The US President is taking to court allegations that its recent elections lacked integrity.
We like to think that our voting systems are comparably unimpeachable. We don’t have “hanging chads”, we don’t use complex software to tabulate results and our elections are run by a central independent agency, rather than a patchwork of 10,000 different bodies as in the US.
Australians have an electoral system they can trust, but the Queensland Labor government has undermined that system with the undemocratic amendments they made to local government elections last November.
Those amendments established the absurd situation that if a mayor resigned within 12 months of an election a new vote would not occur. Instead, the runner-up at the previous mayoral election would be installed by Brisbane as the new mayor, regardless of how small a vote they got.
Margaret Strelow’s shock resignation this week has triggered this provision for Rockhampton. There were only two candidates at the Rockhampton Local Government elections in March this year. Margaret Strelow was easily re-elected with just under 70 per cent of the vote. Her only challenger was Chris “Pineapple” Hooper, a local Rockhampton identity who has stood at most recent mayoral elections.
I know Chris well. He runs the “Have-aChat” Artists Collective on East St just a few doors down from my office. For those unfamiliar with the institution, and I say this with love and kindness, Chris’s office could be described as a “hippie commune”.
But Chris is a lovely hippie. He is always up for a laugh. He and some of his friends come to protest at my office every Friday morning. We disagree on politics but we can still get along as human beings.
Yet despite Chris being a great bloke, I don’t think he should be mayor. Rockhampton should decide who is elected mayor, not the Electoral Commission in Brisbane. It is a shocking indictment of how Labor has treated local governments that they have let this situation emerge.
The Labor party now admits they have stuffed up. Just a year after passing the amendments, Labor has said that they will change the law back and allow Rocky to have a vote. The problem is, however, the law is clear and under the current law Chris Hooper must be offered the mayor’s gig. Section 166A(4)(b) of the *Local Government Act 2009* says that if the runner-up consents “the local government must fill the vacant office by appointing the runner-up.” The Labor party can not change the law right now because the parliament has not reconvened since the election.
What a mess of Labor’s own making. Margaret has provided committed and determined leadership for our community for over 16 years. I have seen her advocate forcefully for our region and stand tough against bullies on the Adani project. She did not deserve to go out this way on trumped up charges that would not cost a state or federal member of parliament their job.
The Labor Government’s persecution of local governments must end. We are lucky to have good councillors, but at the last election three of the seven Rockhampton council wards went uncontested. That is in part because the Queensland government has made it so difficult to stand as a councillor that many balk at the red tape. However good our councillors are, we still deserve a choice.
I hope that Margaret decides to run again so that we can have a choice in who leads us. Too many decisions are made in Brisbane distant from us and we deserve to have a say on who should be our mayor. So run, Margaret, run!