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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (1 May) . . Page.. 1267 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

information published was false unless proven to be true and that publication was damaging.

The committee accepts that the law in its present form is not working as well as it could in practice, but prefers this situation to trivialising a person's genuine right to privacy. Further, as Mr Hull acknowledged, the solution lies in changing the behaviour of the media in the first place.

In regard to the third proposal, the committee believes that those who have been defamed should be able to continue to obtain compensation for damage to their reputation and business. The reimbursement of legal expenses or a brief note of correction at the bottom of page 2, as the bill proposes, is not always sufficient.

A further consideration noted by the committee was that the second and third proposals were poorly drafted, containing a number of vague phrases. These would be open to wide interpretation, working against one of the main intentions of the bill which is to provide a clear and uncomplicated defamation law.

In other inquiries into other subjects this committee has urged the government to support early intervention and preventative measures to avoid long-term social and economic damage and costs to the community. Again the committee urges the government to place more emphasis on prevention. It must be possible for the government to take other steps to ensure the media does not make serious mistakes which damage a person's reputation in the first place. This is the only approach that will serve the interests of both the media and members of the public who are at risk of being defamed.

The committee notes that there is no strong community interest in defamation law reform. Rather, it seems to have only attracted interest from the media, lawyers and individuals who have had the unfortunate experience of being defamed. It was significant that the two individuals who appeared before the committee with experience as defamation plaintiffs did not support the government's bill. This was despite them both having very difficult, unsatisfactory and time consuming experiences with the current defamation laws. If the Defamation Bill cannot appeal to such people with bad experiences of the current law then it seems it is too heavily weighted towards the media and not suitably addressing the needs of those who may be defamed-that is, both public figures and ordinary citizens.

The committee therefore has rejected all three reforms, leaving the remainder of the bill a mere skeleton. Should the Assembly agree with the committee, it would be sensible in our opinion to reject the bill as a whole.

MR HIRD (10.45): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table my dissenting report.

Leave granted.

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, I present the following paper:

Justice and Community Safety-Standing Committee-Report No 14-The Defamation Bill 1999-Dissenting report.

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