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National Observer Home > No. 64 - Autumn 2005 > Articles

Goodbye To All That: Keith Windshuttle on White Australia

R.J. Stove

It is not obvious why anyone would actively seek the title of “Australia’s best living historian.” The very phrase suggests some surreal Guinness Book of Records entry, on the lines of “wittiest man in Luxembourg” or “greatest rock group ever produced by Bangladesh”.

What is perfectly obvious is that nowadays, Keith Windschuttle alone among Australians consistently
threatens the historiographical preeminence of Geoffrey Blainey. One suspects that Blainey himself hails
this development. Any major thinker cherishes competitors talented enough to be worth fretting about. He may, as Newton said of himself, stand on giants’ shoulders; but he can never be content with his exalted location if his only confrères are earthbound midgets.

Between Windschuttle and Blainey lie similarities as notable as — if less manifest than — their differences. Both men are conspicuously honest, for one thing (eccentric though it would have seemed to our grandparents that possessing mere honesty might one day appear an unusual intellectual virtue). Accordingly, both men interest themselves more in wherever their researches take them, than in half-baked polemics: though Windschuttle’s temperament has a steely argumentative edge, and a relish
for combat, which Blainey’s lacks. Yet either man’s merits would have been in vain if they had been expressed through turgid prose. In fact, both Blainey and Windschuttle are blessed with the gift of rare, addictive readability.

This readability takes different forms with each writer. With Blainey, it reveals itself as a heightened poetic consciousness, a feather-light perception of the beauty and menace in nature, even the beauty and menace in those industrial processes which from Stalin’s tame artists inspired torrents of novel social-realist garbage. Windschuttle’s, by contrast, is an output as unpoetic as any black-letter lawyer’s case-notes. Some ill-wishers think of Windschuttle as a hanging judge. One element of truth resides in
the metaphor: namely, that his historiographical outlook is forensic rather than ambiguous or hesitating.
He does not moralise. He does not empathise. He adjudicates. He can convey opponents’ theses with often devastating fairness – generally in clearer language than those opponents condescend to use — but when the time comes for him to put on the black cap, he puts on the black cap.

Perhaps a danger exists in the Windschuttle approach: the danger of positivism, of supposing that if an
event is officially undocumented it never occurred. (As every student of mediaeval European history – or of some other area where documentation remains frustratingly fragmented and scarce – soon realises, what people assume happened can be almost as significant as what actually happened.)

Not that Windschuttle himself has been guilty of positivism in the above crude form. Still, some of his less intelligent supporters certainly have been; and their misreadings of Windschuttle’s conclusions as a licence to canonise Gradgrind and Scrooge become intrinsically instructive, however unfortunate.
Hence the particular importance of Windschuttle’s latest and best book, titled (with a traightforwardness
characteristic of its creator) The White Australia Policy.1 Many among those who cheered on The Fabrication of Aboriginal History’s first volume will find The White Australia Policy an irritant.
For Windschuttle – similar to Blainey in his reserves of moral courage, though without, it seems,
Blainey’s Christian beliefs – has dared to desecrate Australian political modernism’s Holy of Holies. That thricesacred relic, of course, is the belief in the White Australia Policy’s unremitting malevolence: a belief that unites the Rent-A-Mob Left with the Rent- A-Sleaze Right. To the Rent-A-Mob Left, the Policy must always be abominable as the birthmark of “institutional racism” on Australia’s body
politic. To the Rent-A-Sleaze Right, the Policy must always be equally abominable, as Australia’s greatest and longest-lasting barrier to utopian visions of “the global economy”.

(Whatever this slogan may mean in = textbooks, we have all grown only too aware of what it means in practice: a permanent male underclass of bachelors and divorcés, gutted by anti-marriage femocrats’ employment policies; unable to imagine the concept of a “family wage” even in its dreams; and indistinguishable from the atomised flotsam of Mexican barrios and Brazilian favelas, save by the Latinos’ comparative paucity of television sets.) Therefore Windschuttle’s production contains material bound to offend everyone, except that minuscule minority which prefers truth to chic. The fact that Windschuttle’s own politics would seem to be of a thoroughly temperate sort — close to Chifley and Attlee, with no tincture of turbo-capitalism, let alone of white supremacism — will probably compound
rather than reduce his opponents’ rancour.

