Robert Best (politician)

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The Honourable
Sir

Robert Best
KCMG
Robert Best.jpg
Senator for Victoria
In office
29 March 1901 – 30 June 1910
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Kooyong
In office
24 August 1910 – 16 December 1922
Preceded by William Knox
Succeeded by John Latham
Personal details
Born (1856-06-18)18 June 1856
Collingwood, Victoria
Died 27 March 1946(1946-03-27) (aged 89)
Hawthorn, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Political party Protectionist (1901–09)
Liberal (1909–17)
Nationalist (1917–22)
Spouse(s) Jane Caroline
Maude Evelyn Crocker-Smith
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Occupation Solicitor

Sir Robert Wallace Best, KCMG (18 June 1856 – 27 March 1946) was an Australian politician.

Born in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood to (Northern) Irish immigrants, and raised in Kyneton, Best was educated at Templeton's School, Fitzroy. He left school at 13 and became a clerk in a printing office and then worked for a solicitor where he took articles and matriculated in 1875. He studied law at the University of Melbourne and was admitted as a solicitor in 1881. He married Jane Langridge the same year. He was elected as an alderman on Fitzroy City Council almost continuously from 1883 to 1897 and served as mayor in 1888 and 1889.[1]

Political career[edit]

In April 1889, Best was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the member for Fitzroy (since subsumed by the seat of Richmond) and was offered, but turned down, a position in William Shiels' ministry in 1892. From September 1894 to December 1899 he was President of the Board of Land and Works, Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, and Commissioner of Trade and Customs. He was responsible for introducing tariff reform in 1896 and land reform in 1898 to promote closer settlement and acted twice as Premier.[1][2]

Best was a strong supporter of the federation of Australia and resigned from the Legislative Assembly and was elected to the Australian Senate in the 1901 election. He was Vice-President of the Executive Council and leader of the Senate from February 1907 until November 1908 in the third Deakin Ministry and was responsible for tariff and excise bills. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1908. He was appointed Minister for Trade and Customs in Alfred Deakin's Fusion ministry from June 1909 to April 1910. He lost his seat in the landslide to Labor at the 1910 election, but was soon returned to Parliament at a by-election for the House of Representatives seat of Kooyong. He supported the introduction of conscription and he became a Nationalist in 1917. At the 1922 election, he was beaten narrowly on Labor preferences by John Latham, who ran as an independent on the slogan, "Get Rid of Hughes".[1]

Best returned full-time to his legal practice, which he had never abandoned. After the death of his first wife in 1901, he married Maude Evelyn Crocker-Smith. He died in 1946 in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn survived by two sons and two daughters of his first marriage and four daughters of his second.[1] His second daughter Phyllis Best was an actress who toured with Dame Sybil Thorndike and married fellow actor and radio personality Atholl Fleming.[3] His third daughter, Helene Best, was also an actress who trained under Gregan McMahon.[4]

Notes[edit]

Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Robert Reid
Albert Tucker
Member for Fitzroy
1889–1901
Served alongside: Albert Tucker (1889–1900)
John Billson (1900–1901)
Succeeded by
Patrick O'Connor
John Billson
Political offices
Preceded by
John Keating
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1905–1906
Succeeded by
Gregor McGregor
Preceded by
Frank Tudor
Minister for Trade and Customs
1909–1910
Succeeded by
Frank Tudor
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Knox
Member for Kooyong
1910–1922
Succeeded by
John Latham