Once was a Smart State: Intellectual Leaders in Queensland


 A Typology of Thinkers and their Interrelation in Queensland History

 The Representative Dozen Scatterplot Matrix


1st Run Scatterplot Matrix. The First Representative Dozen. Queensland Intellectuals. Neville Buch. 2015
For the description of the qualitative measure, see Meta-Belief and Socio-Political Tabs above.

Name Belief Scale Socio-Political Scale
Albert Longman 1 -2
Gordon Greenwood -3 -2
James Vincent Duhig 2 -2
Jean Devanney 2 2
Judith Wright -1 0
Neville Bonner 0 -1
Oodgeroo Nunuckal -1 -2
Phyllis Cilento -1 -1
Samuel Griffith 0 -2
William Cumbrae-Stewart -1 -1
William Lane (Pre-1900) -1 1
Xavier Herbert 2 3

Meta-Belief Scale Value Definition
Ritualist -3 Belief is unquestionable as to be unimportant
Fideist -2 Belief is more considered
Believer -1 Ordinary Range of Belief
Unclear 0 As of the current date in the research, there is not sufficient information
Agnostic 1 Ordinary Range of Doubt
Skeptic 2 Doubt is more considered
Nihilist 3 Doubt is unquestionable as to be unimportant

Social-Political Scale Value Definition
Anarchist -3 Hegemony of Egoism
Liberal -2 Liberty of Personal Choice
Conservative -1 Liberty of the Traditional Community
Unclear 0 As of the current date in the research, there is not sufficient information
Socialist 1 Equity for Communities
Communist 2 Equity for the Masses
Totalitarian 3 Hegemony of State


This is my first run at a scatterplot matrix, and as such the conclusions drawn are tentative. I have deliberately published before the optimal level of research had been reached, as an experiment in the process. Feedback from specialist Queensland historians on the assessments made, is my aim. I am actually requesting dissent from the judgements, in order to refine further work in building models and maps.

It is important, though, to note the approximation and representative nature of these diagrams (See comments at Scatterplot Matrix).

For explanation of the Scatterplot Matrix structure, including axis measurements, see Scatterplot Matrix.

For the interpretation for placing each Queensland thinker, look up list at The First Representatives section of Queensland Intellectuals and Thinkers.

Albert Heber Longman (1880-1954)

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Palaeontologist and Agnostic Rationalist

Belief (X) Scale Value: Agnostic

In 1911 Longman’s book, The Religion of a Naturalist, was published in London. It was a declaration of his agnostic and rationalist beliefs. Longman was President of the Queensland Rationalist Society in 1914.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Liberal

Longman’s father was a Congregational minister of liberal views. Longman’s political views are (to date) not discerned, but Irene Longman, the first Queensland female parliamentarian, stood as a member of the Country and Progressive National Party. Irene Longman’s progressivism in women’s electoral rights and child welfare were reflective of social liberalism.

Gordon Greenwood (1913–1986)

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Professor of History, Commonwealth and International Historian

Belief (X) Scale Value: Ritualist

It is difficult to assign a belief scale at this stage of the research. Conclusions maybe review at a later stage. The reason why Greenwood comes across as a ritualist rather than an ordinary believer is his synoptic general historical style. Greenwood writes almost as the ideal scholar – having no obvious polemics. His histories are negotiated in a broad interpretive approach.  Ross Johnston refers to Greenwood’s “liberal-conservative nature asking for rational discussion and gradual change”. Johnston also comments on Greenwood’s convivial habit of singing `Onward Christian Soldiers’. In the late nineteenth century the habit would be seen as a sign of militancy. In this era, however, it had much more ritualistic form. Johnston quotes Greenwood’s daughter-in-law Jane Greenwood: “tone-deaf, but loving sound and feeling, conducting, cigarette in hand, the patriarch”.

Greenwood’s interest in political science in this era would suggest that if he was not obviously skeptic, he might be ritualist. Political science as it developed as a discipline during the mid-century, either became critical of ideologies or took on a statistical form of behaviourism.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Liberal

Ross Johnston points out that in Greenwood’s early life, the great liberal historian, Sir Stephen Henry Roberts (1901–1971) had a great influence on Greenwood intellectual development. On the latter part of Greenwood’s life, Johnston comments, “Despite his critical and inquiring disposition, in the 1970s Greenwood had trouble reading the tenor of the time and did not adjust to the radical and democratising pressures sweeping through universities.” It was a reference to Greenwood’s ‘liberal-conservative nature’, as noted above.

James Vincent Duhig (1889–1963)

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Professor of Pathology and Secular Rationalist

Belief (X) Scale Value: Skeptic

It is said by C. A. C. Leggett, that Duhig publically badgered his famous uncle with pronouncements that “religious beliefs frustrated honest thinking.”  Leggett says that Duhig was especially noted for his vigorous, outspoken opposition to all forms of hypocrisy.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Liberal

Duhig’s liberalism is quite clear in his role as President of the Book Censorship Abolition League of Queensland (1935). He was also a progressivist like the slightly more conservative Irene Longman. In 1946 Duhig was President of Queensland Co-operative Hotels Ltd, an offshoot of the Liquor Reform Society. The movement advocated prohibition of alcohol. This more militant social liberalism sits uncomfortably with the libertarian fight against censorship.  Duhig’s rationale would have been that books had less harm to one’s liberty than alcohol.

During the years of the depression and World War II, Duhig took on left-wing causes, including leading deputations demanding help for the unemployed, and visiting Russia to provide medical aid to the Russian war campaign. As Leggett pointed out, although he was seen as a ‘fellow-traveller’, Duhig’s political views were defined by his stance as a free-thinker; hence, he stood far more solidly in the philosophic liberal tradition than most members of the Liberal Party.

Jean Devanney (1894 –1962)

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Novelist and Communist

Belief (X) Scale Value: Skeptic

Much of Devanney’s Communist affiliation would initially make her an ordinary believer, but the fact that she was both expelled from the Party and later walked out on the Party, indicated a more skeptical demeanour. More significantly, though, her sexual politics were far more critical, and advanced, in both spheres of the Party and Queensland’s conservative society. Her skepticism, unfortunately, was undeveloped. Nettie Palmer, while acknowledging Devanny’s generosity and friendliness, “resented her general cocksureness”. Ron Store quotes Devanny on a significant confession: “I realise now that I have not exploited the small measure of ability for writing I possess one whit. I never really got down to it and THOUGHT. Thought was reserved for politics”.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Communist

Hal and Jean Devanney were actively involved in the United Miners Federation and were involved in setting up the Social Democratic Party in 1913, and the United Federation of Labor. They were also involved with the New Zealand Marxian Association, a forerunner of the Communist Party. Devenny joined the Australian Communist Party in late 1930 or early 1931. In 1940 Devanny was expelled from the Party, but re-joined in 1944. In 1949 she finally left the Party disillusioned.

Judith Wright (1915 –2000)

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Poet, Social Theorist in Aboriginal and Environmental Rights, Philosopher

Belief (X) Scale Value: Believer

Wright was probably far more influenced in theoretical inferences than establishing an original body of work. John Thompson’s 1963 interview, though, shows extremely well-articulated Wright explaining the problem of using symbolism from the Australian landscape – a landscape without ‘echoes’ – and the difference between indigenous and non-indigenous attitudes to the environment.[1]  In her well-spoken manner, an Australian British accent that one no longer hears, Wrights avoids rigorous skepticism for a softer tone. See comment below on Wright’s use of Coleridge as a political thinker.

Wright studied philosophy at the University of Sydney. Her short time with Jack McKinney most probably had an influence on her work. Wright wrote of McKinney’s philosophical development, just before her death:

From the outbreak of World War II, McKinney reflected on the question of why advances in Western thought failed to prevent further and more deadly wars. Untrained, he read philosophy, beginning with the ancient Greeks and devoting the rest of his life to the task. He contributed articles to major journals, published a preliminary book, The Challenge of Reason (Brisbane, 1950), and completed a more substantial work, The Structure of Modern Thought (London, 1971). Professor J. J. C. Smart praised the latter book for its ‘fresh and original’ presentation of the ‘striking and important idea that knowledge is an interpersonal thing’.

This may have had some influence on Wright’s examination of the relationship between humanity and the environment.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Unclear

From Wright’s close association to the environmental and Aboriginal Land Rights of the 1960s and 1970s, it is clear that Wright’s outlook had developed into a broad left-wing framework; however, like the intellectual resources of her partner, Nugget Coombe, its articulation and reflection owed much to the British liberal tradition, one that could combine liberal and reformist elements, the archetype in the approach of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). Furthermore, there is evidence that Wright engaged with conservative thinkers, in that there are strong links between political conservatism and conservation concerns, with regards to both the environment and indigenous cultures.

In the John Thompson interview, Wright insightfully referred to remarks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834):

Talents without genius: a swarm of clever, well-informed men: Anarchy of minds, a despotism of maxims. Despotism of finance in government and legislation – of presumption, temerity, and hardness of heart in political economy… the wealth of the nation (i.e. of the wealthy individuals thereof, and the magnitude of the revenue) [substituted] for the well-being of the people. [Coleridge, On the Constitution of the Church and State, (London: J.M. Dent, 1972), p.52.].[2]

In the interview Wright concisely expressed the problematic idea as simply the wealth of our nation has become more important than the well-being of its people.

[1] Poetry In Australia – Judith Wright (1963). Australian Screen. http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/poetry-australia-judith-wright/ , accessed online 24 September 2014.

[2] John Ballantyne. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Conservatism’s radical prophet. News Weekly. http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=1803 , accessed online 24 September 2014.

Neville Bonner (1922 – 1999)

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Queensland Senator, Political Theorist and Conservative

Belief (X) Scale Value: Unclear

Politicians are difficult discern as to their beliefs and their pragmatism. Bonner was caught in the ideological struggle of 1970s indigenous politics and social conservatism. The One People of Australia League (OPAL) was an instrument of the conservative Queensland Government with links to Christian paternalism and militant anti-communism. However, when the crush came Bonner was prepared to cross against the Party’s wishes, to the point that he became a political liability.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Conservative

On many issues Bonner was a genuine liberal, an advocate for indigenous rights. However, his liberal legacy has unfortunately been marred by associations with social conservative forces, which to some extent he also pitched his political position. In 1998 he was elected to the Constitutional Convention as a candidate of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. On the weight of his role in Senate and Aboriginal politics, he seemed to come down on the conservative side, albeit a dissenting liberal.

Oodgeroo Nunuckal (1920 –1993)

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Poet, Social Theorist in Aboriginal and Environmental Rights, Democrat

Belief (X) Scale Value: Believer

Oodgeroo (Kath Walker) was a believer in the socio-political self-determination of her people, foremost for the Noonuccal Tribe on North Stradbroke Island, but also for the wider struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Her beliefs were not primarily of faith, although it may have had a place. Her beliefs were in a framework of poetry and stories as both identity and protest.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Liberal (Democrat)

Describing Oodgeroo as a liberal may seem controversial and misappropriate but it is based on a view that her struggle for socio-political self-determination of her people was about liberation. Contrary to this view, is the fact of Walker’s membership of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Indeed, Walker owes her early literary success through the CPA’s Realist Writers’ Group. However, Walker was not interested in writing speeches for the Party and the left. Walker’s other political affiliations were with the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats Party; standing as the ALP candidate in the state electorate of Greenslopes in 1969, and the Democrats  candidate in the state electorate of Redlands in 1983.  This would place Walker within the broad spectrum of reforming labourites to social liberals. Walker’s political views may not have been precisely theoretical. However, Walker’s greatest political achievements were shaped by a liberal framework – the establishment of Aboriginal Australian citizenship under Harold Holt. The struggle for Aboriginal cultural and political identity is consistent with the tradition of liberal national revolutions.

Walker’s son, Denis Walker (Bejam Kunmunara Jarlow Nunukel Kabool), with Sam Watson co-founded the short-lived Brisbane chapter of the Australian Black Panther Party in 1972. It was more characteristic of social revolutionary ideology, but the militancy was subdued by the need to campaign peacefully for land rights. In contrast, Oodgeroo participated in a broader protest movement in the late 1980s, one that had the support of many social liberals.

Phyllis Cilento (1894–1987)

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Theorist in Maternal Health and Childcare

Belief (X) Scale Value: Believer

Cilento’s alternative and unconventional views, for the time, on natural childbirth, family planning and father’s presence at birth, did upset some members of the mainstream medical profession. However, this was more a reflection of the medical establishment’s conservatism, than any skepticism that Cilento possessed. Much of her progressivist views in welfare and community were the diet of mainstream Australia for the era. To quote Mary Mahoney:

From 1950 her pseudonym was `Medical Mother’. Later she wrote for Woman’s Day and other magazines. She dealt with nutrition, the health of mothers and children, and all aspects of child care. In her writing she demonstrated her own remarkable facility to communicate complex medical facts to ordinary readers. Women came to quote her as a national oracle.

Where Cilento did broke conventional views, she could be very unskeptical to the point of naivety, as when in later years she controversially promoted the use of large doses of vitamins for good health.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Conservative

Unlike her husband, Lady Cilento did not convey a political outlook directly, but her associations were clearly culturally conservative. Certainly, there is a progressivism in much of her welfare and community medical work, and this outlook is strongly girded by liberal ideas. Nevertheless, her advocacy of mothercraft and family planning were framed by conservative values, even if it did push activities further than some Queensland conservatives were happy with. Again, it reflects the terribly conservative nature of Queensland of the era.

Both Cilentos were caught up in the Queensland establishment. Many of her awards reflect her brilliance and outstanding contribution to the society. A few awards reflect the populist and conventional sentiment of mainstream Australia:  first Queenslander of the Year (1981), Queensland Senior Citizen of the Year (1987), a medal of merit by the Australian chapter of the Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth, and named Loyal Australian of the Year by the Assembly of Captive European Nations (1982).

Samuel Griffith (1845–1920)

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Political and Legal Theorist, Liberal

Belief (X) Scale Value: Unclear

R.B. Joyce noted that Griffith as a young person drifted from his father’s fundamentalism, and inferred that he was embarrassed by his father’s religious fundamentalism during his later time in Brisbane. In 1891 Griffith’s father died and he joined the Church of England.

Of Griffith’s schooling at William McIntyre’s institution in Maitland, Joyce stated, “McIntyre failed to pass on his rabid Presbyterianism but inspired Samuel’s love of the classics. He was dux and gained the nickname ‘Oily Sam’ from his ‘ability to argue on any side of any subject’.” His youth during the overseas sojourn was one of a romantic libertine.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Liberal

R.B. Joyce records that Griffith was a Freemason (later a grand master), and prominent in intellectual societies, although which ones Joyce does not state. Around 1870 Griffith became closely involved in the Reform League. Joyce’s summation of Griffith’s complex political career in the Liberal Party covers a large territory. Griffith:

  • promised legal reform and opposition to (Sir) Arthur Palmer’s squatter-biased legislation (1872);
  • advocated European immigration, more expenditure on public works, the setting up of rural boards and the encouragement of municipal government (1872-1873) ;
  • implements the provisions of the free, compulsory and secular Education Act (1875);
  • made efforts to have the evidence of Aboriginal witnesses (1879-1883?) admissible in legal proceedings;
  • attempted to limit legally the flood of Chinese immigrants (1879-1883?);
  • began moves to establish a university in the colony (1879-1883? a long wait until 1909);
  • criticised the Pacific island labour traffic, particularly for the supply of firearms to islanders returning to their villages (1879-1883?);
  • legislated to restrict Islander labour to field-work on sugar plantations, and to introduce more stringent controls on recruiting, which he forbade from the New Guinea area (1884);
  • passed a Native Labourers’ Protection Act (1884);
  • introduced the Charitable Institutions Management Act (1885) to more effectively manage public charitable organisations;
  • maintained restrictive policies on Chinese by increasing the poll tax and limiting the number allowed to be carried on migrant ships (c. 1887) – Griffith argued that there were important differences between the Chinese civilisation and that of Queensland;
  • legislated to end the Pacific island labour traffic (1890).

