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Thomas Bent

(1838—1909) premier of Victoria, Australia


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(1839–1909), politician and land speculator, became famous in Victoria as a local booster and logroller. He began work as a market gardener, then became rate-collector for Brighton, a position that he used to win support for his political ambitions. He served as MLA for Brighton, from 1871 to 1894, and again from 1900 to 1909, always ensuring that the residents were looked after. Bent's extensive land speculation is documented in The Land Boomers (1966), and in biography, Tommy Bent (1993), which also examines the dichotomous public attitudes. Honoured by many, mainly Brighton residents, as a good man, he was reviled by others, including much of the press, as a scoundrel intent upon promoting his own interests. Typically, Bent would purchase large tracts of land, use his influence to ensure that a railway line went through that area, then subdivide the land and sell for a large profit. His 1881 appointment to the position of minister for railways was particularly apt; his behaviour gave rise to the famous tag ‘Bent by name, bent by nature’. Bent's term as premier of Victoria from 1904 coincided with the belated recovery from depression which enabled him to relax the crippling public parsimony. But he became increasingly eccentric, bursting into song or verse during parliamentary sittings and falling asleep at public meetings. In December 1908 his government fell to a vote of no confidence. Rather than resign, Bent called an election. He died soon after and received a state funeral; the people of Brighton donated the money to erect a statue in his honour.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.


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