A local council raises eyebrows after appointing a specialist religious adviser.
The Gold Coast is synonymous with sun, surf and now – for the past few weeks – spiritual guidance.
Taxpayers are the ones hoarding the money to hear God’s message, which is being delivered by evangelical pastor, Sue Baynes, who has been a friend and spiritual advisor to Mayor Tom Tate for years.
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“On the Gold Coast, if I asked the same question, ‘how many people know Tom Tate, or know the name of Tom Tate, 96% would raise their hands,'” Pastor Baynes told a conference in 2019, before her. official employment.
“I don’t work for him, I’m not in the staff, I don’t get paid, I don’t have a title, I don’t have a profile.”
But now she is the new Pastoral Advisor to Gold Coast City Council and is a taxpayer-funded employee.
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Her role draws parallels with other political appointments making headlines, such as Paula White, spiritual adviser to former US President Donald Trump and millionaire evangelical television preacher.
The controversial figure hooked viewers and she blew up the internet with her desperate prayers for another Trump term.
Mayor Tate told a local news conference April 8 that “his job description is to advise on how we connect the church group with volunteer resources.”
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He added that the link between the church and the local council helps those in need, including those who are homeless or experiencing domestic violence.
“We have 14 advisers. My view is that when I sit there and listen, they’re all advisers. I don’t look at their private opinions about what they did before they were advisers,” said Mayor Tate at the press conference.
Prior to his role on the council, Pastor Baynes joined Mayor Tate in the waters of Lake Evandale to perform his baptism.
The sacred display was prompted by a battle with cancer and his wife suffering from a heart attack.
Some of Pastor Sue’s opinions or proclamations have raised questions about whether she is a good fit for the council payroll.
At a conference in 2019, Pastor Baynes spoke, she described on a “piece of A4 paper, the mandate of the seven mountains”.
“I drew it and said, ‘this can be a model to see how we can see our city transformed by the power of God, to look like the kingdom of God,'” she said.
But when asked about those statements at the April 8 press conference, Mayor Tate said he couldn’t remember what he and the pastor had talked about previously.
“Well, I don’t remember, but you know everyone knows me – if someone has a good idea, I’ll recognize it…and I’ll go,” Mayor Tate said.
The Seven Mountain Mandate is a conservative Christian belief aimed at exerting influence in seven key areas of society, including politics, business and the media, and is considered extreme.
“From what I get out of it, I’m on top of the world as mayor of the Gold Coast,” Mayor Tate said of the term.
“If there is a Christian group that wants to connect the categories in these mountains, instead of acting like silos, like one community, we should all welcome them,” Mayor Tate said.
A topical matter on the streets of Surfers Paradise to ask locals what they think of the spiritual rendezvous.
“What exactly is a Spiritual Advisor?…Why do we need one? asked Julie Hill, a local woman.
“I don’t really trust politics in general…it’s probably something that’s going to be more…marketing than anything else,” local resident Adam Bennett said.
“I think it may also be a misallocation of resources,” said Gold Coast resident Angus Perkins.
Local man Paul said: “He (Mayor Tate) can see the vision, so I think he’s 100% right in doing it (appointing Pastor Baynes).”
Pastor Baynes said she too had seen a vision.
At a church service in November last year, she spoke of a demonic stronghold at the Home of the Arts (HOTA) on the Gold Coast, saying a spiritual battle had begun.
“Has she been to the rooftop bar (at HOTA’s)? We’ve been there a couple of times, I wouldn’t say demonic, it’s kinda funny, I’ve never seen alcohol come out, other than vodka, mostly,” Mr. Bennett said.
A topical matter contacted Mayor Tate’s office, but he declined our interview offer.
Statement from Gold Coast City Council:
I’ve been mayor for a decade, and it’s more evident today than ever before that our community is struggling to cope with the challenges that two years of the Covid pandemic have inflicted on thousands of residents. Additionally, recent natural events such as flooding have increased the mental, financial and emotional strain on businesses and the community. Church groups across the coast have reached out over the past two years, asking how they can help. Given that I have hosted a Mayor’s Pastors Forum for many years, it made sense to hire – on an occasional basis – a counselor counselor who has the skills to bring dozens of faith groups together. It should be very clear that Pastor Sue was not hired as a Spiritual Counselor – she is a Counselor. Under state law, mayors in Queensland can hire councilors as long as it does not add an additional number of staff to their overall office allocation. This occasional appointment does not increase the number of staff in my office because the person occupying the permanent position is on maternity leave.
Sue Baynes is on mid-level administration pay. Other advisors also have advisors, and the salary level is the same. She is occasional. Currently, three advisor advisors are hired by our board and none of these appointments required consultation with ratepayers.
Any council employee, casual or permanent, can have a personal opinion on any issue. In fact, of the council’s 3,700 full-time staff, thousands use their own personal social media platforms daily to voice their opinions on a range of topics – elections, fuel prices, racism, discrimination, violence, addiction and religion. Provided an employee does not allow these opinions to interfere with their workplace, nothing prevents them from holding or expressing their opinions in private. This also applies to Advisor Advisors.
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