Source: The Australian Financial Review.
When Queensland lawyer Amanda Stoker was sworn in to replace George Brandis in the Senate last week, she ended 250 days of vacancies in Parliament’s upper house, the longest period since federation.
Despite the pomp and ceremony of her new job, the 35-year-old tells friends and fellow MPs she won’t be forgetting where she comes from in the halls of Parliament House.
“It is a strange environment, this place,” Senator Stoker told The Australian Financial Review on Monday.
“It is beautiful and special, but it’s very different to the lives of the Queenslanders I am representing.
“I think it will be very important to enjoy the opportunity of being a part of this privileged experience but not to get too far away from the people who brought me here.”
Nominating 27 per cent youth unemployment in Bundaberg and the challenge of small business owners in Brisbane to hire reliable staff, the mother of three says her new job has come with a steep learning curve.
The solicitor and former associate for High Court Justice Ian Callinan beat out a large field of candidates, including former senator Joanna Lindgren, for the vacancy created by Mr Brandis’ move to become Australia’s high commissioner to London.
Already part of Senate committees considering economics, public administration and constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, Senator Stoker will attend her first Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday.
“[Justice Callinan] had a really good way of thinking and reflecting and weighing everything he dealt with. It’s a discipline I have tried to emulate.
“I’m sure it will take a long time to do it as well as he could, but it is nice to see how the legislation gets dealt with at that end and I’ll be interested to see if I can use some of those insights early on.”
More women needed
She said reports of the Canberra boys’ club were exaggerated, but acknowledged more women were needed in federal politics.
Nominating John Howard and Margaret Thatcher among her political heroes, Senator Stoker revealed she met her husband Adam while doorknocking for a Liberal candidate on a Sunday morning.
“Mine is an ordinary, aspiration Australian family story,” she said. “My dad is a plumber, drainer, gas fitter. He had his own small business. My mum worked in a shop, as a retail assistant.”
Paul Keating’s November 1990 declaration of the recession Australia “had to have” was part of her school-aged political awakening.
“In my parents’ day-to-day lives it was crippling. When the bigger businesses on which they relied for their livelihood found it too hard to keep going it had huge impacts on them, and their ability to keep it together.
“I just remember observing that as a child, thinking it was really strange that people who are putting so much into small business, really giving it everything they had, could find it so difficult,” she said.
Now part of what she describes as a generation of young politicians inspired by the Howard era, Senator Stoker says she wants Australia to have as little government as is necessary for people to reach their full potential.
“Seeing the ways we can do government better and, in terms of my thinking smaller is part of better, is a great opportunity. I think I will learn a lot here in the years to come,” she said.