Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 20..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
corporations can sue. I support that decision. But it was a compromise decision, as all of these were.
There are three issues that have been at the heart of the commentary from the opposition in relation to the bill. I acknowledge that they generally accept the bill but have issues around truth and public benefit, whether or not corporations can sue and whether or not there should be a cap. There are very good responses to each of those, two of them being essentially that we could not stand out. In relation to truth and public benefit, the proposal is that we return to the common law. That is the position of all the jurisdictions, negotiated in a situation where at the beginning of the process of negotiation there were four jurisdictions supporting truth and public benefit and four jurisdictions supporting truth alone, which is the common law position. The decision was taken to return to the common law position, with the great advantage-I will go back to this in the detail stage-of the capacity for the common law in relation to privacy to now develop to protect the rights of privacy of individuals, which at the moment it has absolutely no capacity to do.
MR SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Clauses 1 to 3, by leave, taken together and agreed to.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (11.46): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 89].
This amendment will take out the reference to corporations, and a lot has been said already in relation to that. But I think it is very true to say that in the ACT we certainly do have a lot of businesses with not many more than 10 employees-and that would apply also outside the ACT-who could well be hit by this provision. Quite clearly, a corporation, a body-say a business which is a corporation and which might have only 20 or 30 people and which operates in the territory-might have enjoyed a wonderful reputation for 50 years but would not have the opportunity of defending and prosecuting in court a defamation action to protect its reputation were this to be taken out.
This is an issue of concern to the profession in Canberra. I will just read from perhaps one of our foremost defamation lawyers, Mr Ric Lucas, who holds a very strong view on this. There are few people who are more experienced in defamation law in the ACT than Mr Lucas. On this particular issue he states:
I personally am a strong opponent of this recommendation ... What is the reason of principle for it? A corporation can suffer serious loss of reputation, and should have a remedy if an attack on it has no valid justification. I can understand why a defendant might be granted qualified privilege for such an attack, but if a person