The particular Rent-A-Mob Left fable condemned by Windschuttle flourishes like bindweed in the history departments of our “universities”, being upheld in its pure form by — to cite only the best-known names — Lyndall (“Historians are always making up figures”) Ryan, Henry Reynolds, and
Mary Kalantzis. This depositum fidei– for we really are talking here about a religious hallucination, impervious to reasoning – can be summarised, with only slight parodistic elements, as follows:

• By the late nineteenth century Australia had become a multicultural paradise, in which the Anglo lion lay down with the Afghan lamb, and in which the Oriental selflessly laboured to induct us within (to coin a phrase) The Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Such lamentable departures from this state of innocence as the goldfields’ anti-Chinese riots can be explained, though not excused, by the
tragic absence of Eureka Street, The Sunday Age, and Sir William Deane.

• Alas, into “this other Eden” there entered a serpent, in the shape of Federation’s biological racists. These satanic traitors, such as Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, bound Australia hand and foot with the chains of the White Australia Policy. And the great hopes of maintaining the pre-1901 polyethnic haven were therefore doomed. Then behold, the veil of the multicultural temple was torn in two
from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the Thousand-Year Aryan Reich of Menzies came to pass. And every man’s hand was against Australia, and Australia’s hand was against every man. And the very name of Australia was cursed by the tribes of Manhattan and Madras and Manila and Mogadishu, yea, even unto the seventh generation.

• It subsequently required the Four Just Men — Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, and Keating — to wash away White Australia’s sins. But the forces of evil returned, in the shape of the Fascist Howard, who reimposed the Menzies Aryan dictatorship. And the land brought forth white picket fences. And
there was darkness and gnashing of asylum-seekers’ teeth.

Conflicting interpretations of the same dogma do, naturally, exist. Thus, whereas for Reynolds the primary Axis of Evil consisted of non-Labor leaders like Barton,2 veteran Maoist Humphrey McQueen saved most of his bile for the embryonic Labor Party.3 But these are mere theological quibbles, to be expected among chronically disputatious high priests. On the central doctrine they agree readily enough.

Windschuttle’s need to refute this doctrine causes him to give unexpected emphasis — almost two-thirds of his book — to pre-1901 Australian history. He appreciates that Barton and Deakin did not emerge, and could not have emerged, out of the blue; that even The Bulletin’s firm advocacy of
“Australia for the White Man” did not exist in a vacuum (although he is sceptical about the ultimate influence which The Bulletin wielded). What, then, were the Policy’s actual, as opposed to alleged, origins? In answering this question, Windschuttle alludes to societies as different from pre-Federation and immediately post-Federation Australia as can be imagined. Since some of these allusions comprise the very few disappointing parts of his narrative, let us specify where he fails to convince.

He is right, he is one hundred times right, in accentuating the theological rather than ethnic basis for pre-Reformation Christendom’s hostility towards Muslims and Jews. In his own words: “both these groups were attacked because of their religion, not their race. Indeed, in fifteenth-century Spain . . . [they] were given the choice of changing their religion, which many chose to do, an option that would not have been available had their persecution been based on biological grounds.”4 (This, of course, is bad news for those Christophobes — the James Carrolls, the John Cornwells, the Daniel Goldhagens, etc. etc. — who make lucrative authorial careers from blaming Nazism on Catholic “antisemitism”; but since such mountebanks’ particular discipline is victimology rather than history, they need not detain cultural literates for longer than is needed to note their deplorable existence.)

Problems arise, and Windschuttle’s own persuasiveness temporarily fails, elsewhere in the same chapter. “One thing now clear”, he writes, “is that modern biological science has been unable to define people by race either in terms of their external physical characteristics or their inherited genetic make-up. Race is an unscientific category.”5 Examining Windschuttle’s sources for this and the paragraph’s
other assertions, we discover what Americans call “the same old sameold”: in other words, citations of Marxist and quasi-Marxist gurus who lusted after blatant political power and who cared little or nothing for truth.

