Page 4883 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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Thursday, 15 December 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Civil Law (Wrongs) Amendment Bill (No 2)

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Acting Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Civil Law (Wrongs) Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2) reforms the law of defamation in accordance with model provisions agreed by state and territory attorneys-general. The states and territories had attempted to reach agreement on uniform defamation law reform for almost 30 years, without success. While defamation law underwent significant reform here and in New South Wales, the law in other Australian jurisdictions remained relatively untouched.

To advance this matter, state and territory attorneys-general commissioned a report from law officers on reform options. New South Wales and ACT officers took the lead in preparing the report. The law officers involved drew heavily on both the ACT and New South Wales law, which has been the most developed statutory source of law on this subject in Australia. Law officers also had regard to key decisions in common law jurisdictions. The report of law officers was adopted by state and territory attorneys-general in July 2004.

At the request of attorneys, law officers consulted widely and prepared a model bill, which has subsequently received the support of all state and territory attorneys-general. Substantially similar laws are being introduced or have been introduced in all states and territories. Since then, Tasmania introduced the bill on 25 October, Queensland passed the bill on 9 November, South Australia passed the model bill on 20 October, Western Australia has introduced the bill, as have Victoria and New South Wales. In the ACT, the provisions of the model bill will be incorporated into the ACT Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002. This is a continuance of the government’s policy of ensuring that the key provisions of the civil law should be grouped into the same legislation.

The model provisions are broadly consistent with the existing ACT law. Inevitably, there are some differences, which I will discuss briefly in a moment. However, it must be borne in mind that the final form of the bill represents a hard-fought negotiated settlement between all jurisdictions.

Inevitably, there are stakeholders representing the interests of publishers and litigants who have opposed some parts of the legislation. Some of this opposition derives from

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