Nov 10, 2020

Runner-up rule to change after resignation outcry

Runner-up rule to change after resignation outcry

A law change is afoot to turn around the situation that sees Rockhampton mayoral runner-up Chris Hooper in line for the title following yesterday’s shock resignation of Margaret Strelow.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said today the Palaszczuk Government would introduce and pass a bill to retrospectively amend the Local Government Act once the new parliament was sworn in.

“I have received advice that should this be completed at the earliest opportunity, any vacancies to any mayoral or councillor positions that have recently arisen will need to be filled through a by-election,” he said.

“This will ensure communities can have a proper vote to determine who represents them.”

Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam had called on the government to repeal laws mandating the automatic election of the runner-up in a mayoral or councillor election if a vacancy occurs within the first 12 months of the term.

“Mayors and councillors from across Queensland have made clear their concerns; the current runner-up provisions are undemocratic and could see candidates who receive only a small percentage of the vote elevated to office,” Mr Hallam said.

“For example, in Rockhampton, the runner up for the position of Mayor received less than a third of the vote.

“In the case of the Townsville City Council, the next in line to fill the Division 10 vacancy, caused by Cr Les Walker’s election to State Parliament, received just 18.3 per cent of the vote.

“In council elections past, runner-up candidates have polled in the single digits.

“A by-election is the best way to ensure the candidates to fill these vacancies have the support of the people they will represent.”

Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow announced her resignation late yesterday after a Councillor Conduct Tribunal found her guilty of misconduct over a day trip to an Adani solar farm.

“I absolutely refute their finding. I acted at all times in accordance with my own conscience and on the advice of senior legal practitioners as well as on the advice of officers from the Department of Local Government,” she wrote on social media.

Councillor Neil Fisher has commenced duties as Acting Mayor in line with the Local Government Act 2009.