Fine print that might put ‘Pineapple’ into mayor’s office after all

Rockhampton’s “accidental Mayor” Chris “Pineapple” Hooper may hold on to the job thanks to the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ).

Nov 12, 2020, updated Nov 12, 2020
Chris Hooper says he will happily step into the mayoral role until a by-election is held. (Photo: ABC)

Chris Hooper says he will happily step into the mayoral role until a by-election is held. (Photo: ABC)

Hooper lost to the popular Margaret Strelow in March, but her position fell to him — the only other candidate — after she suddenly quit this week.

The State Government stepped in, announcing retrospective amendments to the law that led to Mr Hooper’s ascension by default — but not until Parliament next sits.

But the ECQ said the present law stood, which meant the position must be filled within two months and a vacancy notice must be sent to the runner-up offering them the position.

It is now up to the ECQ to notify Hooper of the vacant position and he can either accept or decline.

Hooper said he believed he should step into the role. “The rules haven’t changed yet and won’t be until next year, and there will be a six to eight-week gap until this happens,” Hooper said. “We’re all jumping ahead of ourselves a bit — the law at the moment is that I’m in and they’ve got to put me in.”

A by-election is looking likely in January and Hooper said he intended to run again.

‘A curious set of events’

Griffith University’s Dr Paul Williams said the situation had made Hooper something of a celebrity, or at least had raised his profile.

“My argument would be that if and when he puts his hand up at a by-election next year, all of this may well actually attract something of an underdog vote and he may do very, very well out of it,” Williams said. “He may well, in fact, win a by-election.

“It’s a very curious set of events.

“We’ve seen a sitting regional mayor fall on her sword after a set of allegedly adverse findings and now the wheels of finding a democratic system are beginning to turn.”

Nothing, however, can happen until January.

“So we’re in a bit of a limbo,” Williams said.

“Nothing can be done until the act can be changed, and that can’t happen until early next year.

“Then a by-election will be held and at least in the democratic interest it should be held as soon as possible.”

This could be within a couple of weeks of the act being passed.

“But given this is a major regional centre that’s without a mayor, this question has to be resolved quickly and transparently,” Williams said.

Acting Mayor Neil Fisher said it was too early to know if he or any other sitting councillor would go for the top job.

– ABC / Inga Stünzner

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