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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 3244..


Protection Orders Bill 2001

Debate resumed from 21 August 2001, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Debate (on motion by Ms Tucker ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Protection Orders (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2001

Debate resumed from 21 August 2001, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Debate (on motion by Ms Tucker ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Defamation Bill 1999

Debate resumed from 21 August 2001, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MS TUCKER (11.29): The Greens are somewhat disappointed in where we have arrived at with this bill. It appears that the debate will be adjourned, which is a mixed blessing, I believe. There are a number of amendments that the government plans to make to the bill in response to concerns raised by the committee inquiry released earlier this year. If passed, I think we would probably end up with a defamation regime marginally better than the existing legislation. It would probably cost the ACT community considerably less, with the shift to fairly prompt reparation by media leading to a significant reduction in general damages. This might speed up the process and so lessen the damage to individuals of unfounded or unfair publishing.

This bill initially had greater ambitions. The shift from truth and public benefit to truth alone as defence is perhaps the clearest example. In its report the committee raised concerns about the privacy implications of this shift and recommended that the bill not proceed until the privacy concerns were addressed. Sadly, the government has chosen instead to back away from the issue and revert to public benefit.

The Greens would rather have seen the government take some time to consider the issues of privacy more carefully, but to maintain its commitment to the truth alone defence, on the basis that public benefit can be a difficult argument to make, whereas truth alone can often be ascertained fairly promptly. Truth alone defence encourages the general commitment to transparency and accountability; and the sky has yet to fall in on those jurisdictions where such a defence applies.

Similarly, we are disappointed to see the government has largely agreed with the committee's recommendation that plaintiffs can sue for general damages.


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