Queensland Parliament has passed amendments to the electoral act that will retrospectively apply to the would-be mayor of Rockhampton, Chris “Pineapple” Hooper.
Mr Hooper should have already been officially sworn in as Rockhampton’s new mayor, but he was not ratified at a council meeting, which meant he could not assume the role.
However, the extraordinary amendments now passed in State Parliament mean even if Mr Hooper had been sworn in, any actions he took as mayor would have been rendered invalid.
The Labor Government only recently changed the law so a sitting mayor or councillor would be replaced by the next highest-polling candidate if they died or resigned in the first 12 months of their term.
Former Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow made a shock resignation in November and under the law that had only come into effect on October 12, Mr Hooper — as runner-up — stood to become mayor.
Nicknamed “Pineapple” because of a bushy mop of hair from his school days, Mr Hooper had said in November the chain of events surprised him.
“It’s pretty amazing how it all came about,” Mr Hooper said.
“I’m like that accidental [Olympic medallist Steven Bradbury] … who won the ice-skating gold medal — sort of like that.”
Resignations to now trigger by-election
That outcome triggered Queensland’s Local Government Minister to announce the State Government would urgently amend to the Local Government Act, so resignations would trigger a by-election instead.
The Opposition slammed the Queensland Government’s handling of the laws during parliamentary debate, although it did not oppose the changes.
LNP Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald branded the debacle a lesson in poor legislation.
“It is refreshing to see those opposite admitting fault, and rectifying their mistake,” Mr McDonald said.
In the case of Rockhampton, Mr Hooper had won 30 per cent of the vote.
Assistant Minister for Local Government Nikki Boyd said the State Government was amending the laws because communities deserved the opportunity to choose their leaders.
Ms Boyd said she had spoken to every mayor in Queensland to consult them about the changes.
Greens MP Michael Berkman suggested in Parliament the Government had only been motivated to urgently amend the electoral act in order to ensure Mr Hooper did not become Rockhampton’s mayor.