It was a big day for Queensland Liberal National Party Senator Amanda Stoker. After being tipped to take over serial harasser Andrew Laming’s lower house seat, the conservative senator got handed a promotion to assistant minister for women and assistant minister for industrial relations.
Her new roles reflect Scott Morrison’s concerted effort to look like he’s promoting more women to ministerial roles. But Stoker, a rising star from the LNP’s culture war right — most recently known for a shockingly tone deaf reference to the killing of George Floyd — has a very poor track record on gender issues. She’s dismissed sexist bullying, been vocal in her opposition to transgender rights, and is a favourite of men’s rights activists.
On women in politics
At a time when the Canberra bubble has sprung a leak — laying bare the misogyny, harassment and regressive attitudes too many women in politics have to deal with — some of Stoker’s commentary seems out of touch.
In 2018, the last time we got a big crisis about the Liberal Party’s very well-documented gender problem, Stoker said claims by retiring MPs Julia Banks and Ann Sudmalis about sexist bullying were “pathetic” and “bizarre”. Banks, who at the time had been driven out of politics by the gendered bullying and harassment in the Coalition party room, responded to Stoker’s promotion yesterday with a facepalm emoji.
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It wasn’t the only time Stoker downplayed such behaviour. Last year, when Queensland’s then-opposition leader Deb Frecklington spoke out against bullying and undermining from the LNP boys’ club, Stoker accused her of “playing the gender card”.
Asked about her comments, Stoker said: “Women are strong and capable and don’t need to try and frame the challenges we face in politics through the frame of gender.”
Less than a year later, all of this has aged like fine wine.
On abortion and men’s rights
Stoker is seen as a great hope for the LNP’s reactionary wing. She’s an outspoken Anglican who believes Christians are under attack. And it’s that sense of Christian fragility that has informed many of her political positions.
In the past few years she’s also emerged as a bit of a darling to men’s rights activists. And since 2018 she has been using Senate estimates hearings to grill higher education bureaucrats about their alleged failures to protect the rights of students accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Stoker believes university disciplinary procedures impose unfair standards on alleged perpetrators. It’s an argument that brought her into the orbit of Bettina Arndt, who has made a name for herself arguing campus sexual assault statistics are fudged. Arndt and Stoker met in 2019 and the senator, soon to be assistant minister for women, got a glowing reference on mensrights.com.au.
On LGBTIQ issues
Nowhere is Stoker’s culture war-driven approach to politics more evident than in her positions on LGBTIQ issues. Stoker is on record saying she believes sexuality is a “choice” — in an op-ed for a national newspaper, no less.
More worryingly, she’s emerged as one of the loudest, most prominent anti-trans voices in the country. Her website contains a petition urging people to “stand up to the transgender agenda” which she believes involves pushing “dangerous and radical” ideas on to children.
Sally Goldner, media representative for Transgender Victoria, tells Crikey Stoker’s statements on trans issues were a dog-whistle.
“The comments are very distorted and inaccurate,” she said. “Transgender people, including trans women, are just trying to live.”
The false narrative that trans people are trying to manipulate children and shut down all criticism is a recent favourite in far right circles, given legitimacy by prominent conservative media outlets in the UK, US and, increasingly, Australia.
“There used to be talk about the homosexual agenda; it’s the same old rhetoric,” Goldner said.
Stoker’s office did not respond to detailed requests for comment.
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