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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 5 Hansard (29 May) . . Page.. 1062..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

envisioning public libraries, information centres and archives needed for Canberra's population, area and status as the national capital.

The Clerk having announced that the terms of the petition would be recorded in Hansard and a copy referred to the appropriate minister, the petition was received.

Legal Affairs—Standing Committee

Report 4

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (10.50): I present the following report:

Legal Affairs—Standing Committee—Report 4—Court Procedures (Protection of Public Participation) Amendment Bill 2005, dated 8 May 2007, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.

I seek leave to move a motion authorising the report for publication.

Leave granted.

MR SESELJA: I move:

That the report be authorised for publication.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

MR SESELJA: I move:

That the report be noted.

This report is very much about protecting freedom of speech in Australia, especially freedom of speech in relation to political and public policy issues. While instances of strategic litigation against public participation, or SLAPP, are relatively few in the ACT, the issue can impact on all citizens. The report's recommendations are aimed at protecting one of the most fundamental of human rights, freedom of speech, and also freedom of political participation. This right is something which I passionately believe in.

With the current Supreme Court and Magistrates Court rules, it is possible for people to be threatened with litigation if they speak out on certain matters, such as development proposals. Often the mere threat of litigation is sufficient to silence opposition—one reason why many cases do not progress to the courts. Amendments to the Defamation Act go some way to ensuring that critics cannot be sued for defamation, but many actions these days occur in tort, particularly for alleged economic loss.

Appropriate legislation in the ACT will mean that citizens will be free to participate in open debate without fear of litigation or the threat of litigation. This legislation needs to balance the right of citizens to publicly participate and the right of individuals not to be defamed. The drafting of any such legislation will need to carefully balance these rights. I commend the report to the Assembly.


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