Change of party leader (Irvine): Beginning of Bent's period in office; 'In February 1904 Irvine and Shiels announced the intention of resigning from the ministry for health reasons. A cabinet meeting on 9 February decided that Bent should be the government leader, and he was subsequently asked by the Governor to form a new ministry. Bent retained most of the former ministers but reallocated some of the portfolios.' Hughes and Graham, p.110 (see 'Sources, below).
Bent's ministry was commissioned on 16 February 1904 as a continuation of a Reform government although Bent '... was essentially a Conservative.' Bate (see 'References', below).
Reconstruction of the ministry: Several modifications were made to the ministry, including the resignation of Murray over the lack of Bent's support for his policy of compulsory land purchases. Around the election in March 1907, three Liberals were included in February 1907 as part of a 'fusion' of anti-Labor Party members but two of these resigned in 1908. A major reconstruction of the ministry took place in October 1908 in response to pressure from a country party faction and growing dissatisfaction with Bent's performance on the part of his cabinet colleagues; see Hughes and Graham, pp 111-112 (see 'Sources', below), and Bate, pp 132-134 (see 'References', below),
Loss of general election (Bent): 'On 3 December 1908 a want of confidence motion was carried against the Government.' Hughes and Graham, p.112 (see 'Sources', below). The motion was moved by Bent's former ministerial colleague, Murray, and passed by 37 votes to 25; Victoria Parliamentary Debates, 1908 Session, vol. 119, 3 December 1908, pp 1714-1785. 'Bent obtained a dissolution but lost the subsequent election [in December 1908]. A conference of Bent's supporters and those of John Murray met together on 6 January 1909 and chose Murray as leader of the reunited party. Bent then submitted his resignation and advised the Governor to send for Murray.' Hughes and Graham, p.112 (see 'Sources', below).
References: For a study of Bent's period in office, see Weston Bate, 'Tommy Bent, "A Man"', in Strangio and Costar (editors), ch. 9, (see 'Sources', below), and for a review of Victorian parliamentary politics from 1901 to 1920, see, Wright, ch. 7 (in 'Sources', below). A survey of Bent's career can be found in Weston Bate, 'Bent, Sir Thomas (1838–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969), on line here [accessed 2 April 2014].
Colin Hughes and B D Graham (editors), A Handbook of Australian Government and Politics 1890-1964, (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1968, SBN 708102700); Parliament of Victoria, One Hundred Years of Responsible Government 1856-1956, (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1957, Parliamentary Paper No. 40 of 1956-58); Paul Strangio and Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers 1856-2006, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006, ISBN 9781862876019); Raymond Wright, A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria 1856-1990, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0195533593). Victoria Hansard (Record of Parliamentary Debates) on line here .