BAILLIEU, William Lawrence (1859-1936)


BAILLIEU, William Lawrence (1859-1936)
financier and politician
second son of James George and Emma Baillieu, was born at Queenscliff, Victoria, on 22 April 1859. He was educated at the state school, Queenscliff, and in 1874 joined the staff of the Bank of Victoria. He was 11 years with the bank and there laid the foundation of his knowledge of finance. In 1885 he went into partnership with D. Munro as auctioneers, land and estate agents, a business carried on with success. Baillieu withdrew from this partnership in 1892 and started for himself as an auctioneer and financial agent. A few years later a brother was taken into partnership. In 1901 he was elected to the Victorian legislative council as member for the Northern Province and retained his seat until his retirement from politics in 1922. He became minister of public works and health in the Murray (q.v.) ministry in January 1909 and, with the exception of a break of 13 days, was leader of the legislative council until 1917. From 27 February 1912 he was honorary minister in the Murray, Watt, and Peacock (q.v.) ministries until 29 November 1917. His work as a politician was conscientious, and he might have had other portfolios had he wished, but his outside personal interests made many demands on his time. He had become a director of the Herald newspaper about the close of the century, and he steadily acquired large interests in the Broken Hill and other mines and industries. The 1914-18 war drew attention to the need of the British Empire to be self-contained with regard to lead and zinc, and Baillieu, working with W. S. Robinson and Sir Colin Fraser, reorganized the Broken Hill Associated Smelters at Port Pirie and brought about the formation and development of the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, Tasmania, both works of the greatest importance. The gold medal of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy was awarded to Baillieu and Robinson jointly for this work.
Baillieu made frequent visits to London and was recognized as a financial expert in all matters relating to Australia. In addition to his connexion with many financial institutions in Melbourne he also acquired pastoral interests in Queensland. At the time of his retirement in 1930 he was chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Associated Smelters, the North Broken Hill Company and the Electrolytic Zinc Company and a member of the board of directors of several other companies. He died at London on 6 February 1936. He married in 1887, Bertha, daughter of Edward Latham, who predeceased him. He was survived by three sons and four daughters. His three sons all fought with distinction in the 1914-18 war. The eldest, Lieutenant-colonel Sir Clive Latham Baillieu, born in 1889, became a well-known company director and financial expert at London.
Baillieu was a big man physically and as a financier had much courage and ability. He was popularly supposed to be a millionaire, but his Victorian estate was sworn at only about £60,000. His interests, however, were very wide. He never sought honours and was an unobtrusive and frequent contributor to charities. With his brothers, also well-known in the financial world, he founded the Anzac Hostel at Brighton near Melbourne for permanently injured soldiers. In politics he was by no means a moneyed-interest representative, as he had a somewhat advanced outlook, and though his financial ventures were entered on as business propositions, in the upshot his foresight, shrewdness and determination in handling complicated interests eventually resulted in great benefits to his country.
The Times, 7 February, 1936; The Argus, Melbourne, 7 and 8 February 1936, 30 September 1936; The Age, Melbourne, 7 February 1936; Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903; Who's Who in Australia, 1938.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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