Law & Politics

Reaching for the mountain tops in Mayor Tate’s kingdom

Sue Baynes loves Christmas. A self-declared “Christmas tragic”, she gets her Christmas tree set up early – in November – and tells her husband every year, “This is my best tree yet”. 

The advisor to Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate shared her love for Christmas at a 2020 church service that was live-streamed on Facebook. In the sermon, she also tells the story of a Santa Claus who was working in Gold Coast shopping malls on a “kingdom assignment”. She recalled the time she bumped into this Father Christmas at a mall and had to take a moment before recognising the man behind the beard. 

“As he got closer to me, he went, ‘G’day, Pastor Sue’… He’s talking to me and I’m trying to figure out who he is. And then he said: ‘Do you know what, Sue? I love this time of year. God told me to become a Santa at Christmas time and go to the shopping centres.’… And he said: ‘I felt like God gave this to me as a kingdom assignment. So I sit and I have hundreds of children come and sit on my lap, and I pray and I prophesise over every one. I lay hands on them, I pray, and I speak prophetic words over them – I speak God’s word over them. None of them know that I’m doing it. The elves don’t even know. The mums don’t know. But God knows.’

For Baynes, this covert operation was music to her ears.

“And I was like oh, Lord, that is the most beautiful example of a covert assignment. Just think about it. Where else would you get an opportunity to go and pray for little children, be able to lay your hands on them. If you tried that in school these days, you’d be out – in no time flat. So he found a way because God said to him, ‘I want you to minister to children.’ …Thousands and thousands of children in our city have been prayed over because of one man’s vision of what he is called to do out there in the community. No fanfare. He’s just doing it unto God. He’s being the ecclesia. He’s shifting culture.”

Operating in a covert way is how Baynes says she prefers to pursue her “kingdom assignment” of achieving sustained transformation of the Gold Coast, a growing city in south-east Queensland often dubbed ‘sin city’. But that all changed in early 2022.

In January of that year, Tate appointed Baynes – already his informal spiritual advisor since 2012 – to a ratepayer-funded advisor role. Documents obtained under Right to Information laws reveal the appointment was a “direct” one – meaning there was no job advertisement or competitive merit appointment process. Among the documents is an email in which the Mayor’s Chief of Staff outlines details of the appointment:

“…I write to advise of the Mayor’s decision to direct appoint Ms Sue Baynes as a Councillor Advisor. Sue will be going into the current vacant position of International Relations Admin Officer with the position title ‘Pastoral Care Advisor’. Whilst this is a fulltime (1.0 FTE) position, this appointment will only be on a casual basis as fulltime work is not currently required.” 

A few weeks later, Gold Coast media began reporting the controversy over Tate’s appointment of a ‘Spiritual Advisor’. Then, in March 2022, having discovered a video of a 2019 speech from an Apostolic Reformation Australia event, I revealed that Baynes was a passionate supporter of the Seven Mountains Mandate and had converted Tate to the ideology.

Baynes had met Tate leading up to his election as mayor in 2012. On the way to the initial meeting with the businessman, she prayed for the Lord to give her a word to share with him. And very quickly, as she recalled at another Christian event, the Lord gave her Proverbs 29:2: 

“And it says, ‘When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. But when the wicked rule, the people groan.’ And at that moment I thought it could be a really short meeting!” 

Baynes felt emboldened to share her ideology. After discussing Tate’s faith journey – his conversion from Buddhism to Christianity – Baynes took the opportunity to outline, on a piece of paper, the Seven Mountains Mandate. The dominionist ideology provides a roadmap for Christians to conquer – or to “take dominion” of – key spheres of influence in society: government; business; education; media and the arts; entertainment; religion; and the family.

In Baynes’ several public retellings of this meeting, she has been emphatic that Tate fully embraced the idea of implementing the Seven Mountains Mandate, and asked for her support to do so if he were to win power. In an interview recorded at the 2020 Australian Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ACAL) National Summit – the audio of which I accessed in 2022 on the Southern Cross Centre’s SoundCloud account, but has since been removed – Baynes said:

“I asked for a piece of paper and I drew out the Seven Mountain Mandate. I thought I might as well just go for the whole thing in this meeting. And I did – I just drew it all out. And he said, ‘Sue, if I become mayor, will you help me bring this to the city? And I said, ‘Absolutely, I will. I’m there 100 per cent’.” 

The revelation about their support for the Seven Mountains Mandate sparked intense mainstream media interest in 2022, causing much unease at council chambers. According to the Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper, the appointment created a split among Tate’s leadership group and left some councillors “very disillusioned”.

