Mayor Margaret Strelow.
Mayor Margaret Strelow.

Strelow fights to change new local government legislation

ROCKHAMPTON Mayor Margaret Strelow hasn’t given up her fight to make sure Chris Hooper isn’t automatically appointed Mayor if she was to die during the first year of her current term.

Mayor Strelow was quick to point out that it was nothing personal against Mr Hooper and said it was about poor legislation which would see the ‘next in line’ automatically appointed.

The changes, which were passed in Queensland Parliament last month, also affect councillors as they would be replaced by the next highest polling candidate if they were to die or resign in the first 12 months of their term.

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The new changes state a by-election would be held if a mayor or councillor died or left in the middle part of the term, (13 to 36 months) and council would appoint the replacement if it was in the last part of the term (37 months to 48 months).

Cr Strelow plans to put forward a motion to revert these changes at the Local Government Association of Queensland conference and annual general meeting this October.

Motions are accepted up to August 10 and Cr Strelow gained full support of the council table to submit her motion.

Deputy Mayor Neil Fisher echoed the Mayor’s sentiments the laws should be changed back to what was previously legislated.

It is expected other councils will support Cr Strelow’s proposal.

The proposal noted there was no consultation with individuals, local governments or the broader communities they served.

The changes were tabled in the 24 to 48 hours prior to being voted on in Parliament.

“There were 100 pages with a total of 229 amendments tabled in Parliament with no consultation and without even going through Parliament’s own committee process,” Cr Strelow said.

Cr Strelow believes the community has the entitlement to choose its mayor or councillor should a vacancy arise, through a by-election.

“The legislative requirement to now appoint the second, third, fourth and so forth candidate is not representing the views of the community,” the motion reads.

“There is a very strong possibility that a candidate with a very low poll and by consequence

low community support could be appointed to an elected representative’s position on

council.

“It could be considered that this is undermining the fundamental democratic

process.”

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The changes mean the runner-up of the council election would be appointed as Mayor for the remainder of the four year term if something happened to the serving mayor in the first 12 months of term.

In the Rockhampton region, it means Green representative Mr Hooper would become mayor.

The 67-year-old pensioner was the only contender to run against Cr Strelow in the March election, gaining 31 per cent of the vote. Mr Hooper’s vote in the previous election when there were five candidates was less than four per cent.

Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke has previously said the changes were a cost-saving measure so ratepayers weren’t hit with having to pay for an election twice in one year.

Cr Strelow says Mr O’Rourke’s comment is at odds with comments made by the Minister for Local Government.

In the Gladstone Observer on June 23, the Minister is reported as saying “Its aim is to discourage newly elected councillors or mayors from leaving the office to which they have just been elected in the first 12 months of a four-year term, a point particularly salient given council elections and State Government elections are now held seven months apart every four years”.

“This is an appalling way for a mature legislature to act and democracy is not well served by this type of political power play,” Cr Strelow said.

The changes, if not overruled, are to be effective from October 12, 2020.



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