Freshly promoted Assistant Women's Minister Amanda Stoker has come under fire for what critics say are her "derogatory" views on transgender issues as well as her pro-life stance on abortion.
Senator Stoker gained the portfolio as part of
Mr Morrison's announcement comes as his government tries to overhaul its image amid a series of scandals, including the Brittany Higgins sexual assault allegation and an accusation of rape levelled against Christian Porter.
Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker is an ardent defender of free speech. Source: AAP
Critics and political opponents have raised concerns that Senator Stoker is unsuitable for her role because of her positions on transgender issues and abortion.
Her website includes a petition titled “stand up to the transgender agenda”, which warns against the “completely unreasonable” demands of some transgender activists.
Transgender Victoria advocate Sally Goldner said Senator Stoker’s appointment as assistant minister for women had prompted concern.
“It is obviously concerning given that she’s made some pretty derogatory and emotive comments about transgender people before which are not helpful,” she told SBS News.
“Given Amanda Stoker’s remarks, if you link all the issues then there are doubts that people will be left behind.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Senator Stoker said she was committed to responding as part of the government to issues affecting women from "all backgrounds and walks of life".
"Senator Stoker is particularly looking forward to contributing to the government’s response to issues involving women’s equality, women’s safety, women’s economic security and women’s health and wellbeing," the spokesperson said.
"The government is committed to responding to these issues for the benefit of Australian women from all backgrounds and walks of life."
Senator Stoker's petition outlines her belief that a "transgender agenda" is forcing “everyday Australians” to reject “objective truth”.
It highlights concerns over the need to keep “women’s sport for women” as well as the need to “protect children from hormone treatment and surgical procedures”.
Senator Stoker also advocates that people should have the right to teach their children that gender isn't "something we can choose".
In the petition, Senator Stoker says she respects the rights of adults to live the way they want.
But she adds people should not abandon their “common sense” or “understanding of basic biology”.
Senator Stoker has also previously described “gender identity” and “sexuality” as matters of “personal choice”.
Ms Goldner said she's concerned Senator Stoker's past statements in response to transgender issues highlight a “lack of empathy” and “understanding" of these concerns.
"Everyone deserves to be safe and everyone deserves to be respected and valued," she said.
Senator Stoker’s appointment in her new role comes as Mr Morrison attempts to show his government is in touch with concerns around misogyny, sexual harassment and gender disparities.
This included announcingto be led by current Minister for Women, Marise Payne.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said she looked forward to engaging with Senator Stoker in her efforts towards equality for women, including for trans women.
"Trans women currently experience disproportionate levels of discrimination, negatively impacting their safety, economic security, health and wellbeing,” she told SBS News.
"We look forward to engaging with the newly appointed Assistant Minister for Women in her efforts toward equality for women, and to ensure all women are able to live free from discrimination."
The Queensland senator is also a pro-life advocate and ardent supporter of free speech who has previously attended anti-abortion rallies.
In 2018, she attempting to create exclusion zones for pro-life activists protesting around abortion clinics and contending the idea of calling abortion an issue of "human rights".
Barbara Baird, from the South Australian Action Abortion Coalition, said she believed Senator Stoker's views were “inconsistent” with someone working in the portfolio for women for the federal government.
“[It’s] very concerning,” she told SBS News.
“Those views, while she has the right to hold them, are really inconsistent with occupying the position as Assistant Minister for Women in the federal government.”
A spokesperson for Senator Stoker said as a member of the ministry: "[she] understands that it is her duty to act in the interests of the Commonwealth and to support the Prime Minister and the Government including in situations where there may be a divergence between Government policy and her personally held beliefs."
Senator Stoker has also taken over the role of Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations.