Geoffrey Rush’s Australian record for a defamation payout, just under $2.9 million, may end up standing for all time. We may finally be getting some well overdue law reform on defamation.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has been pushing for big changes to the uniform national laws (defamation law is state law, so the ideal is that all the states agree to pass the same legislation to avoid the problem of plaintiffs going forum-shopping). Speakman and his state and territory peers will consider the issue at a COAG-style meeting today.
The biggest ticket item is the creation of a defence the media desperately needs. Currently, it is ham-strung by the fact that the only viable defence it can run when sued is “truth”. That is: the media outlet has to be able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that each defamatory imputation it publishes is objectively true.