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Nationwide defamation reform to go ahead

Nationwide defamation reform to go ahead

Scales of Justice

The Council of Attorneys-General has confirmed that a national defamation reform process is now underway, examining the what areas of legislation should be updated and why.

The Council, which comprises A-Gs from each Australian jurisdiction, has announced that it has appointed a Defamation Working Party (DWP) to examine defamation law in Australia and identify areas for reform.

The DWP will be chaired by a representative of the NSW Department of Justice, which the Council noted will also include the state’s Solicitor General Michael Sexton SC. The DWP will include one nominated representative from each state and territory to ensure collaboration across the entirety of Australia.

“Responsibility for defamation law falls to individual states and territories, but in the digital age where publications cross state and territory boundaries, a national approach to reform is essential,” a statement from the NSW Department of Justice said.

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“... Australian defamation laws need updating to take into account online platforms that were only beginning to emerge at the time that the CAG’s predecessor (Standing Committee of Attorneys-General) approved model defamation provisions in 2005.

“It follows that the impact of technological change will be a significant focus of the DWP’s work. To drive that process, CAG has announced that it has asked the DWP to issue a discussion paper in early 2019.

The statement added: “The CAG has agreed to develop by the end of this year an expeditious and realistic timetable for the DWP to deliver its recommendations for defamation reform”.

“The purpose of defamation law is to balance freedom of speech with the right of individuals to protect their reputations. Media companies, internet service providers, social media platforms and plaintiffs’ advisors will each have different views of where that balance should lie. A robust public process will ensure that all views are considered,” it said.

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