Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Sweeping changes to WA's defamation laws introduced

    13/09/2005 12:00 AM

    Historic legislation has been introduced into State Parliament to make it easier and less costly for people to resolve disputes over damage to their reputation.

    Attorney General Jim McGinty said that Western Australia would be one of the first States to adopt nationally uniform defamation laws designed to shift the focus away from costly court trials.

    Mr McGinty said the Defamation Bill 2005 aimed to encourage non-litigious settlement of disputes, while achieving a balance between protecting personal reputations and free speech.

    “The new laws will encourage parties to resolve disputes in a non-litigious manner,” he said.

    "Defamation actions should be aimed at early vindication of the reputation of a person who has been defamed rather than providing a way for people to obtain financial compensation.”

    Key features of the legislation include:
    • preventing corporations (except non-profit corporations or a corporation with less than ten employees) from suing for defamation;
    • reducing the limitation period in which to commence a defamation action from six years to one year (except when judicial approval is given in appropriate cases to extend the limitation period to three years);
    • abolishing the difference between libel (written defamatory publications) and slander (verbal defamation);
    • introducing an Offer of Amends procedure to encourage early and voluntary settlement of disputes without litigation - the offer of amends must include an offer to publish a reasonable correction;
    • retaining the defence of truth; and
    • retaining the defence of absolute privilege in usual circumstances such as Parliament, courts and tribunals, as well as protecting publication of fair reports of proceedings of public concern.
    “The introduction of uniform defamation laws across all States and Territories is a significant achievement after several unsuccessful attempts in past years,” Mr McGinty said.

    It is anticipated the new laws will come into effect in WA in January, 2006.

    Attorney General's office: 9220 5000