Australians are willing to bet on anything, and the recent mayoral election in the Queensland city of Rockhampton certainly proved that notion. That’s because an Aussie sportsbook offered odds on the 17-person race.

The Surprise Resignation of Margaret Strelow

In 2017, Mayor Strelow took a council business trip to India. The visit focused on Adani, the mining giant that was scheduled to build a massive thermal coal mine in central Queensland.

Last March, Ms. Strelow was elected to another term as mayor or Rockhampton. However, a nasty surprise was just around the corner.

In November, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal found her guilty of misconduct connected to her 2017 trip to India. They claim she failed to inform the council’s CEO of a “personal hospitality benefit” from Adani, including flights, vehicular transportation, and meals.

Strelow disagreed with their findings, arguing that her visits were part of her job as mayor. However, she still resigned from her position.

“As a manner of honour given the misconduct finding, I tendered my resignation to the chief executive officer this afternoon,” she posted on Facebook.

And with that, her 16 ½ years as mayor of Rockhampton came to an end.

Enter the Pineapple

According to the law, a mayor who dies or resigns during the first 12 months of their term is replaced by the next highest-polling candidate. In this case, that person would be Chris “Pineapple” Hooper, who received 30% of the vote against Strelow.

So why is he called “Pineapple”? Well, apparently he earned the name in school thanks to his bushy hair.

His hair is cut shorter these days, but he’s still managed to achieve a position of “local legend” thanks to riding a bike everywhere, going barefoot, and being a self-professed ratbag. For those unfamiliar with the term, “ratbag” refers to a general troublemaker.

Rockhampton mayoral candidate Chris "Pineapple" Hooper

Not So Fast

Hooper, a vocal opponent of the nearby Adani mine, was all set to assume the responsibilities of mayor. But that hit a snag when the Queensland Parliament passed new amendments to the electoral act.

The idea of the runner-up assuming office was scrapped. Instead, it was determined that a by-election would be held. Last week, it finally came to pass.

Seventeen candidates ended up running for mayor, including Chris Hooper. On Sunday, 80% of the votes had been counted, but Cooper was sitting in third place with 12%. The leader at that time was councillor Tony Williams with 25%.

Another By-Election to Bet On?

If you’re eager to vote on a mayoral election, you may have another opportunity. If a sitting councillor wins, then the local government must decide whether to go with another by-election or the runner-up from the March election.

In the latter scenario, good ‘ol Pineapple would be sworn into office. However, considering that Mr. Hooper’s pro-environmental policies seem poised to hit a lot of folks in the wallet, I doubt that will happen.

Hooper has already said that he would be willing to run in any vacant division by-election. That would make it the third time he’s run for a local office within the span of 12 months.

Aussies Betting on Politics

According to Dr. Alex Russell of CQUniversity, “We’ve often said that if you could bet on two flies crawling up a wall, there’d be a market for it. But especially around Trump and all the interest in politics, there’s been millions and millions spent on betting on elections, so why not bet on the Rocky mayor as well?”

In the month leading up to the nominees being locked in, the sportsbook even offered odds on joke candidates such as Christine Anu and Kevin Rudd. It was meant to gain attention, and it certainly worked, although experts do not expect the odds to have any impact on the actual election.

While it’s all been a good bit of fun, QUT Adjunct Associate Professor John Mickel advises voters to be serious about the election in Australia’s 22nd-largest city.

“Rockhampton is a significant provincial city. You are actually voting for the progress of the city, and that’s important.”

I’m sure Pineapple would agree.

Additional Reading

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