Don’t Mess With Adelaide’s Homies

Feral pigeons can be public health pests. They can accumulate wherever there is food and shelter, and can take up residence almost anywhere, including around houses, tall city buildings or schools. As well as being a nuisance and causing extensive damage to property, feral pigeons can also pose a risk to human health.

That statement from the South Australian Health Department would seem to suggest that the SA Government considers that pigeons are a pest that requires control, yet in another installment from the state that keeps on giving, pigeons enjoy more legal protection in South Australia than just about anywhere.

The important caveat on that statement is that the specific protections only apply to a specific type of pigeon, being the homing pigeon.

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(Commercial Lore’s editor-in-chief)

Under South Australia law, it is a specific offence to harm a homing pigeon. Moreover, the law prohibits unspecific ‘interference’ with a homing pigeon. It is not sure what ‘interference’ means, but you can probably hazard a guess. If you’re dead-set on messing with homing pigeons, just kill the thing, don’t interfere with it. Be a criminal, not a monster.

Sure, there are easier ways to break the law – pigeons are probably quite difficult to interfere with – and when you factor in the costs of a defending a charge, it is probably worth directing your efforts elsewhere. Just don’t let any prospective employers or potential romantic partners learn of your misdeeds. They’re probably not going to be OK with it. Ask me how I know…go on…ask me!

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The law doesn’t just single out killing homing pigeons as a specific offence. Homing pigeons are also protected from being assaulted or kidnapped.

47—Interference with homing pigeons 

        (1)         A person who—

(a)         without lawful authority, kills, injures or takes any homing pigeon; or

(b)         enters upon any land for the purpose of killing, injuring or taking any homing pigeon without lawful authority,

is guilty of an offence.

Section 47 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) singles out the fixating fowls as a sub-category of animals deserving of protection beyond the already broad (and much harsher) provision of section 13 of the Animal Welfare Act 1985 (SA) which allows for up to 2 years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

The specific crime of killing, injuring or taking a homing pigeon is punishable by a fine of only $250, which pales in comparison to the 2 years imprisonment facing anyone harming any other animal.

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The law itself is straight-forward but there are a number of further intrigues that make this law somewhat more unique; specifically:

  1. Instead of defining homing pigeons as any pigeon which has been trained to operate as a homing pigeon, the SA law instead defines a homing pigeon as any pigeon with a ring around its legs.

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not familiar with the practices of raising homing pigeons, but it has to be more specific and more readily identifiable than simply being any pigeon with a ring around its leg.

    There doesn’t even need to be a message capsule – if you like to make your pet pigeon jewellery, get it a leg-ring first. That way, if it gets into any trouble, the police can step in and fine the offender $250.

  2. Upon finding a person guilty of an offence, the Court can instead order the person to pay the replacement value of the harmed pigeon.

    A quick search of gumtree shows that this is likely $6-60, further questioning the need for a specific provision in this regard.

  3. It is a complete defence to harming a homing pigeon if you are a farmer or if you are under the direction of a farmer.

    There is no particular guidance for how far this exception stretches. The test is “cultivated land”. But it is not clear whether growing tomatoes in your backyard allows you to claim this defence. Either fortunately or unfortunately, this exception does not appear to have been tested.

As with many of these bizarre provisions under the Summary Offences Act (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), it is proving impossible to trace the underlying reason behind these exceptions or to find any actual cases where this provision has been tested; which only further confounds the reasoning behind the actual reason for the law.

To stay on the right side of this law next time you are in Adelaide, I would advise that it is perhaps best to restrain from harming any pigeons just in case your target turns out to be a highly trained homing pigeon…unless you’re a farmer, in which case, its game on.

Review: Principles of Australian Equity and Trusts; Cases and Materials

Principles of Australian Equity and Trusts; Cases and Materials by Peter Radan, Cameron Stewart and Illija Vickovich (3rd Ed)

Principle of Australian Equity and Trusts is another must-have reference book for generalists and specialists alike. Principles of Equity and Trusts is presented in an easily approachable and digestable manner that will assist any practitioner in correctly and quickly identifying the relevant issues.

Like many similar reference books, this book is a wealth of knowledge for assisting practitioners find the most relevant and pertinent case law.

As the most recent version of Principles of Australian Equity and Trusts, the 3rd edition contains the latest case law and commentary on the development of the laws of equity and trusts in Australia. This includes extensive commentary on landmark cases such as Kakavas v Crown Melbourne Ltd (2013) 250 CLR 392 concerning a finding of unconscionable conduct by a casino for taking advantage of a person’s “special disadvantage”, namely a crippling gambling addiction.

International cases are also included in the breakdowns, particularly monitoring the development in similar jurisdictions and particularly the UK, Singapore and New Zealand. Cases such as FHR European Ventures LLP v Cedar Capital Partners LLC [2015] AC 250 bringing the UK in line with most other common law jurisdictions finding that bribes received are rightly held on trust for the principal.

Principles of Australian Equity and Trusts does exactly what it promises and delivers a great resource for principles and cases on the current position of equities and trusts.

ACAT’s Missing Powers; Episode 5 – The Counterclaim Strikes Back

In one of the prequels I updated y’all on ACAT recently having its civil jurisdiction updated from $10,000 to $25,000. Like all prequels  the updated ACAT powers neglected key elements that are fundamental to helping ACAT perform coherently with the other elements of the wider system. (with the exceptions of Batman Begins, Casino Royale and Temple of Doom; Rise of Planets of the Apes did not work and I won’t hear differently).


