Keith Windschuttle’s Mary Poppins view of the world

14 Nov

While searching for something else I came upon Keith Windschuttle’s latest exercise in selective opinionating in yesterday’s Australian. Reading “the facts” with all his usual rigour, in opposition to that wooly chappie Rudd, Windschuttle makes some rather astounding diagnoses:

…Rudd draws heavily on a chapter in the recent book, Beyond Left and Right, by University of Technology, Sydney, lecturer David McKnight, who denounces the social consequences of Friedrich von Hayek’s theories of neo-liberalism…

Unfortunately for Rudd, McKnight took his evidence about social change from feminist authors whose data is jaundiced and out of date…

Rudd has, however, done us all a favour by also sparking a different debate about religion in politics, which has for too long been a taboo topic. Despite its tolerance of diversity, Australia remains a Christian country. Even its secularists think in Christian terms. It’s an old critique of Marxism that its millenarian promise of a socialist utopia was little more than a secular Christian heresy. Ben Chifley’s “light on the hill” was an example of the same promise to seek heaven on earth.

I’ve argued elsewhere that evangelical Christianity, which aimed to apply the principles of the Gospels to social life, was one of Australia’s two founding creeds and remains alive and well today.

You can still see it in action everywhere. Our middle class, tertiary-educated Left, with its campaign for the 3Rs of refugees, reconciliation and republic, is essentially evangelical. These days, there are fewer Protestants among the movement and more Catholics – most notably William Deane and the Brennan family – while the majority of them are now secularist, though no less evangelical for that

Many years ago in the very pre-PC 1960s I coached a debating team which went on to win The Shire Debating Competition on the topic, believe it or not, “That Australia’s Future is White”. My team were for the proposition, but even in pre-PC Sutherland Shire they had qualms about taking a racist line so they argued that because all known political systems (this was before, of course, our awareness of political Islam) originated in Europe, no matter what the racial composition of Australia its future would, well, be white. Because the opposition had no idea what my team was talking about, we won, though one adjudicator dissented.

Why does Windschuttle bring that debate to mind? I’ll leave you to think about that.

And speaking of dissenting adjudicators, that’s what I was looking for: the High Court of Australia publishes its verdict on the States versus Commonwealth case against the Commonwealth’s new Industrial Relations Laws today. When the judgment is published you should be able to download it here. There are those who say this is one of the most significant judgments in terms of states rights versus Commonwealth rights that the court has ever made. Another of my ex-students, one of these, had been appearing in this case for the Unions of NSW.

Update 10.30 am

The judgment has appeared: see New South Wales v Commonwealth of Australia etc. See also High Court rejects IR challenge.

The High Court by a 5-2 majority dismissed challenges to the constitutional validity of the federal government’s Work Choices legislation.

The case was brought by the states and two trade union organisations in May and challenged the commonwealth’s power to use the corporations law to override state-based industrial relations (IR) systems.

Two dissenting judgments came from Justices Michael Kirby and Ian Callinan.

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3 responses to “Keith Windschuttle’s Mary Poppins view of the world

  1. AV

    November 14, 2006 at 9:04 am

    What’s his point? If by “evangelism” he means “employing various forms of rhetoric to persuade others to accept your point of view,” is he going to be claiming next that the ancient Greeks–who mastered the art of rhetoric–were actually pre-Christian evangelical Christians?

  2. ninglun

    November 14, 2006 at 9:14 am

    There is a case there, sort of, in that there is a historical connection, quite a strong one in fact, between (left) Evangelicalism, Methodism and trade unionism, both in the UK and Australia, partly on the lines that when you got the working classes reading their Bibles and sitting around discussing things you could never know where it might end up. Nineteenth century atheist groups also took on the earnestness and even the organisational patterns of Bible study groups, and even a Communist “cell” meeting I attended in the 1970s instantly reminded me of the Presbyterian Bible Study groups I attended in the early 1960s, down to the quibbles over the :true: interpretation of the sacred texts. Marx was even referred to reverentially as The Master!

  3. AV

    November 14, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    Maybe so, but as you suggest: where is he going with his argument?

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