Ashley Montagu, Margaret Mead and Sir Julian Huxley are all there. Of these, Montagu (né Israel Ehrenburg) emerged from the anthropological atelier of Franz Boas — who devoted his whole later life to condoning and publicising environmentalist mythomania, most notoriously in the case of Mead’s Samoans — and became, even by Boasian standards, a gross apologist for Stalinism. “Soviet Russia,” declared Montagu in 1942, “is the outstanding example of perfect management of ethnic group relations under unusually difficult economic conditions.” 6 Predictably, he afterwards churned out the Statement on Race issued by U.N.E.S.C.O., of which Huxley served as the first Director- General. Huxley’s own notions of science, although couched in language less absurd than Montagu’s, make for equally ominous reading. In Huxley’s view, U.N.E.S.C.O.’s role should entail “taking the techniques of persuasion
and information and true propaganda that we have learnt to apply nationally in war, and deliberately bending them to the international tasks of peace, if necessary utilising them – as Lenin envisaged — to ‘overcome the resistance of millions’ to desirable change.”7

To place one’s trust in the veracity of these social engineers is to ignore all the genetic and medical discoveries since the Boasians first flourished: discoveries that point in entirely the opposite direction. Academic literature demonstrating the reality of racial distinctions, particularly as they affect susceptibility to diseases,8 has by now grown so large that its importance is admitted (with whatever reluctance) in all cultures possessing even marginally greater intellectual freedom than Australia’s. One need not concur with a peevish recent white-nationalist attack on Windschuttle,9 to admit that writing
on race as if The Bell Curve and Why Race Matters and IQ and the Wealth of Nations10 had never been published does give the proverbial hostages to fortune, though it would be par for the Sunday Age course.

On page after page of The White Australia Policy’s subsequent chapters, revelations abound. Windschuttle shows, first, that the Policy derived mainly from economic rather than from racialist motives; second, that it made eminent civic sense from the standpoint of those social classes which advocated it; third, that most Australians during the Policy’s operation proved perfectly capable of living
amicably with non-whites, and needed no multicultural mafia to force upon them this desirable outcome; fourth, that comparisons of the Policy to Afrikaaners’ apartheid — comparisons profuse within such fever-swamps as Humphrey McQueen’s brain — are ludicrous. This last conclusion Windschuttle validates with spectacular ease, and the preceding three he validates with heroic diligence. In a
strange way, notwithstanding his erudite professionalism, Windschuttle represents the achievement of the
commonsensical amateur. After all, most of the evidence he supplies has been lying around ordinary collegiate libraries for decades.

Our history has had no equivalent to the Venona archival revelations which in 1995 transformed
the study of European and American Communism. Any clever layman could have located nearly all
the primary sources that Windschuttle provides. But it took Windschuttle to make the effort, and, having made the effort, to present his findings with lucid finesse.

Hoary legend after hoary legend collapses at the touch of Windschuttle’s scythe. Take the oft-credited role of Social Darwinist thinking in the Policy’s origins. Were the Policy’s architects and supporters really aflame with enthusiasm for Social Darwinism? Yes, they were, according to the muchread Australian Race Relations by Andrew Markus11 (and half-a-dozen other comparably respected texts).

No, Windschuttle shows, they were (mostly) not. “These authors [who portray late-nineteenth-century Australian culture as a Social Darwinist paradise] have done nothing more than comb through a very small sample of reading matter, such as newspaper editorials and contemporary journal articles, and found three or four phrases each, which appear to express some of the terminology commonly
used by Social Darwinists. On no better evidence than this, they have then proclaimed the Australian colonies awash with scientific racism.”12

Crucial to Windschuttle’s evidence is the overwhelming extent to which Australia — at the very time it is supposed to have been inundated with Social Darwinist ideas — managed to continue as, dare one say it, a Christian society. Leading Australian clerics in this period, unlike their predominantly invertebrate counterparts in 2005, actually fought against their foes rather than appeasing them: whether these foes were Social Darwinist or otherwise. Windschuttle reminds us that when Social Darwinism did attract an intellectual following among Australians, it derived this following as often as not from socialist
campaigners like Tom Mann. Since Marx himself felt abject reverence not only for Social Darwinism, but for Darwinism — he sent Darwin a copy of Das Kapital, inscribing it as being from a “sincere admirer” — this should occasion no astonishment.

