Amanda Stoker is a Liberal National Party senator from Queensland. In 2009, she lost preselection to Mark Robinson for the state seat of Cleveland1. Mark Robinson has turned out to be a hopeless local member2,3, which may say something about Stoker. Despite this disappointment, she ran for the Senate at the 2013 federal election, but failed to get elected. However, in 2018, Stoker was appointed to replace George Brandis as senator, when the latter left parliament, and she did not have to face a vote. She will not have to face election to the Senate until 20221.
I first bumped into the bizarre personality of Amanda Stoker’s when in late 2018, someone sent me the link to her interview on Sky News where she was expressing concern about the possibility of underground gay clubs (yes, seriously!) in Catholic schools. This was as part of the government campaign to try to get the religious discrimination bill some support4.
At about the same time, Stoker was playing the victim card. She asked people to ‘Act now for religious freedom’, noting that ‘our culture and our laws shouldn’t be hostile to people who hold traditional values’. In an attempt to garner signatures for a petition, she stated that “Religious freedom is not the government’s gift to Australians, it is a natural right, something every human is born with”. If it is not a gift, then why does she ask people to support legislation by the government, which could be construed as a gift from the government to the religious, to allow them to continue discriminating against others?5. In addition, the irony of it being a ‘natural right’ to believe in the supernatural is probably lost in Stoker’s febrile mind. Although some countries will kill you for believing in the wrong religion, I doubt this would happen under the style of Christian theocracy that Stoker would like; people will just go to prison, just like they used to in the 1950s and before. It is also interesting that she sees “religious freedom” as a right but, like many of her party, she seems to have little concern for most other human rights6.
She maintained that “We now have a situation where so-called anti-discrimination acts [legislation] have been turned into weapons against people of faith. For too long, faith has consistently lost out to corrosive identity politics”. What is grouping yourself with ‘people of faith’, other than identity politics? This is another standard technique of the religious; accusing people of that which you are guilty. She continued: “it’s time to create a level playing field for religious freedom in Australia. And to do that our laws must change”. If the playing field was to be level, they would be happy to allow people to marry who they wish; to have abortions if they need them; to choose the method of their own death should they feel the need; for no religious observance being foisted on Australians, especially those in parliament. Stoker’s concept of a level playing field is for the religious (particularly of her religious persuasion) to continue to impose their bizarre beliefs on everyone else. This is not about a level playing field; it is about regaining the power and influence they used to have before religion started to decline.
Next on this list of her odd attitudes is the belief that transgender people are liars; that they have abandoned “objective truth”. She maintains that while it is fine for a “grown man … to wear women’s clothing and change their name” we need some “common sense”. One presumes this is the former parliamentarian Cory Bernardi’s style of common sense which is a ludicrous misappropriation of the phrase. She then lists her demands:
- You do have a right to know what your child is being taught about gender and sexuality in school. [You know this means she doesn’t want it to happen at all]
- You do have a right to keep women’s sport for women. [She doesn’t really know what constitutes a woman. Most women are born with 46XX chromosomes and men with 46XY, but some men have 46XX and some women have 46XY, and there are even more variations]7
- You do have a right to protect children from hormone treatment and surgical procedures [Some children need to be given hormone treatment].
- You do have a right to teach your children they are born as either a boy or a girl and that gender isn’t something we can choose.
It is laughable that in the last of these, given that Stoker states transgender people are abandoning objective truth, when her statement is objectively and demonstrably false; i.e. a lie. This is the way of the religious nutter. If something doesn’t fit your prejudices, either pretend it doesn’t happen, or lie about it. The fact is that just like sexuality (which Stoker maintains is a ‘choice’), gender identity is not a simple binary at birth. There is a range of variations in both and no amount of head-in-the-sand religious drivel will change that7. Gender has been relatively well characterised as two overlapping bell curves8.
Stoker was a speaker against the decriminalisation of abortion in her state of Queensland7. With her, it is no ifs or buts; abortion should be banned (check out youtube clip). In this speech, she said, with no appreciation of irony:
“We know that the measure of a society is how we treat those who cannot speak for themselves. Now that includes some people who are ill or disabled. It includes the aged. It includes children, but it must also include the unborn.”9
This clearly does not extend to asylum-seekers; the unemployed; victims of the robodebt scheme; or the 116,000 homeless people (including children). Some of those people actually have a voice, but politicians do not want to hear what they have to say. Even when what they have to say is simply ‘help me’, they are ignored just the same.
She continued:“A grown man or woman is capable of the agency required to make decisions about their sexual conduct, contraception, the consequences thereof, but a child who is the product of those decisions, has no such agency.”9
Try telling that to a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant. For her own mental well-being she must be given the option of terminating the pregnancy. In Stoker’s world, there is no thought for the well-being of the woman. If a woman’s life is threatened by a pregnancy, she should have the right to terminate the pregnancy. However, Stoker would force that woman to go through to birth, and risk her life just to satisfy religious nutters.
“We know, the most fundamental human right, is the right to life itself. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. This is our most basic responsibility at international law. It’s meant to underpin all of the laws of this land. So attempts in this context to suggest that a foetus is something less than human, are mere justification, flying in the face of the scientific investment and progress that has been made to ensure the viability of prematurely born babies.”9
This is all about conflating foetuses with babies, and it is a standard ploy of religious nutters who often state that a human is created at conception. It is funny how she refers to science investing in the survival of prematurely born babies, when she ignores science on almost every other topic. Stoker also ignores the scientific ability we have to determine the presence of some genetic diseases, disabilities and deformities well before the foetus attains viability. In a 1995 study of 138 babies born at less than 22 weeks, only two survived and both were disabled, one severely10. She would force women to go through to birth, but being a Liberal would then limit any assistance to help the parents of a severely disabled child. She is not so much concerned with a right to life, but a right to birth; after the birth, you’re on your own.
In May 2019, Stoker was to be a guest speaker at a forum organised by the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities group, a group that opposes the building of mosques and frequently airs anti-Islamic views. In 2018, this group criticised a Queensland grants program designed to support refugees by saying, “It is time they realised Islam is the destroyer of multi culturalism [sic], diversity, democracy, and liberty, yet they use it cunningly to shame an unwitting host. The evidence is to be seen in every Islamic ruled Nation. Wake up to the dangers of the one that kills.” They also came out with the presumably George Christensen-inspired drivel that Halal certification has a “huge capacity to contribute to Islamic extremism, and terrorism”, and called for a ban on the building of mosques in Queensland. Stoker’s speech, to be delivered at the Maroochydore surf lifesaving club, was hilariously titled “Marxism disguised as Socialism”11. After questioning from the Guardian, Stoker withdrew from the event.
As a measure of how strident Stoker is in demanding that the religious retain or regain their privileged position in society, you need only to compare her to the Uniting Church, which has been highly critical of the religious discrimination bill, warning it gives churches too many rights over vulnerable groups, such as LGBTIQ people and Australians with disability12. Why is she like this? Because she is what is called a dominionist. Dominionism is the Christian equivalent of Sharia Law. The name is from the Book of Genesis in which god tells Adam and Eve to have ‘dominion’ over the Earth and its animals. Of course, the rabid right of Christianity believe this to mean that they are mandated to control all earthly institutions until the second coming of Jesus (yes, really!). There are two main schools of Dominionism. The first is Christian Reconstructionists, who believe in biblical law, including stoning as punishment for adultery and other transgressions, and that this should replace secular law. The second is New Apostolic Reformers which advocate that Christians should reclaim government, media, business, education, arts and entertainment13. These people want a theocracy; they want to be in control, of everything.