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Bikie laws go
back to court
The High Court has scheduled
another hearing into
the South Australian
Government s anti-bikie
The full bench of the High
Court last month began hearing
an appeal from the State
Government against a State
Supreme Court ruling which had
found part of the so-called Bikies
Bill, the Serious and Organised
Crimes Act, to be illegal.
The case is regarded as one of
the most important constitutional
issues brought before the court
in half a century. It involves
contentious SA legislation which
takes crucial power from the
courts and gives it to police and
Under the legislation, a
government minister can ask
police to seek a control order for
members of a group on suspicion
Other state and territory
governments, as well as the
commonwealth, have joined SA in
the action because the High Court
hearing could have implications
for anti-terrorism legislation,
which also allows the use of
This week the High Court wrote
to lawyers in the case, asking
a further seven questions to be
answered in mid-June.
Constitutional lawyers closely
following the case say they will
not be surprised if the High Court
throws out the SA Government s
An independent review has
already found the SA law "offends
natural justice" and the legal
challenge by two members of
the Finks in the Supreme Court
argued the law essentially
violates the constitution.
The Finks argued the
Government can rely on faulty
criminal intelligence to have
control orders placed on people,
including innocent associates.
Speaking outside court, their
lawyer Craig Caldicott said
someone s neighbour could
simply report an untested claim
about them, which could then
make its way onto a criminal
"The police can rely on that
intelligence to make their
decision and forward that on
to the attorney-general," Mr
"The attorney-general doesn t
verify that evidence or how true
or accurate it is."
Once every 10 years, slow-moving
floodwaters from Queensland bring
tonnes of fish into the lakes system on
Garry Overton s outback property far
in the South Australian north.
And every two years after that, the
water dries out and rotting fish lie on
the flats that were previously lakes.
Mr Overton wants to pull the fish out
of the water before they die, and sell
He s currently allowed to do that only
under strict conditions. This is because
Mr Overton s lakes have been included
as part of the Coongie wetlands system
which was recognised as internation-
ally significant under the Ramsar
Convention in 1987.
Mr Overton argues the convention
shouldn t apply to his area, saying the
restrictions cost him a lot of money.
"The lower Cooper system is totally
different from the Coongie Lakes. We
are in the terminal lakes of the lower
Lake Eyre basin, which puts us in
saline water that is only here occasion-
ally. The Coongie Lakes are permanent
freshwater," he said.
The current licence stipulates Mr
Overton can fish only when his lakes
have filled and then been cut off from
the rest of the system, after intermedi-
ary creeks and rivers dry up.
Mr Overton said to make any money
he needed to start fishing earlier.
"Everything that enters our system
dies. We have water very occasionally
and to make the market profitable we
need to fish that whole time," he said.
SA Fisheries executive director
Martin Smallridge says the ecosystem
around Mr Overton s property is fragile
and needs to be preserved.
"It s about protecting the key
environmental aspects of the area.
Some of the environmental issues
are things like migratory bird species
which rely on the fish," he said.
The Overton fishery solely catches
golden perch, which are bottom-feeders.
Mr Overton said birds did feed at the
lakes but ate bony bream, not the perch.
"There s no scientific research done
in that fishery to prove what happens,"
Inland Fisheries Management officer
Jonathan McPhail said.
"There are other sensitivities that
need to be taken into account in that
system. Even things like nutrient
transfer from rotting fish into the
ecosystem could be important."
Mr Overton said the excuse of not
knowing has been used to curb his
fishery since the licence was first issued
20 years ago.
Greens MLC Mark Parnell was
involved in the original stoush over the
fishery before he entered state parlia-
ment. He said the departmental caution
"If we don t have a very thorough
understanding of this environment
and these principles then we should
be saying no until we do have better
knowledge," he said.
A management plan for the whole
wetland and lakes system is being
developed by Fisheries, and Mr
Smallridge said no changes to Mr
Overton s licence would be considered
until that was complete.
"Well by the time that s done, these
fish ll all be dead," Mr Overton said.
Catching fish before
they fall off their perch
internationally protected wetlands.
Lawyer Craig Caldicott.
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