A Critique of the National, Uniform Defamation Laws

Torts Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 207-48, 2008

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 09/05

43 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2009  

David Rolph

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: January, 29 2009

Abstract

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

Rolph, David, A Critique of the National, Uniform Defamation Laws (January, 29 2009). Torts Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 207-48, 2008; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 09/05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1335071

David Rolph (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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