Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Menzies White (1911–1971)

by James Gillespie

This article was published:

John Menzies White (1911-1971), accountant, was born on 28 May 1911 at Elsternwick, Melbourne, eldest son of Stanley McKellar White (1883-1949), a Victorian-born Commonwealth public servant, and his wife Florence Amy, née Menzies, who came from Queensland. He spent his early childhood in Brisbane, where his father was deputy-commissioner of taxation. In 1920 Stanley established a consulting accountancy practice in Sydney. The family lived at Gordon. After attending North Sydney Boys' High School, John joined his father's firm.

In reaction to new taxes imposed by the Scullin government, Stanley White had helped to establish the Taxpayers' Association of New South Wales in 1930 and served as president. John became secretary and editor of its monthly (Taxpayers') Bulletin and wrote books of advice for taxpayers. He campaigned for the abolition of 'the burdensome Wages Tax and Special Income Tax, the iniquitous Federal Property Tax, the uneconomic Land Tax and the harassing Sales Tax'. On 7 July 1934 he married Helen Mitchell McLean, a nurse, at the Presbyterian Church, Lindfield.

White used his administrative skills to benefit several conservative political causes, usually involving his father. In 1934 he became secretary of the Australian branch of the Bribery and Secret Commissions Prevention League charged with exposing corrupt practices in government and private enterprise. The Constitutional Reform Association also worked from the family office, with Stanley on its executive and John as secretary. Backed by prominent citizens, including Sir Robert Garran and Sir George Julius, the association campaigned for more efficient government through abolition of the States.

In the 1930s John White had supported the halting moves towards uniform taxation and attacked the inefficiency of overlapping State and Commonwealth income tax systems. He enthusiastically endorsed the Curtin government's uniform tax scheme, although he remained concerned that 'a fair share of the extra revenue should be provided by the lower income earners'. To this end he became an early advocate of 'pay-as-you-go income tax', devising a policy for the United Australia Party for the 1943 election. White hailed a similar scheme that Curtin implemented next year.

By 1944 White was an associate of the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants; later he was a fellow of the Australian Society of Accountants and of the Institute of Taxation, England. By 1952 the family firm had become S. McKellar White & Associates. After the war, working with Eric Risstrom in Melbourne, John broadened the advisory functions of the Taxpayers' Association, using radio and public lectures. He continued to publish practical guides for taxpayers and income tax ready-reckoners, while campaigning for tax reductions, especially for those on higher rates. After 1949 he criticized some tax policies of the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition, particularly their treatment of business.

White was a tall, thin man with an erect carriage, and a fair complexion—a legacy of his Scottish ancestry, of which he was proud. For much of his married life, he lived on the North Shore, played golf, tennis and billiards, and belonged to Killara Golf Club, the Australasian Pioneers' and Millions clubs and the Royal Automobile Club of Australia. He sometimes styled himself McKellar White. A Presbyterian, he was an elder of St Stephen's, Macquarie Street, and involved with the Australian Inland Mission. He died of cancer on 10 February 1971 at his home at Woollahra. His wife and their two daughters and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Constitutional Reform Association, The Abolition of State Parliaments (Syd, 1939)
  • Taxpayers' Bulletin, Jan 1934, Apr 1944, 25 Oct 1951
  • Bribery, no 1, Oct 1935
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Jan, 24 Aug 1943, 12 Feb 1971
  • Bribery and Secret Commissions Prevention League, Minutes of 2nd annual meeting, 21 May 1936 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

James Gillespie, 'White, John Menzies (1911–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 3 March 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McKellar White, John Menzies

28 May, 1911
Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


10 February, 1971 (aged 59)
Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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