Although Tate tried to brush it off as “fake news” in a radio interview, the Gold Coast community was clearly concerned. According to a poll by the Bulletin, 92 per cent of more than 500 of its readers believed Baynes should not be paid by ratepayers to advise the Mayor.

Despite being asked by journalists, Tate seems to have successfully dodged providing a straightforward answer to whether he supports the Seven Mountains Mandate. In April 2022, the Rationalist Society of Australia’s president, Meredith Doig, also called on him to confirm for ratepayers whether he supported Baynes’ ideology, but received no answer.

Amidst the media storm and public outcry, Tate said he did not recall offering support for the ideology

“If someone’s got a good idea, I will acknowledge it and go for it. [If] there’s a Christian group who wants to link the various categories in those mountains to instead of acting as silos, but to be one community, well we should all welcome it.”

Also, he told the ABC that his personal views were just that – personal.

“Similar to the views a journalist may have on a subject, the journalist must ensure their views do not influence their reporting. I apply the same values and principles to my role as mayor. That is, to keep my personal views private and to make decisions in the best interest of the majority of residents.”

Although the cover was blown on Baynes’ under-the-radar “kingdom assignment”, Tate appeared to be unperturbed. In media statements, he said council policy required that staff members’ personal views not affect their employment.

“Thousands of council employees have their own social media platforms and I expect many of these employees to publicly express their views on subjects like elections, fuel prices, religion, racism and discrimination. The important point is that these are their personal views and they must remain just that – personal. The same rule applies to the position of councillor adviser.”

Tate is facing re-election this month, with local government elections taking place across Queensland. One media poll released earlier this month showed him behind in the mayoral race. With days to go before voting, Gold Coast ratepayers remain in the dark as to Tate’s views about the Seven Mountains Mandate. But concern over its potential influence on government is warranted.

In an effort to counter reporting that ratepayers were paying for a ‘Spiritual Advisor’, Tate told the media in 2022 that Baynes’ role in his office was that of ‘Council Advisor’ – one of council’s four Council Advisor employees. According to the Bulletin, it was expected Baynes would be in the role for about six months, filling a position made vacant by a staffer on maternity leave. However, she has continued to work as Council Advisor.

Baynes appears to view her role differently from that of an ordinary advisory one. In July 2022, the ABC reported that it had obtained documents about her contract and details of some of her work. While the contract defined her role as ‘Council Advisor’, Baynes characterised the role differently in communications with local pastors, describing it as “new” and “unique to the Gold Coast”.

Baynes has made no secret of using her role with the Mayor – before and after being added to council payroll – as a “kingdom assignment” for achieving “sustained transformation” of the Gold Coast. In the 2020 ACAL National Summit interview, she said God had placed her with Tate and to walk with him in understanding his “kingdom assignment”.

“And the more he has embraced his kingdom assignment and understood that that’s what it is, the more he’s opened doors for the church and made a way for us.”

In an letter addressed to ‘Prayer Warriors’ in January this year and signed off using her formal title of ‘Council Advisor, Office of the Mayor’, she outlined a list of policy ideas following the summer’s storms, such as changes to laws about trees and making homes storm resistant, but also changes to planning rules to allow church buildings “within the community, rather than just (in) industrial areas and schools…”. But she urged the recipients of the email to see these as part of “a bigger picture” for the city.

“Overall, we want this place to be a safe place of flourishing for all residents  where Jesus is exalted, and His Kingdom is advanced in practical and demonstrable ways.”

In a 2021 podcast interview, Baynes talked about how Tate had begun involving her soon after winning election in 2012 and how she had since watched closely over him. She talked about communicating with him via text messages whenever she felt that the Lord wanted to communicate with him, including warning him of “traps that the enemy might be laying”.

Baynes has boasted of her gate-keeping role regarding who could access Tate. In the 2020 ACAL National Summit interview, she described having to “shoulder-charge people out of the way” to protect him from other influences.

“I have learned…about the weightiness of the assignment and how I have to steward that. It is such a precious thing, but it’s such a privilege. But I have had to shoulder-charge people out of the way that try to get in on where God has positioned me. Because, if you can imagine, if you get in that place of influence – and especially with a Christian mayor – and you have a whole lot of piranhas that think there’s blood in the water… But it’s true. They see an opportunity for an open door to get their agenda forward. And I’m like, ‘No, that is not what it’s about.’ I have to constantly guard my mayor because that’s what God has given me to do. I guard him. I guard our relationship, his wife.”

According to QNews, Baynes also described herself as Tate’s “discerner” in high-level meetings.  

“So, I sit in high-level meetings and he says to me, ‘I want you to be my eyes and ears. I want you to hear in your spirit and tell me what you think we need to do in the city’.”

Tate argued there was a great need to bring Baynes on board in a formal capacity following flooding events on the Gold Coast. He told the media in 2022 that he wanted someone “learned in the church world” who could connect resources and bring faith groups together in partnering with council on social issues like homelessness and domestic violence.

Baynes had proven herself in this way. She was instrumental in building cooperation among Christian groups and organising activities, including the annual worship event ‘Easter United’. According to Baynes, Tate gifted an amphitheater for the event at the cost of $94,000. It was this first staging of the event in 2018 – and Tate’s subsequent public baptism by Baynes on that occasion – that “shifted the spiritual atmosphere” of the Gold Coast.


Since then, collaboration has surged among Christian groups. Each month, Baynes joins with about 20 male pastors for the monthly Mayor’s Pastors Roundtable, where, she told the 2020 ACAL National Summit, they pray for answers on how to “transform” the city. Baynes also facilitates the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. When told that COVID restrictions would halve the capacity of the 2021 event, she said Tate agreed to hold the event twice

But, as Baynes revealed at the 2020 ACAL National Summit, she, unlike some church representatives, was not content with just creating a sense of unity among Christians at such events. 

“It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. We’re nowhere near there. Let’s keep pushing for how do we actually bring kingdom and change the culture of our city to look like the king and reflect his kingdom in very practical ways’.”

One of the answers to the roundtable pastors’ prayers for transforming society was the establishment of a domestic family violence program that began training churches in how to deal with domestic violence and that linked them with government and services providers.

When Baynes spoke at the 2020 ACAL National Summit, it was only weeks out from the council election, and everything pointed to another landslide win. Another four years for Tate, she said, would help to “land a whole heap of stuff that has been on the drawing board”.

In the ACAL interview, she revealed that “putting a big stake in the ground in Israel” was on the agenda. According to the plan – later impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 – Baynes and her husband were to travel with Tate and his wife, along with a mayoral envoy, to Jerusalem in June 2020. The Gold Coast wanted to reinvigorate a sister-city relationship with the Israeli city of Netanya – a relationship dormant for 30 years.

“We’ve got meetings already planned with the Mayor of Netanya. What we are actually wanting to do…is put a big stake in the ground in Israel and say the Gold Coast and Israel are now connected. So that, for me, is just an awesome step forward. Our Mayor is very, very excited about it. And we already feel that God is going to do amazing things in our city because we will pray for and bless Israel and the city of Jerusalem.”

Israel has a special place for many evangelical Christians, with their loyalty to the state of Israel nurtured, says Paul Charles Merkley, by a conviction that its restoration is a part of God’s plan for history. They believe that Israel is central to the promise of fulfillment of the biblical prophecy – the return of Jesus and the beginning of the Rapture. Thus, events in Israel, says historian of religion Neil Young, are viewed as “fundamental to bringing about the End Times”. When the Trump Administration officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many evangelicals, understanding the significance of the announcement, eagerly began looking forward to the End Times, reported Newsweek. It is not known if Tate shares this belief.

As part of the Israel trip, Tate had been scheduled to attend the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast. With the event moved online and to October, he recited prayers in a video message – still available on the event’s website, where he is described as ‘Israel’s Watchman’. In the video, Tate prays:

“As your sons and daughters, we choose to align ourselves and you to see Israel through your eyes. As many have prayed and declared, we come into agreement with the word of God concerning Israel and the city of Jerusalem.” 

The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast is supported by a number of high-profile evangelical politicians around the world, including former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who was described on the event website as a fellow ‘Watchman’. Pompeo was instrumental in the Trump Administration’s moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He even declared that the “Lord is at work here” in regards to US foreign policy in the Middle East.

In July last year, Tate hosted the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast on the Gold Coast and delivered an opening speech, while Baynes led attendees in prayer. In recent years, Tate has sought to strengthen ties with Netanya, naming a beachside area ‘Netanya Park’ in Surfers Paradise in 2021 and expressing hope for a closer relationship and “ongoing exchanges”.

