Qld govt to amend council election laws

Nick Gibbs and Marty Silk
·2-min read

Queensland's local government minister insists tweaks to council election laws were planned well before the controversial resignation of Rockhampton's mayor.

Mayor Margaret Strelow stood down after 16 years on Monday after the state's Council Conduct Tribunal found her guilty of misconduct.

The tribunal ruled that she failed to declare a $1600 trip to an Adani solar plant in Mumbai in 2017.

Anti-Adani activist Chris "Pineapple" Hooper is next in line as mayor despite receiving just over 30 per cent of the vote to Ms Strelow's 69 per cent in the March election.

State laws elevating runners-up as mayors upon a resignation in the first 12 months of a term were brought in earlier this year to deter councillors from running for state parliament.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchcliff says Ms Strelow's resignation "came out of the blue" and he had already been working on tweaking the laws.

He says a number of local councillors had run in last month's state election.

"It obviously didn't prove to be a disincentive as it was intended," he said.

Mr Hinchliffe will change the laws to allow for a by-election in Rockhampton once the new state parliament is sworn in.

"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."

Mr Hooper intends to become mayor of Rockhampton if the state government does not change the electoral laws.

"Yeah, no, I'll take it," he told reporters.

He said climate change his a priority, rather than boosting the economy after the pandemic.

Ms Strelow was pleased the legal changes should prevent the automatic appointment of "Pineapple" as the city's leader.

"It was appallingly bad legislation. The community deserve a by election and will get one now," she wrote on Facebook.

After the India trip, Ms Strelow and Townsville mayor Jenny Hill announced their councils would fund a $30 million airport for Adani's Carmichael coalmine.

In return Adani, now known as Bravus in Australia, guaranteed that a majority of FIFO miners and construction workers would come from those cities.

Ms Strelow refuted the tribunal's finding, saying she acted in accordance with her own conscience and on the advice of Department of Local Government officials.

She said her India trip was in an official capacity and the itinerary was drawn up by the premier.

"My refusal to agree that I may have been compromised in some way by the visit is a matter of personal integrity for me," she wrote on Facebook on Monday night.

"And I cannot with a clear conscience agree that a reasonable person would believe I might have been."