The ACAT’s civil jurisdiction limit means that any case commenced in the ACAT must be for a claim of less than $25,000. Various requirements exist for the calculation of that amount such as no interest to be included unless under contract, though this is arguable once again due to limited wording. As a claim for interest under a contract or agreed rate is really a contractual debt and not strictly interest on an unpaid amount, but maybe i’ll cover this later (The Interest Awakens, Rogue Interest…leave it with me).

Totally Not A Recent Case

So let’s say Joe Alow starts a matter for $10,001 against Joe Blow in ACAT for building work defects. Joe Alow has no choice because his amount is within the new ACAT jurisdiction. Joe Blow as the builder is owed $25,001 under the final contract payment.

Joe Blow would have normally been allowed to commence his claim in the Magistrates Court and would therefore have been allowed legal costs for his troubles. Even if Joe Blow agreed that there was about $10,001 in set-offs, he still could have commenced in the Magistrates Court and have been allowed costs because, giving each party full credit, should still result in a payment of $15,000 in his favour. So Joe Blow would get his costs, which for a matter such as this could be anywhere between $8,000 to $18,000, if not lots more or a little less, depending on the law firm and depending on the litigation philosophy of each lawyer.

What’s the Problem?

Well, because Joe Alow commenced first in the ACAT,  Joe Blow is required to bring all claims in the same action that are related to the same material facts thanks to a genuinely great principle called Anshun Estoppel. Anshun Estoppel is a principle cemented in the case Port of Melbourne Authority v Anshun Pty Ltd. The principle essentially states that, to save the parties, the courts and the public, time and money, litigation should be conducted as efficiently as possible with similar matters being dealt with concurrently. Which means that if you have matters and arguments against the same parties relating to the same material facts or matters, then those should all be brought up in the same case. If you fail to bring it up, you may be estopped (stopped) from raising it later.

This is a great principle brought about by good intentions, but then the legislature accidentally gets in the way.

So What Happens to Joe Blow?

Joe Blow is required to present his counter-claim in the ACAT action but has now brought a counter-claim that exceeds the ACAT jurisdiction. Which means that ACAT is not jurisdictionally competent to hear the claim.

Joe Blow’s claim could be transferred to the Supreme Court under s83 of the ACAT act, however this requires the parties to jointly apply to ACAT to transfer that matter. No other power of ACAT exists to transfer matters between jurisdictions. BY CONSENT ONLY.

Alternatively, the ACAT Act allows parties to drop any portion of a claim, without surrendering the right, that is over the jurisdictional limit under s21 of the ACAT act, however once again, this requires that party’s consent. So if a party refuses, there is no mechanism for resolution.

There are additional inherent powers of the Supreme Court to accept an application to transfer the matter to the Supreme Court, but nothing on the books. But even if this were to occur, the Supreme Court has the exclusive jurisdiction of $250,001 and above for civil claims, so Joe Blow may face an adverse costs order for wasting the Supreme Courts time with a claim that essentially zeros out at $15,000.

Further, s266A of the Magistrates Court Act specifically prohibits bringing claims that should be commenced in the ACAT due to the limit of $25,000.

So within the world of this legislative maze, withholding consent can be the nuclear option in litigation. How lame.


Fabian ACAT tactics

So if you are Joe Alow, and know that you will go down on the claim of $25,001 because it’s a legitimate claim, you could start a smaller claim first on a questionable basis and refuse to consent to any transfer. The matter is then permanently trapped in ACAT which has no power to adjudicate on it or transfer it to a higher court, or even award costs if it eventually goes ahead and you are unsuccessful. Joe Blow would have to drop any portion of his claim over $25,000. There are ways for the ACAT to award costs in very limited circumstances, but you could totally avoid the stage that this is even accessible by refusing to consent.

Alternatively if you are Joe Blow and doubt the veracity of your $25,001 claim then you could do the converse and refuse to consent and let Joe Alow rack up costs chasing you.

Tactically, this is the perfect time to order your lawyers to turn the dial to all-stop and allow the other side to rack up maximum costs, in a no-costs jurisdiction, until a subtle “walk-away” offer becomes amicable to both sides.



This is insane. Both Joes are bound by law to bring their claims in their jurisdictions. Both Joes are bound by law to keep their claims in ACAT and both Joes are bound by law to never have their claims resolved if the other never concedes. Like a weird Byzantine, Schopenhauer, Kafka hybrid system. Scary stuff.

A simple legislative amendment would fix this and it could be as simple as: “new s21A: all claims or counter-claims that exceed the jurisdiction of the ACAT can be transferred to any court or tribunal the ACAT considers appropriate on either the application of either party or on the ACAT’s own initiative.”  Now I’m typing off the cuff here, but on the face of it, this would probably work. Ironically, any misapplication of a rule like this would result in an application to ACAT, but let’s start with small steps.

I’ve drafted legislation previously, so I sympathise with the position that a well-meaning, well-written law can lead to distorted outcomes. But given that matters have been filed that gave rise to this issue previously, it seems unacceptable that this wouldn’t have been fixed sooner.