No more yobbo: Chris ‘Pineapple’ Hooper vows to run in Rockhampton mayoral by-election

Chris Hooper almost became the city’s mayor by default, but after Queensland Parliament’s retrospective law changes, he now will try to be officially elected to the role instead.

Dec 03, 2020, updated Dec 03, 2020
Chris Hooper says he wasn't surprised at the retrospective change to the electoral law, and will now stand in a by-election. Photo: ABC

Chris Hooper says he wasn't surprised at the retrospective change to the electoral law, and will now stand in a by-election. Photo: ABC

Hooper said he would run in a Rockhampton by-election after his hopes of becoming the city’s “accidental” mayor were dashed when the Queensland Parliament passed retrospective amendments to the Local Government Electoral Act.

He said he expected the amendment to be passed, and his focus now was on changing some of his ways ahead of the by-election, which is likely to be held early next year.

“I’ll give up some of my yobbo tactics and get people to understand me a bit better, you know, because I am a bit of a yobbo,” he said.

“I do think a bit different and I’ve got a pretty good mob of blokes behind me that are pretty smart, so we’re working on that,” he said of his campaign platform.

Former Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow made a shock resignation in November and under the law that had only come into effect on October 12, Hooper — as runner-up — stood to become mayor.

Hooper was the only candidate to run against Strelow in the March poll and won just over 30 per cent of the vote.

The Queensland Parliament has now made a retrospective change to the law, which would have seen a sitting mayor or councillor replaced by the next highest-polling candidate if they died or resigned in the first 12 months of their term.

“That’s the way they operate,” Hooper said of the retrospective change.

“They’re all in support of big business; they have to keep their stronghold in all of this because they don’t like me.

“I’m for climate change and stopping coal mines and trying to get the planet on an even keel.”

Hooper said Rockhampton residents had been upset by the political process.

“People are sick of the principle of what the government has done,” he said.

“Whether they really support me or not, they’re on my side at the moment, so we’ve probably got to harness a bit of that.”

Hooper said his campaign to become mayor in the by-election might be a good opportunity for him to help people to think differently, to slow down and relax.

“People get scared of climate change because they think you’re going to shut everything down, but that’s not the case,” he said.

“We’ve got to live a simpler life.”

In terms of electoral law change, Queensland University law professor Graeme Orr said that although the current bill was sound, the initial law change in June made very little legislative sense.

“What is going to happen is we are going to have three different versions of a law on a pretty narrow issue, such as how to replace members of councils,” Orr said.

“We’ve had three different versions of the laws in the space of barely six months.”

Orr said it could still be some time before Rockhampton faced a by-election because December and January were unusual times of the year to hold one.

“There’s also a bit of extra work with COVID elections to make sure they’re safe, depending on the risks, which at the moment are very low but could change over summer,” he said.

The Local Government Association of Queensland’s chief executive, Greg Hallam, said he was happy with the retrospective amendments.

“We have been on record for a year saying it was a bad law,” Hallam said.

“Before the law was passed, I appeared before the parliamentary committee and set out exactly the circumstances that were happening in Rockhampton.

“It’s just not a good situation as we are talking about one of the major cities in Queensland and it’s important the community gets to choose a mayor and it not be a default system.”

– ABC / Inga Stunzner and Paul Culliver

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