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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Shiels, Hon. William

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Shiels, Hon. William, M.L.A., LL.B., Premier of Victoria, is a native of Ireland, and came to Victoria with his parents when a child. He was educated at the Scotch College, Melbourne, and at the Melbourne University, where he took the degrees of LL.B. and Master of Laws, He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1873, and practised his profession in Melbourne. At the general election of 1877 he was returned for Normanby in the Conservative and free trade interest, and has represented the constituency uninterruptedly ever since. It is in connection with the measure for extending the rights of women in the matter of divorce that Mr. Shiels has won his principal repute. Not only did he secure the passage of the measure through the Victorian Parliament, but by his tactful conduct during his mission to London in the early part of 1890, he, in the face of much prejudiced opposition, induced the Salisbury Government to advise Her Majesty to assent to the measure, which had been reserved for the Queen's assent. In Nov. 1890, on the formation of the Munro Ministry, Mr. Shiels was appointed Attorney-General and Minister of Railways, and sat, pending the arrival of Mr. (now Sir Henry John) Wrixon, as one of the delegates at the Federal Convention of 1891. In Feb. 1892 Mr. Munro resigned the Premiership, when the Ministry was reconstructed under Mr. Shiels, who took the post of Treasurer along with the Premiership. In April of that year Sir Graham Berry, who had been pressed to join the Ministry previously, agreed to take the post of Treasurer; and it was then relinquished by Mr. Shiels, who now acts as Premier and Attorney-General. Mr. Shiels has made reform of the railway system of the colony his speciality, and in 1891 passed the amending Railway Management Bill, which reduced the powers of the permanently appointed Railway Commissioners, who in the next year were suspended by his Ministry, and finally relinquished office a few months later.