That scope of work was intellectually bound by both liberal and conservative principles. Griffith’s political support base was dominantly from Brisbane and southern electorates. He opposed the regional separation movements in both the northern and central parts of the colony. As such, it may appear his reasoning was based in an undemocratic variant of liberal thought, but rejection of agrarian populism was principally sound, seeing the separationists as the hands of the powerful sugar barons. There are some parallels with American North-South politics.

Griffith also advocated a social liberalism during a period of his administration.  The Health Act (1884) required significant state intervention. Prior to the bitter strikes of 1891, Griffith formed an alliance with the labour movement, and introduced a statute to legalize trade unions, and an Employers’ Liability Act (1886). Significantly, Griffith articulated the intellectual framework in an article called, ‘Wealth and want’, in the Boomerang at the invitation of William Lane.

Unsurprising for a successful politician, there were contradictions in Griffith’s liberal policies. The violence of the 1891 strikes unravelled Griffith’s friendship with the labour movement, and Griffith both attempted conciliatory and strike-breaking means to resolve the impasse. Griffith also did a back-flip on the use of Pacific island labourers with a temporary revival of the trade during an economic downturn for the sugar industry. There were also contradictions between his liberal policies and Griffith’s imperialist demeanour, but such British imperialism was common and uncritically accepted at the time, except for a few forward-thinking socialists or nationalists.

William Cumbrae-Stewart (1865–1938)

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Professor of Law and Queensland Historian

Belief (X) Scale Value: Believer

As a member of Brisbane’s Anglican diocesan council and the cathedral chapter, Cumbrae-Stewart helped draft the Church’s provincial constitution.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Conservative

Although Cumbrae-Stewart’s political outlook has yet to be discerned, his membership of the Anglican Church, his Oxford legal background, his membership of conservative literary and cultured societies, suggests a conservative demeanour. Harrison Bryan described Cumbrae-Stewart, thus: “Severe, with an erect military bearing and a fiercely waxed moustache, he was always formal and pontifical in public. Though he mellowed with age, he attracted respect rather than affection.”

William Lane (1861–1917) – Pre-1900

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Political Theorist and Socialist

Belief (X) Scale Value: Believer

Lane’s time in the Paraguayan New Australia-Cosme colonies (1893-1899) would have made him more than an ordinary believer – his utopian communism had a religious quality which suggested totalitarianism. But in Queensland his actions and rhetoric is more confined to specific issues, such as labour rights, although his racism also indicates a totalitarian nature, and his first serious utopian ideals arise around 1889.

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Socialist

There are a number of lives within the person of William Lane. Lane’s time in Queensland was as a socialist (1885-1893). His time in the Paraguayan New Australia-Cosme colonies (1893-1899) was as a communist, with the usual autocratic nature in state communism. In New Zealand (c. 1900-1917) he becomes a patriotic conservative.

Lane is associated with major milestones in the late 19th century Queensland socialist movement: the formation of the Australian Labour Federation (1889), the editorship of The Worker (1890), the reporting on the Rockhampton conspiracy trial during the 1891 shearers’ strike, and his novel, The Working Man’s Paradise (1892).

Xavier Herbert (1901-1984)

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Novelist, Sexual Theorist and Nationalist

Belief (X) Scale Value: Skeptic

Although there is much in Herbert’s socio-political scale that suggests a militant believer, if not a fideist, what Herbert actually articulates in his work is a militant skepticism towards the conventions of Australian society.  Russell McDougall suggested that, upon the publication of his books, Herbert “made carefully orchestrated and often controversial forays from the isolation of his North Queensland home into what he regarded as the more `civilised’ and easily shocked cities of the south, Sydney and Melbourne.”

Socio-Political (Y) Scale Value: Totalitarian

Russell McDougall states of Herbert, “He was a profoundly contradictory and volatile personality who, despite his verbal facility, believed that physical fights were the only way to settle disputes among men. Outrageously pugnacious, deeply fascinated by his own masculinity, obsessed by his own sexuality, he was passionate in his devotion to Australia and fiercely republican.” With that assessment, combined with Herbert’s early allegiance to the pro-fascist Australia-First Movement, the totalitarian description appears apt.

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