miner, and where he first took part in public affairs as a member of the local mining court, which granted the first mining lease, and thus paved the way for the introduction of company, as opposed to individual, working in mining ventures. He was a working partner in the Great Republic Company, and was elected, as the miners' candidate, to the Legislative Assembly for Ballarat West in 1859, being four times re-elected prior to his acceptance of office in the unpopular Sladen Ministry in May 1868, when he was rejected. In June 1872 Mr. Gillies was included in the Francis Ministry as Commissioner of Railways and Roads, and held office till July 1874, when he accepted the same post under the late Mr. Kerferd, retiring with his colleagues in August 1875. Mr. Gillies, who had meantime been returned for Maryborough, was Minister of Lands in the last MᶜCulloch Government, from Oct. 1875 to May 1877. At the general election in the latter year he was returned for Rodney, but was unseated on petition, on the ground of undue influence having been used by the Lands Department, by the issue of leases to selectors and electors during the contest, the committee finding that such influence had been used without Mr. Gillies' knowledge. Later on he once more took his seat in the Assembly, and, as a Conservative and free-trader, strongly opposed the Berry party. He, however, entered the Service-Berry Coalition Ministry in March 1883 as Minister of Railways and Public Instruction, and held office until, in Feb. 1886, on the retirement of Messrs. Service, Berry and Kerferd, he himself was nominated Premier under a fresh coalition arrangement with Mr. Deakin, the new Liberal leader, taking in addition the offices of Treasurer, Minister of Railways, and subsequently Minister of Mines. Mr. Gillies, having been defeated on a want of confidence motion, retired in November 1890. In 1887 Mr. Gillies refused the offer of knighthood (K.C.M.G.). He has represented Victoria on numerous occasions at Intercolonial Conferences, as well as at the three first sessions of the Federal Council of Australasia. He presided at the Federation Conference held in Melbourne in Feb. 1890, and was selected as one of the representatives of Victoria to the Federation Convention in Sydney in 1891. Mr. Gillies, who is leader of the opposition to the Shiels Ministry, now represents the Eastern Suburbs.