Sue Lines

On this date in 1953, politician and labor activist Susan “Sue” Lines was born in Perth, Australia, to Nancy (McCrae), a teacher, and James Lines. Her father was born in England, came to Australia at age 12 as part of a child migration scheme and worked as a baker, carpenter and builder after serving in World War II. Her maternal heritage is Scottish.

Lines held British citizenship by descent until renouncing it in 2013. After her parents separated, she became close to her stepmother Mary Davies. She earned a bachelor of education at Murdoch University in Perth and worked as a teacher and community and union organizer.

In 2002 she became national executive of the Labor Party, the main center-left political party (the Liberal Party is center-right). She served on the party’s national policy committee from 2007-09 and was appointed in 2013 to fill a vacancy in the 76-member national Senate. She was elected to a six-year term in 2016 and reelected in 2022.

As chair in 2018 of the Senate’s procedure committee, she led an inquiry into the current practice of starting sessions with the Lord’s Prayer. The Greens, the third-largest party, proposed ending the practice but the proposal failed. The prayer also opens the House of Representatives.

The practice calls for the president to recite the prayer preceded by “Almighty God: We humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.”

The issue returned after Lines was elected Senate president when Labor prevailed in the 2022 federal election. She was the second woman elected to the position and the first from the Labor Party. The Senate procedure committee will again consider dispensing with the invocation.

Commenting on the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in an advisory capacity legislatively, Lines told a reporter that “we’ve had almost every parliamentary leader applaud the diversity of the Parliament, and so if we are genuine about the diversity of the Parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation