Australian local governments are not constituted by referendum, rather they exist through an Act of Parliament passed by respective state parliaments. This is why councils can be amalgamated by the government of the day, and why things like means of counting votes and election dates and the like are able to be changed by the state parliament and why the Local Government Minister can intervene if something dodgy is going on in a particular municipality. In some (all?) states, there is usually (always?) a separate act for the capital city, whereas other municipalities are covered by the Local Government Act (or equivalent).
After my rambling preamble, council elections will be held for all municipalities in Queensland on 28 April 2012. Queensland has fixed terms for council elections, and the election was meant to be held a month previously, but was postponed due to the state election.
Different councils are elected in different ways, some using single member wards, some electing a slate of candidates. From memory, in some small rural councils, there are not always even a full slate of candidates, and therefore no election necessary, but in the Brisbane City Council, the LNP, Labor and Greens parties, and probably some smaller parties and independents, will all nominate candidates. Consequently, I won't really discuss other councils, unless something particularly interesting happens, but the Brisbane City Council, being partisan, will be an interesting election to watch. Additionally, the council represents most of the greater Brisbane area (population growth over the past 15-20 years means that there is now no rural buffer between Brisbane and neighbouring municipalities in some areas, but it certainly covers a very large area
At different times, the Lord Mayor has been elected in different ways, however the current model (which has existed for a long time, I think it was changed by Sir Joh, back when Clem Jones was Lord Mayor) is that there are 26 wards, each electing a single Councillor, plus the Lord Mayor is popularly elected from across the city.
In 2004, Campbell Newman was elected Lord Mayor, however he did not have a majority on the Council because the Liberal Party did not carry a majority of wards. This had never happened before, and the rule in Council was that the Opposition Leader was the Councillor who led the second largest party, which was the Liberals, and therefore there was both a Liberal Lord Mayor and a Liberal Opposition Leader, while the Deputy Mayor (ward councillor/leader of the largest party) was from Labor. Between 2004 and 2008 there was a council redistribution, so results are not directly comparable, however in 2008, a majority of wards returned an LNP Councillor, and Campbell Newman received a majority across the city, and actually even managed a majority in every ward. City-wide, he almost obtained 2/3rds of the vote (66.15% of the 2PP, judging from my figures). Here
is the old thread, back in 2008, in one of the first topics I posted (probably the first thread I started?). This election was the first map I uploaded (subsequently edited).
Campbell Newman is now, of course, the Premier of Queensland, and stepped down as Lord Mayor a little over a year ago. He was succeeded by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, who had previously been the Councillor for Macgregor Ward (prior to the redistribution, he was the Councillor for Wishart Ward). Following the 2004 election, Cr Quirk was Opposition Leader (discussed above). If I remember correctly, the Chairs of the various Council Committees (the Chairs directed Council departments, so were roughly the Council equivalent of Ministers), were predominantly Labor due to Labor having a majority in Council, however as part of the deal to make the minority council workable, the Liberals were able to appoint one Committee Chair from their ranks. Cr Quirk was the Committee Chair of Public Transport and Major Projects (I believe that was the title of the Committee). He resigned from his Chairmanship mid-term due to Labor frustrating the process.
Following the 2008 council election, in which Campbell received a council majority, Cr Quirk became Deputy Mayor.
This election will be interesting for a few reasons:
Firstly, it would have been interesting even if Campbell Newman was still Lord Mayor. In his first term, with a minority council, Labor was probably blamed by many voters for blocking any of the Lord Mayor's ideas that weren't passed. This kept his popularity quite high. It would have been interesting to see if his popularity remained high once the LNP had a majority on council for four years.
Secondly, given Campbell Newman's popularity and high profile, it will be interesting to see how much of the LNP vote is retained. I personally think it will be high - but I may be biased as I am quite a fan of Lord Mayor Quirk. I grew up in a neighbouring ward to the one he held, so I have been involved in party politics in his area.
Thirdly, Labor's unpopularity in George Street (ie. at a state level), may otherwise have lifted the LNP vote in the Brisbane City Council election. Given that voters took the baseball bat to Labor in the state election a few weeks ago, it will be interesting to see how prepared they are to do so again in the Council. Further to this, some voters may be less likely to vote LNP in the Council, due to the large LNP majority in the state parliament. Of course, this may be tempered by Labor's unpopularity in Canberra.
I think that these factors will make this election very interesting to watch.
Here are a couple of maps from the last election. As always, bigger versions in the gallery, and there's a blank version in the blank maps gallery: 2008 Brisbane City Council - Lord Mayor 2PP Vote2008 Brisbane City Council - Council Ward 2PP Vote