ZEAL, Sir William Austin (1830-1912)

ZEAL, Sir William Austin (1830-1912)
son of Thomas Zeal, was born at Westbury, Wiltshire, England, on 5 December 1830. He was educated privately, obtained his diploma as a surveyor and engineer, and came to Melbourne in 1852. He was employed as an engineer in charge of railway construction by private contractors and was in the government service for some years. He was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Castlemaine in 1864, but, having joined forces with Sir William Mitchell (q.v.) in a station in the Riverina, resigned his seat in 1866. Drought conditions caused Zeal to resume his practice as an engineer in 1869, and in the following year he was again elected for Castlemaine, but pressure of business caused him to resign again. In 1882 he entered the legislative council as a representative of the North Central Province, and in April 1892 he became postmaster-general in the Shiels (q.v.) ministry. He resigned in November and was elected president of the legislative council. He was re-elected to this position in 1894, 1897 and 1900, He was one of the representatives of Victoria at the 1897 federal convention and at the first federal election in 1901 he was elected as one of the Victorian senators. He was elected again in 1903, but would not stand in 1906 as he was then in his seventy-sixth year. He was a director of several of the leading financial companies and he retained his interest in these. until his death, following an operation, on 11 March 1912. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1895. He never married.
Zeal's shrewdness and honesty made him a valuable member of parliament. He was a persistent critic of the legislation brought forward, and though he had a fiery and peppery style of speaking he was accepted as a man not afraid to say what he thought and was generally popular. He whole-heartedly opposed the "Octopus" railway bill which was before parliament in 1889-90, and seems to have been one of the few men of the period who realized that the undue optimism of the time was leading to disaster. He was a thoroughly capable president of the legislative council.
The Age and The Argus, Melbourne, 12 March 1912; The Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1911.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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