Journalist Adele Ferguson (Image: Democracy Watchdogs/YouTube)

If you think about defamation law as a scale, with freedom of speech at one end and Big Brother at the other, Australia begins the conversation sitting perilously close to the wrong end. 

We are, famously, a plaintiff’s paradise, a peculiar claim to fame for a democracy.

Narrowing further in on this scale, there are three points at which defamation law can attack free speech. Most commonly (by far), the only point of entry for a defamation suit comes after the allegedly defamatory material has been published. That, the courts have traditionally said, is as it should be -- except in the most exceptional circumstances.