IT’s one of the most strange and outlandish elections in the history of Australian local government. Piquing the interest of national media, today’s Rockhampton mayoralty by-election is also as Queensland as Joh, XXXX, the Maroons and the summer pong of squished mangoes rotting in dunny lanes. A Doomben 10,000 field of 17 aspirants is vying for the robes and livery collar of office but the contender everybody is talking about doesn’t wear shoes. His name is Pineapple. The deserving Steven Bradbury of our age, Chris “Pineapple” Hooper is an eccentric retired train driver, environmentalist and street crank who accidentally became mayor of the no-nonsense “Beef Capital of Australia” last year. How? Well, the long-time Labor-cum-Independent incumbent Margaret Strelow resigned in November 2020 after an official finding of misconduct relating to undeclared goodies she received from mining giant Adani during a trip to India in 2017.
Annastacia Palaszczuk strongly resented Strelow contesting the seat of Rockhampton in the state election of November 2017. The local palace chook took a sizable peck out of Labor’s vote on the day while losing. The Premier was leaving nothing to chance for the upcoming state poll in October 2020. The law was amended in June 2020 to prevent serving mayors from pulling a Margaret ever again. If they abandoned their humbler chairs for George Street leather they’d be replaced by their most popular opponent. In March last year, that man was Pineapple who won 31.5 percent of votes to Strelow’s 68.4 in a two-horse race. Ergo: the Electoral Commission of Queensland named Pineapple the rightful Mayor of Rockhampton when his vastly more experienced (and vastly more vain) vanquisher vamoosed. Oops. No problem for the arrogant, newly re-elected Palaszczuk brains trust, though. The amended law was amended to get rid of Pineapple and ensure none like him ever ripen again. I’m not sure how to categorise this debacle but it isn’t the rule of law. Not exactly a bill of attainder but when the state enacts a retrospective law targeting one man, that is dangerous.
These, however, are the times we live in. Virus-high governments think they can do whatever they want.
Given the unlikelihood of any candidate winning a plurality today, name recognition, preference flows and the guiltless pleasure of thumbing a nose at the Premier may coalesce to Pineapple’s advantage. The woman whose ambition and carelessness started it all realises 70 percent of voters usually tick only one box. Margaret Strelow is therefore pleading with them to do their due diligence for the sake of democracy – something neither she nor Annastacia Palaszczuk bothered with themselves.