Another fiction is similarly felled: Australia as hotbed of genocidal hatred towards Chinese. Windschuttle
shows that whatever anti-Chinese outbreaks of violence occurred (“they are nothing to be proud of, true, but it is important to keep them in perspective . . . the white men involved were a militant
minority”),13 racial aversion in itself cannot have fuelled them. After all, “there were plenty of Maoris and black Americans on the goldfields, who never attracted any animosity”. 14

What made the difference in the Chinese case? Two factors primarily: the sheer numbers of Chinese who started congregating on the goldfields from the late 1850s on, by which stage the most profitable gold deposits had begun to give out; and the absence, among the Chinese themselves, of any
Western-style concepts concerning the individual’s political freedom. We can hardly blame this country’s nascent labour movements for resenting the presence, and the spectacular
augmentation within a few years, of what amounted to a peon caste. Australian pastoralists demonstrated during the mid-nineteenth century — once the convict system had become
unsustainable — a voracious appetite for hiring coolies; were these same pastoralists so inherently virtuous and public-spirited that they could automatically be trusted to forgo establishing
other forms of serfdom? To the working classes it did not seem so.

Eighty years after the goldfields’ heyday had ended, these classes’ sensitivity to anything that would turn their homeland into “a peasant country or a gang labour country”15 made them recoil with disgust from the doctrines of B. A. Santamaria’s National Catholic Rural Movement. (Whether they should have recoiled with disgust is a wholly different question; but they did thus recoil, and this aspect of Santamaria’s programme died a quick, largely unnoticed death.)

Windschuttle’s tour de force is his examination of the parliamentary debates surrounding White Australia’s legal implementation at a national level. More outright tosh must have been written about these debates than about any other aspect of the Policy, which is saying a vast amount. Like a
policeman who knows that solving a crime involves tedious spadework which cannot be delegated to others, Windschuttle painstakingly pores over Hansard and exhibits the most fantastical discrepancies between what the Rent-A-Mob Left quotes Federal parliamentarians in the early twentieth century as having said, and what they actually said. Far from being – in Reynolds’ meretricious words — “pervaded with ideas of race and blood” and “talk[ing] over and over about the dangers of pollution and contamination”, 16 they mostly bent over backwards to deny any biological animus towards Asians.

They did so despite the fact of having a genuine Yellow Peril to fear: the seemingly irreversible rise of Japanese expansionism, which saw off Tsarist Russia’s armed forces in 1904-05. (As a dizzying example of the way that approval for the Policy crossed ideological and, for that matter, racial lines, we find suffragette and anti-conscriptionist Adela Pankhurst Walsh announcing in the 1930s: “the surest — indeed the only — defence of our White Australia is friendship with Japan.”17 ) Surprisingly, although he itemises the specific racial appeal which the White Australia Policy had for this country’s (and the world’s) first socialist Prime Minister, John Christian Watson,18 Windschuttle fails — in his
investigation of White Australia’s zenith — to stress one central point: the fact that all nations of European stock (most famously the United States in 1924) adopted similar prohibitions to
Australia’s, in actuality if not always in statutes, against non-white peoples.

Sometimes the Policy won support even from those non-whites who, by modern criteria of identity politics, should have been most hysterical in condemning it. Sir Garfield Barwick, in extreme old age, recollected a meeting he (as Foreign Minister) held with Malaysia’s leader Tunku Abdul Rahman during the mid-1960s: “I remember the Tunku saying to me that he understood Australia maintaining
a European population: ‘Why should you have my insoluble problem? The problem of ethnic diversity is insoluble.

I have Malays, Indians and Chinese and it is insoluble’.” 19 Windschuttle makes no mention of
this. He likewise omits Menzies’ sorrow at the de facto junking of the Policy by Harold Holt. Menzies had doggedly opposed the advice of Immigration Minister and former cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman that the Policy be dropped;20 as late as December 1976 he called himself “[an] old-fashioned White Australian”.21 In fact Windschuttle’s whole coverage of the Policy’s desuetude could well have been more elaborate. He underrates (for instance) the Immigration Reform Group, which exercised
so powerful a backstairs influence as Menzies’ reign drew to a close.

