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Comment: Who is Amanda Stoker, rising star of the religious right?

Crikey logo Crikey 12/07/2019 Jennine Khalik

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The Senate welcomed its newest addition to the chamber last year — a self-described “proud conservative” Christian and lawyer Amanda Stoker.

So, who exactly is the young Queensland senator who believes Christian values are under attack? We know Stoker has had a significant career trajectory from barrister and Liberal and National Party member to being picked as LNP senator.

a woman standing in front of a building © Provided by Private Media Operations Pty Ltd. We also know she has not been shy about expressing her conservative politics and Christian faith, which no doubt informed and will continue to inform how she votes on issues with the 46th Parliament recently resuming.

Stoker once controversially called sexuality a “choice” in an opinion piece about religious freedom, and despite being vocal about where she stood, in her maiden speech in 2018 Stoker claimed conservatives were “misunderstood”.

“Many think we are preoccupied with money and economics, while the left is about people and kindness.” But, she argued, that was not the case.

So what is it, exactly, that Stoker is preoccupied with instead? 

Socially conservative

Stoker, who grew up in southwestern Sydney, is a Queensland senator for the Coalition. She was chosen by the Queensland LNP in 2018 to replace former Attorney-General George Brandis, rather than being voted in in an election.

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review recently, Stoker said her political heroes were former prime minister John Howard and former UK leader Margaret Thatcher, both reactionary leaders. She is also a monarchist, saying she would vote against any push for an Australian republic and claiming “no system of government has delivered more stability, more prosperity, and more peace than the constitutional monarchy we have here in Australia”.

Her traditionalist worldviews and policies are informed by her conservative Christian beliefs, which are illustrated by her ideas of family and sexuality, and her strong stance against abortion among other things. According to The Catholic Leader, she is Anglican.

She has centred the idea of family in her cases for policy. In her maiden speech, the 36-year-old mother of three daughters argued “government intervention diminishes the role and expectations of family”. 

Despite calling for less government intervention, Stoker is ardently anti-abortion — or as she classifies it, pro-life — and has been filmed speaking at several anti-abortion rallies.

Stoker has previously blown off claims of bullying against women in politics as “pathetic”, and during an episode of a podcast last year she implied children were “baggage” from an employer’s perspective. Describing her experience of going back to the bar as a barrister after having her first child, Stoker said she understood why work was suddenly “deadly quiet” for her, and why men were given priority when it came to work.

“If I was somebody in the market looking to brief [a barrister] at late notice and I had the young guy in the room next door who had no baggage and the young woman who’s just had a baby who I know is just as good a practitioner but she has a more complexity in her life, the easy and more sensible commercial answer for them is to brief the guy. I get that,” she said.

As a junior solicitor, Stoker was an associate for the High Court justice Ian Callinan, who was appointed by the Howard government in 1998. He was seen as a largely conservative appointment and prior to his installation Howard officials had called for the need to appoint more “capital-C conservatives” to the court.

Last year, Stoker, who has positioned herself as a conservative champion of free speech and religious freedom, was scheduled to headline a talk organised by the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities — a group that has called for mosques to be banned and described Muslim immigrants as “incompatible people” — but pulled out after criticism. 

Israel Folau wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera © Provided by Private Media Operations Pty Ltd.


She supports the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, saying on Sky News last year: “
I think 18C has got to go. I think 18C is a drag on our society.” 

The Liberal government’s previous attempt to amend the law was voted down in 2017.

Speaking to Bible Society Australia’s news site, Stoker said Christian values were under attack and that political opponents were prioritising the human rights of the LGBTIQ community over the “rights to freedom of conscience, religion and speech”.

“Never before have Christian values, and the right to express them freely, been under such attack. This is not political hyperbole.

“The Greens, Labor and many left-leaning independents have made it clear that they prioritise the human rights of some, such as the LGBTI+ community, over other human rights …”

Fiscally conservative

Stoker has blamed unions for the casualisation of workplaces, and has argued against raising minimum wages and penalty rates because they allegedly “reduce job opportunities for those most in need”.

She has also called for industrial reforms and the removal of “punitive unfair dismissal laws” to support employers and “increase productivity”.

Stoker has also pushed for nannies to be tax-deductible to increase the fertility rate in Australia. “It shouldn’t be that a woman has to choose between a great career and family,” she said.

Despite supporting policies that seem like they would hurt workers and the lower class more than anyone else, right wing commentator Janet Albrechtsen believes the senator is “fast becoming the voice for Morrison’s quiet Australians”. 

Before Stoker entered the Senate she was the vice-president of the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland, and a former director of policy think thank the Australian Institute for Progress.

She once also edited the LNP’s journal Dialogue on public policy. Now she votes on public policy.

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