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Phone-hacking scandal puts spotlight on Oz laws

Phone-hacking scandal puts spotlight on Oz laws

This week's announcement that News Limited will review the conduct of its own newspapers in light of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has reignited calls for Australia to introduce a…

This week's announcement that News Limited will review the conduct of its own newspapers in light of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has reignited calls for Australia to introduce a tort of privacy.

Rejecting Greens Senator Bob Brown's claim that a full senate or independent inquiry into media ownership regulation in Australia is required, Holding Redlich partner Ian Robertson said the phone-hacking scandal highlights the "regrettable" behaviour of Australia's media outlets and the need for a tort of privacy.

"In my opinion the big issue in all of this is whether Australia will now move to a proper tort of privacy," said Robertson, agreeing with former Prime Minister Paul Keating who also noted the "serious need" for a tort of privacy on ABC's Lateline last night (14 July).

"Well there's one thing for sure that comes out of this and that is self-regulation by the media is joke. A joke," Keating told Lateline. "People shouldn't have a right of appeal about invasions of their privacy to some body funded by newspapers (the Press Council). They should have a right at law."

According to Robertson, the Australian Press Council and Australian Communications and Media Authority have proved to be "woefully inadequate" and the introduction of a tort of privacy is a significant issue which Australia's state and federal politicians need to address.

"What we need in this country is robust political debate. I don't think the quality of our society would be harmed, even a little bit, if people were able to protect their truly private information - unless there was an overriding public interest for it to be disclosed," he said.

"The interesting issue in all of this is whether the most powerful media group in Australia, being News Limited, has been sufficiently damaged by recent events, as has happened in the United Kingdom, so that the Government will now stand up to them."

- Briana Everett

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