Nevertheless he is careful to quote a telling passage from the Australian Catholic Bishops. While these bishops took pains to censure “any false assumption of racial superiority which too often underlies the so-called White Australia Policy”, they conceded “merit in the economic argument which has been used to justify this policy.”22 This is hardly the zealous endorsement of Grassbyite tribalism which certain insufficiently educated Sydney journalists have credited preconciliar antipodean Catholic officialdom
with favouring.

Windschuttle does not believe that the White Australia Policy can be reinstated; nor, it is clear, would he consider this reinstatement desirable even if it became possible. Whether we can now afford to eschew a Christian Australia Policy, this reviewer takes leave to doubt. Queen Isabella of Spain, faced (as we are faced) with a mortal threat to her country’s religious and military survival — a threat at least as
immediate as any menace that Islamic terrorism holds for Australians these days — could conceive of one longterm remedy, and one alone, to the problem: eject the infidel, or make him convert. More than five hundred years after the Queen’s reconquista, little if anything can be added to this solution,
other than the monstrous and salutary warning of present-day Islamicised Holland. The fact that all advocacy of national self-defence via sharp Christian proselytism is now unpublishable, even as a suggestion (not just in Australia’s lowest-common-denominator scandal-sheets, but in our notionally
“Right-wing” magazines), tells us a great deal about the nature of our worst current ethnic problem, about our opinion-forming classes’ blithe indifference to this problem, and about such classes’ total incapacity to solve it.


1. Keith Windschuttle, The White Australia Policy (Macleay Press, Sydney, 2004).

2. Henry Reynolds, North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia’s North (Allen
& Unwin, Sydney, 2003), page 189.

3 . Humphrey McQueen, A New Britannia: An Argument Concerning Australian
Radicalism and Nationalism (Penguin Books, Melbourne, 1970), pages 50, 53.

4. Windschuttle, page 30.

5. Windschuttle, page 28.

6. Ashley Montagu, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (Columbia
University Press, New York, 1942), page 82.

7. Sir Julian Huxley: U.N.E.S.C.O.: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy (Public Affairs
Press, Washington D.C., 1947), page 60 [italicisation added by R.J.S.].

8. Among the diseases that attack specific ethnic groups: Tay-Sachs Disease, prevalent
among Ashkenazic Jews and no-one else; sickle-cell anaemia, the sufferers from
which are nearly all black; cystic fibrosis, the sufferers from which are nearly all white;
and macular degeneration, an incurable eye affliction disproportionately frequent
among white females (novelist Colleen McCullough is its best-known victim).

American Renaissance, February 2005. Fraser stoops to personal attacks on
Windschuttle’s candour: “He [Windschuttle] poses as a fearless foe of the academic
establishment, but his targets are often sitting ducks” (page 10). This is not the impression
formed by those who read Windschuttle’s work carefully.

10. Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve (Free Press, New York,
1994); Michael Levin, Why Race Matters: Race Differences and What They Mean
(Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 1997); Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen,
IQ and the Wealth of Nations (Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, 2002).

11. Andrew Markus, Australian Race Relations 1788-1993 (Allen & Unwin, Sydney,
1994), pages 14, 111.

12. Windschuttle, page 54.

13. Windschuttle, pages 170-171.

14. Windschuttle, page 167.Quarterly, March 1955, pp. 49-51; Windschuttle, pp. 160-161.

16. Reynolds, North of Capricorn, page 188.

17. Verna Coleman, Adela Pankhurst: The Wayward Suffragette, 1885-1961 (Melbourne
University Press, 1996), page 147.

18. Ross McMullin, So Monstrous A Travesty: Chris Watson and the World’s First
National Labour Government (Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2004), is — as
Windschuttle takes impish pleasure in observing — quaintly reticent on this theme.

19. Sir Garfield Barwick, A Radical Tory: Garfield Barwick’s Reflections and Recollections
(Federation Press, Sydney, 1995), page 181.

20. Michelle Grattan (ed.), Australian Prime Ministers (New Holland Publishers,
Sydney, 2000), page 201.

21. A. W. Martin, Robert Menzies: A Life, Vol. 2, 1944-1978 (Melbourne University
Press, 1999), page 564.

22. H. I. London, Non-White Immigration and the “White Australia” Policy (New
York University Press, 1970), pp. 121-122; Windschuttle, pages 330-331.


National Observer No. 64 - Autumn 2005