A Critique of the National, Uniform Defamation Laws
Torts Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 207-48, 2008
43 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2009
Date Written: January, 29 2009
The national, uniform defamation laws, which came into effect across Australia in 2006, represent the most significant landmark in the history of Australian defamation law. They represent the culmination of four decades of fitful struggle toward reform and reduce eight, substantively different systems of State and Territory defamation laws to one, largely uniform statute. This article undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the substantive and procedural changes brought about by the introduction of the national, uniform defamation laws. It assesses the uniformity of the legislation as passed. It examines the introduction of a statutory choice of law rule specific to defamation; the reduction in limitation periods for defamation actions; the abolition of the distinction between libel and slander; and the further marginalisation of criminal defamation. The article canvasses the significant changes made to standing to sue by corporations and representatives of deceased persons and the respective roles of judge and jury in defamation trials. It also analyses the reforms to defences to, and remedies for, defamation. It concludes by evaluating the efficacy of the national, uniform defamation laws and by suggesting scope for future reforms.
Keywords: Defamation, Media law, Law reform, Australia, Choice of law, Tort, Renvoi, Limitation periods, Libel, Slander, Criminal defamation, Standing to sue, Corporations, Defamation of the dead, Defamatory matter, Imputations, Juries, Defences, Justification, Remedies
JEL Classification: K10, K13, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation