Labor accused of ‘manipulating democracy’


The Palaszczuk state government has been accused of "manipulating democracy" after rushing to pass laws to "fix up" legislation that would have delivered the Rockhampton mayor's job to an unelected activist.

The Opposition accused the government of again blocking public and parliamentary scrutiny to rush through legislation overturning laws it passed just months ago that would have installed Chris "Pineapple" Hooper as mayor after the shock resignation of Margaret Strelow.

Manager of Opposition Business Jarrod Bleijie claimed if the Government "stopped rushing things through without scrutiny, they wouldn't have to be rushing fix up jobs at later dates."

"If they did it properly in the first place, the legislation would withstand scrutiny," he said.

Chris “Pineapple” Hooper.
Chris “Pineapple” Hooper.

The current legislation allows runners-up in mayoral races to automatically take on the top job should the incumbent resign or be sacked within the first 12 months.

The Government yesterday tacked on retrospective amendments to its COVID-19 Emergency Response and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 and declared the legislation urgent.

Also included within the amendments - if there is a councillor vacancy during the first 12 months of a term, a council can decide if it wishes to appoint a runner up or go to a by-election.

This includes a deputy mayoral vacancy.

LNP backbencher Trevor Watts accused the Government of "manipulating our democracy to their desired political outcomes".

"In history there's been a parliament not dissimilar and Oliver Cromwell at the time abolished the parliament, because in the end the parliament wouldn't do what the dictator wanted, so they just got rid of it," he said.

"Well we're starting to head in that direction."

LNP backbencher Trevor Watts. Picture: Matt Taylor
LNP backbencher Trevor Watts. Picture: Matt Taylor

The government has already been criticised for bypassing important committee processes last term - controversial moves that forced Speaker Curtis Pitt to consult a constitutional expert on whether his own party were flouting the state's constitution.

"This government has form with respect to urgency bills and then changing legislation and then not referring them to committees," Mr Bleijie said.

But a spokeswoman for Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Steven Miles said the government committed to these changes before the election.
"Importantly, we have worked closely with the LGAQ and have their support to make these amendments," she said.
"That was all before the unanticipated resignation of the former Rockhampton Mayor.

"However, given that vacancy now needs to be filled it is important that Rockhampton residents get to choose their new mayor."

Greens MP Michael Berkman. Picture: Liam Kidston
Greens MP Michael Berkman. Picture: Liam Kidston

Greens MP Michael Berkman also called for an end to significant amendments being "piggybacked" onto unrelated legislation.

"We saw advice from the QC last year which said that those kinds of really substantial amendments were contrary to the spirit of Queensland's constitution," he said.

Mr Berkman also called for Dorothy Dixers, which allow government MPs to ask ministers rehearsed questions during Question Times, to be banned.

"Queenslanders don't elect MPs to stand in the house and blow smoke up each other," he said.







Originally published as Labor accused of 'manipulating democracy'