Senator Amanda Stoker and Andrew Hastie MP have been promoted from the back bench to the outer ministry by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. These new faces in the ministry have something in common – they are both public Christians. Both are convinced evangelicals.
Amanda Stoker (who has been a contributor to Eternity) is a Senator from Queensland and has been a strong supporter of Christian’s place in the public square. “We know that our nation is stronger when people of faith are able to practise their beliefs, able to strengthen their families and contribute to their communities with the kind of warmth and generosity for which they are renowned,” she wrote for Eternity, endorsing a vote for the coalition.
In her first speech – as the 99th woman in the Federal Parliament – she highlighted her faith. “For as long as I have the privilege of serving God, my Queen, the values of the Liberal National Party and, most importantly, the people of Queensland, I will do so to the best of my ability, listening sincerely and aiming always to stand with fortitude even in our most difficult debates so that I might contribute to restoring the trust of Australians in our political institutions.”
“The task could not be expressed better than it was by former US President John F Kennedy: ‘With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.'”
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She highlighted freedom of religion. “An important facet of freedom of thought is freedom of religion. It is deeply troubling to have so many examples to point to that suggest this freedom is under attack in our culture. If we fail to defend people’s right to believe and to practice their faith, we deny our nation its moral bedrock. Tolerance must cut both ways. In the twisted name of tolerance, freedom of speech is also under fire. Before I was even sworn in, I was tagged by members of the opposing party as having engaged in hate speech. Those who know me well might find that funny. My crime was to have said that the measure of a society is how it treats those who cannot speak for themselves: the aged, the ill, people with a disability, children and the unborn. This is a prime illustration of just how wrong-headed the issue of speech has become in this country. Make no mistake: the right to freedom of speech—whether those ideas are wrong or right—is fundamental to a free society and a functioning democracy. Cut it off, and we starve ourselves of the refinement of ideas needed for us to flourish.”
Stoker was not born with a silver spoon. She grew up in Campbelltown, New South Wales: “My dad is a plumber, drainer, gas fitter. He had his own small business. My mum worked in a shop as a retail assistant.” A product of the local selective Hurlstone Agricultural High School and Sydney University’s law course, she was judge’s associate to Ian Callinan in the High Court of Australia before a career as a barrister.
Amanda Stoker has been promoted to the front bench as an Assistant Minister to Attorney-General, Christian Porter, with Morrison telling today’s press conference she was extremely well qualified and would do a “sensational job.”
Andrew Hastie, a MP from Western Australia, is a son of the manse – or whatever the Presbyterian equivalent is. He grew up at the Ashfield Presbyterian church in Sydney’s inner west, where his father Peter was minister. While there, Peter Hastie was pitched into controversy when a sermon was preached in his church by a liberal Christian, Peter Cameron, that led to a heresy trial.
Peter Hastie is currently Principal and Pastoral Dean at Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne.
Andrew Hastie’s military career took him to Afghanistan, commanding a troop of Australian Light Armoured Vehicles. He later completed the arduous selection course for the Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) and was deployed to Afghanistan as a SASR officer in 2013. An ABC investigation details that Captain Hastie intervened to stop the severing of hands of the Taliban fighters who were killed.
Hastie published a raw and revealing reflection on the Brereton Report that examined war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan. It is worth reading in full, revealing Hastie as a reflective realist and Christian thinker: “… We have forgotten basic truths about human nature that previous generations of Australians better understood. We live in a bent world. We all carry man’s smudge: people do bad things. Christians call it sin in a fallen world. Enlightenment thinkers like Immanuel Kant called it the ‘crooked timber’ of humanity. Whatever name we give our condition, we should always guard against the reality of people doing bad things when they are left unaccountable.”
“The Australian Constitution aligned our system of government to this realist view of human nature. The drafters understood the importance of the rule of law, the separation of powers and the need for accountability amongst those who serve in government. Our soldiers and officers are no different: they need accountability and firm leadership in the degrading cockpit of war. It appears this did not happen from the very top to the bottom of the command chain.”
Here is Hastie acknowledging the impact of a chaplain: “When I posted to SASR as a non-qualified Captain in January 2010, I was befriended by the Unit Chaplain, a bloke by the initials of SB. He had an Irish temperament and liked to box, often with the operators. He was refreshingly confrontational, not a social worker in uniform. SB confronted what he called a ‘pagan warrior ethos’, shorn of any connection to the Just War tradition that has shaped our approach to warfare. As Saint Augustine wrote near the end of the Roman Empire, we must: ‘In waging war, cherish the spirit of a peacemaker, that by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace.’
“Our boxing chaplain was right. The warrior ethos I sometimes saw was about power, ego and self-adulation. It worshipped war itself. It was the opposite of the humility that I expected to find at SASR.”
Hastie resigned his commission from the Australian Defence Force in August 2015 after announcing that he would run (successfully) to be elected the Member for Canning in WA.
He has been promoted to the role of the Assistant Minister for Defence, which he is clearly well qualified for.
Hastie has attended a number of evangelical churches which reflect his faith – he was married at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, and has attended Shenton Park Anglican Church in Perth, Crossroads Church in Canberra (a congregation of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches), and Peel Presbyterian Church in Mandurah in his electorate.