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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 3813 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Far too much emphasis in defamation law has been placed on monetary damages rather than timely correction. Of course, by the time the damages were awarded, no-one remembered what the defamatory remarks actually were. This bill addresses many of those problems.

In summing up, I would like to highlight three main areas, and those areas basically relate to the behaviour of the media. The media is subject to very few effective constraints. Often the fact that the media has the money deters a little person from taking them on. Critics of the media have identified the lack of drivers in the present law that might influence or change media behaviour in three critical areas. Firstly, there are few incentives that improve the quality of reporting and reward accurate reporting or punish poor reporting. This bill will protect innocent publishers and punish negligent ones. The bill draws a distinction between the two and establishes an important financial reason for publishers to adopt effective systems and employ people of integrity to minimise the risk of defamation. The bill will provide incentives for the media to adopt a practice of giving people who are affected adversely reasonable time to consider the matter and respond.

Secondly, there are not any current incentives for the media to correct poor or inaccurate reporting in the time context in which it actually occurs. This bill introduces and provides incentives to the media to use the formal amends process. This process, which is set out in the bill, will ensure that amends are quickly made, not just for the rich and powerful but across all areas impacted by the media.

Thirdly, there is currently no mechanism in the present law to clear a person's reputation other than to wait for the case to come up, often years later. The bill provides an incentive to provide prominent and timely corrections. It provides that if an offer to make amends is not made, or no reasonable offer of amends is made, an aggrieved person may apply for an order to vindicate his or her reputation.

It became clear when the bill was first introduced in 1999 that there were three matters in respect of which there was no consensus. The government referred these three matters to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety. The government proposes to move amendments in light of discussions that have followed the report made by the committee. These amendments are contained within the 17 amendments that the government will be moving and I am delighted to hear Mr Stanhope say that he will accept all 17 of them.

More recently the government accepted the desirability of a number of other amendments proposed by Mr Osborne, and they will be moved by the government from a separate sheet of three amendments, one of which Mr Stanhope has indicated he will be opposing.

Mr Speaker, this bill certainly is a legal milestone. We have had a few good legal bills this year-the Bail Act amendments, the Crimes Act amendments and, of course, the bill setting up our own Court of Appeal. But this bill certainly ranks as a very major step and it is certainly one of the legal achievements of this Assembly.

I thank all members. I especially thank the former Attorney for his interest and commitment in this area. I think we have reached a good milestone today. I like the idea of the review that is proposed in the amendments. I think it is important that we have

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