THE STATES and Territories have been given a green light with regards to the uniform defamation debate, it has been revealed. A letter from the federal Attorney-General to the NSW Attorney-General, released to Lawyers Weekly, suggests the end may be in sight for this long running and contentious issue.
In a recent letter to NSW A-G Bob Debus, Philip Ruddock said he would like there to be “some movement” on the part of the States and Territories to address “shortcomings” in their model for uniform defamation laws.
However, “even if that is not possible,” he said, “the Australian Government will not stand in the way of enactment by the States and Territories of uniform laws by their own target date of 1 January next year”.
The letter from the federal A-G states that the Australian Government will not insist the States and Territories enact laws in a particular form, as long as they agree on the nature of those laws by 1 January.
The move comes after a longstanding threat by Ruddock that if the States and Territories do not agree on the terms of uniform laws by January, the federal Government will put in place its own uniform law. Ruddock said in April that while negotiations are set to continue, the state and federal differences “do not mean we are at an impasse”.
In a reply to Ruddock, NSW A-G Debus said he appreciated the statement that the federal Government would not stand in the way of the enactment of model laws. The federal and state governments were unable to agree on the nature of those laws, said Debus.
“Given your assurance that the Australian Government will not stand in the way of the enactment of the model laws,” Debus said, “I will be proceeding to recommend to the NSW Cabinet the implementation of the model provisions in NSW. I will be advising my state and territory colleagues to do the same without delay.”