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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2021) . . Page.. 1935 ..

Accompanying the serious harm threshold are reforms to the concerns notice procedures. A concerns notice is a process under defamation law that allows a person who has made a defamatory statement an opportunity to make an offer of amends or settle the dispute before proceedings can commence. Under the amendment provisions it will be a requirement for the plaintiff to issue a concerns notice and allow time for the defendant to issue an offer of amends prior to defamation proceedings being commenced.

The model defamation amendment provisions contained in the bill are the first significant amendments to uniform defamation law since 2005. These amendments are wide ranging, from minor procedural changes, such as allowing service by email, to major changes like the introduction of an entirely new defence. I commend the bill to the Assembly for consideration and encourage my fellow members to support these important changes.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (11.44), in reply: I am pleased to close the debate on the Civil Law (Wrongs) Amendment Bill 2021. The model defamation provisions were first enacted in 2005, just over 15 years ago. The overarching aim of these provisions was to achieve national uniformity in the legal framework for the country. In the ACT, the model provisions are contained within chapter 9 of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002. The key objective of the model laws is to find a balance between freedom of expression and freedom to publish information in the public interest on the one hand and the right of individuals to have their reputations protected from defamatory publications on the other.

In a free and democratic society like the ACT, the right to freedom of expression is incredibly important. It is important for individuals to be able to express themselves without a good reason to limit that, and it is important for the functioning of our society that we do not shut down discussions of public interest. While that balance was well struck many years ago, evolutions in our society, both legal and technological, have meant we must revisit these to ensure that they keep pace with how we live and work in 2021 and beyond.

As I mentioned when I presented the bill in 2018, the then Council of Attorneys-General reconvened the defamation working group to review the model laws to ensure that they were fit for purpose, including in a digital age. The bill enacts the results of this review—the model defamation amendment provisions—which were agreed to by the Council of Attorneys-General on 27 July 2020 as part one of a stage of reforms to defamation laws in Australia.

The amendments contained in this bill are the culmination of cross-government collaboration and detailed policy work, underpinned by extensive national consultation informed by peak legal bodies, academics, digital platforms, media companies, consumer groups, legal representatives for plaintiffs and defendants, and individuals with experience in bringing or defending defamation claims. I extend my thanks to all the stakeholders for their collaboration on the development of the

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