Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1331 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I think it is important for the ACT, as an island in New South Wales, to be part of this move towards a lower speed limit. The ACT should show the lead in our region, particularly given that the Queanbeyan City Council is still deliberating over whether to continue its 50-kilometre speed limit. All the past studies make it clear that we no longer need trials of the benefits of a lower speed limit. The 50-kilometre speed limit should now be implemented through legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr Humphries) adjourned.
MR OSBORNE (11.20): I present the Limitation (Amendment) Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR OSBORNE: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Over the last 20 years there have been many attempts to amend Australia's defamation laws, with very little effect. While I have no wish to support radical change to the law - and some days, I must admit, I consider tightening it - there are some areas which strike me as imposing an absurd burden on the defendant. One area is the six-year window in which a person may lodge an action for defamation. The main purpose of a defamation claim is to repair the damage done to the plaintiff's reputation, and that should be done quickly if it is to be effective.
I know I speak for some members of the house when I say that, usually, the plaintiff responds fairly rapidly if they feel their reputation has been unfairly impugned. I sometimes see vehicles gracing the car park which attest to the swiftness - and, I might add, effectiveness - with which some of my colleagues here have sought redress. In most cases the plaintiff can be expected to start proceedings very soon after the publication, and certainly within 12 months.
So, Mr Speaker, this Bill seeks to collapse the period in which an action can be launched from five years to 12 months. It allows a court to extend that period of action by another 12 months if it is satisfied that it was not reasonable for the plaintiff to have known about the publication within the year-long window. In addition, it establishes a year-long transition before the Bill comes into full effect. Under the law as it stands someone can lodge a defamation action five years and 11 months after an offending piece is published. It is quite possible that the person responsible for penning the offending piece will have moved on and that, as the burden of proof in defamation cases is on the defendant, mounting a defence will be extremely difficult.