Also on Baynes’ “drawing board” before the previous election was the desire to activate the “business mountain” to deliver on her “deal” with Tate from 2012. At the 2020 ACAL National Summit, she said:

“I really feel that it’s now time for the business mountain to start connecting in with the church and the government… So I’m really going to be pushing that part of the deal… So that’s how we’re working. We’re looking at how we bring – how we position kingdom people in influence in all of those sectors across our city to change it with sustained societal transformation; just not a ‘one shot and then we move on’.”

Baynes says she first heard about the Seven Mountain Mandate in 2007 when, as a church pastor, she heard American Peter Wagner speak on the topic at a conference. According to Australian Christian commentator John Sandeman, Wagner was a respected researcher into church growth and later fostered the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. 

NAR, wrote Sandeman, holds a series of connected doctrinal positions: that the offices of Apostle and Prophet should be in today’s church; that Christians should support dominionism and aim to establish God’s kingdom on earth by gaining state authority; and that they should promote kingdom-minded people into key areas of society. Researcher Chrys Stevenson says NAR’s leaders – revered as ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ – promote the Seven Mountains Mandate, aspiring to sit atop each one of these mountains on every nation.


While there are “mild forms” of dominionism, Sandeman says supporters of “extreme dominionism” believe they can “establish the (literal) kingdom of God on earth – and are called to do so before Christ returns.” Baynes’ comments appear to place her towards the stronger end. At a 2018 event, she spoke of Jesus’ command to “occupy” territory to bring about sustained societal transformation until that territory “looks like our king” and “until the ways of that territory are the ways of our king.”

“We are reminded that it’s not simply the number of Christians in the city that will bring sustained societal transformation. But it is the earnest deliberate stewardship of that blessing by his kingdom ambassadors across all sectors of society. Jesus said that if we fail to steward our Father’s gift, it will be taken away. And he also said we are to occupy until He returns… His command was to occupy. And He is longing to hear the seventh angel cry out, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever’.”

Baynes continues to be active in the apostolic network. In May last year, the Women’s Apostolic Alliance hosted a presentation by Baynes. The promotional material detailed how Baynes was “passionate” about seeing leaders of the Seven Mountains Mandate partnering, and described her appointment in Tate’s office as “a sign that God is breaking new ground for Jesus in our city”.

In September last year, she joined speakers at Pastor David Vaka’s Brisbane church for the ROAR Apostolic Summit. Social media posts show that Vaka has been preaching the Seven Mountains Mandate for a number of years, especially in the Pacific Islands. In July last year, he posted a sermon on the topic of the Seven Mountains Mandate:

“I think our church is probably one of the only churches in Brisbane that teaches this…  I think we’re raising up disciples so that when you go out there you can disciple the system, the structure, the atmosphere and the culture you’re in. We raise up disciples to disciple nations. And you’re probably wondering, ‘What is a nation?’ The seven mountains – really, the seven forces – make up a nation.”

Among the guests at ROAR were: Brian Heath, pastor of a Gippsland church accused – by one of his daughters, Clare Heath-McIvor – of advocating dominionism; Mark Robinson, a pastor and state Liberal MP who has been a lone voice pressuring the Queensland government to keep scripture in public schools; and Labor’s Speaker of the federal House of Representatives Milton Dick – who, otherwise, has no known connection to dominionism and may have appeared simply as the local MP for the area. Dick has previously spoken at the church about how he helped it obtain a government grant of $20,000 to build a cafe.

The threat of dominionism is a clear and present danger to democracy in the United States, where Christian nationalism is on the rise in the Trump Republican Party. But for Heath-McIvor – who walked away from her family’s church – dominionism also poses a bonafide threat to Australia’s democracy, requiring Australians to “step on this now.” In his latest report in Religiosity in Australia, social researcher Neil Francis revealed, “shockingly for Australia’s secular democracy”, that more than three-quarters of a million adults are dominionists, “believing theirs to be the only acceptable religion and that religious authorities ought to be final arbiters of law”.

Tate’s right to personal spirituality and Christian belief is not in question. But many Gold Coasters are troubled by reports of Baynes’ ideology and her comments linking Tate to it. If the pair are seeking to extend their “kingdom assignments” another four years, surely voters deserve some straight answers.

Published 13 March 2024.

If you wish to republish this original article, please attribute to RationaleClick here to find out more about republishing under Creative Commons.

Image: Mayor Tom Tate (Facebook); Breakthrough Nation TV (screengrab, YouTube).


About Si Gladman

Si Gladman is Editor of Rationale. He is also Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He tweets at @si_gladman

Got a Comment?