EXCLUSIVE: IN AN explosive new development, a Supreme Court ruling from a 1985 Moreton Shire Council chairman's election could well deliver the controversial state seat of Ferny Grove and government to the Labor Party without the need for a by-election.
Labor was ahead in the seat of Ferny Grove by 479 votes yesterday but there had been speculation a by-election may be ordered and the result overturned by the courts after PUP candidate Mark Taverner was revealed after election day to have been an undischarged bankrupt, and thus ineligible to be a candidate.
Based on the legal principles at play, the QT can reveal how a 1985 Supreme Court ruling regarding another ineligible candidate may well set a precedent, which will prevent the need for a by-election and give Labor a likely key 44 seats if it holds on to Ferny Grove.
In a 1985 Moreton Shire election Ray Doerr had nominated for the Shire Chairman's position, now the role of Mayor, but admitted at a public meeting two weeks prior to the election that he was an American citizen.
At that time, it was not legally possible to have dual citizenship.
Nominations for the election had closed and Mr Doerr's name remained on the ballot paper.
The returning officer Norm Craswell took the matter to the Supreme Court prior to the election for a ruling as to how to handle a unique situation which had arisen.
The Supreme Court did not invalidate the election and ruled that while Mr Doerr's nomination was disqualified, he would still appear on the ballot paper.
The QT of March 16, 1985 reported that "Moreton Shire clerk Norm Craswell said yesterday Mr Doerr's application was taken to the Supreme Court this week and the court decided he was not qualified to run as a candidate in the March 30 poll."
The report added that "Mr Doerr's name will remain on the ballot paper but any votes cast for him will be null and void."
Cr Paul Tully, a lawyer who was running in the Ipswich council election of 1985 when the Doerr controversy erupted, said the 30-year-old case had massive ramifications for the current state election.
"Applying the same principle to the Ferny Grove election, the PUP candidate Mark Taverner's nomination is invalid, his votes are null and void and the election should be counted without his votes being included," he said.
"It would mean there is no need for a by-election because by excluding his votes the Labor candidate would still be well ahead."
If the 1985 legal precedent proves decisive then Ferny Grove would likely give Labor 44 seats.
With independent Peter Wellington supporting Labor, it would mean Annastacia Palaszczuk is all but the next Premier of Queensland.
The ECQ has referred the Taverner controversy to Crown Law.
But Cr Tully said there was a clear precedent for how the Ferny Grove election should be dealt with "and that is that the votes of Taverner are null and void and the election should proceed without his votes being counted".
"There have been plenty of disputed elections around Australia, mainly based on either missing ballot papers or the validity of individual votes," he said.
"But I know of no other similar Australian case, except for the Moreton Shire case, where a candidate went to the polls and was ruled invalid either before or after the election."
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