Melaleuca Media
Olive's vote

A fluke Council election result on a tiny island left the political destiny of the whole Torres Strait riding on the vote of Ms Olive Bann.

Ms Bann voted for her godfather and now the political future of the Torres Strait rests on deliberations in a Cairns courtroom.

Ms Bann, the returning officer for Yam Island, found herself with the casting vote when the island's voters turned in a tied result of 52-52 for the two candidate race for chairman of the island's council.

The wider complications arise because the incumbent Yam Island chairman - Mr Gateno Lui (Jnr) - is also the chaiman of the supreme political body for the islands, the Island Co-ordinating Council, the chairman of IBIS, the community owned co-operative which operates the main stores on the islands and the local commissioner for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

But Mr Lui's occupancy in most of these positions - and his predominant position in the islands generally - depended on him holding on to the position of chairman of the Yam Island Council.

Ms Bann is giving little away about why she voted the way she did but she did admit to feeling "very, very nervous" as she cast her oh-so-crucial vote.

The election result has split the Yam Island community down the middle, something which probably would have happened even if Ms Bann had cast her vote for the unsuccessful challenger, local storekeeper Mr Walter Mackie.

Mr Mackie has been muttering darkly about the implications of Ms Bann being Mr Gateno's god-daughter, but the point is perhaps not as significant as it would be elsewhere. On Yam Island - population about 170 - nearly everyone is related to everyone else in some way.

Mr Mackie has since challenged the court result in the Supreme Court in Cairns with the case likely to get its first airing tomorrow.

Mr Lui for his part says that his advice is that Mr Mackie's application to the court "is misconceived and has no legal basis whatsoever" and he intends to strenuously defend himself against the application and any other allegation.

In addition to challenging Ms Bann's suitability for the job as returning officer, Mr Mackie is disputing the tied vote, claiming that he was ahead on primaries but some of the votes that put him ahead were subsequently lost, mislaid or improperly disallowed.

Ms Bann is not commenting on any of Mr Mackie's claims while the court proceedings are pending.

She did, however, say that she was still speaking to Mr Mackie. "It is just that he is not speaking to me," she said.