Professor David Rolph - Towards a National, Uniform Defamation Law: A Brief History - 20 October

For most of its history, Australia has eight, substantively different defamation jurisdictions. With a relatively small population and the rise of national media, such legal diversity became increasingly indefensible. The goal of achieving national, uniform defamation laws was one pursued by different political and legal actors over the course of four decades. This paper outlines the history of the attempts to enact national, uniform defamation legislation. In particular, it focuses on the issues in those attempts which presented the greatest obstacles to reform. This paper then examines the circumstances leading up to the introduction of the national, uniform defamation laws, analysing how the resulting legislation did (or did not) address those obstacles. This paper argues that the task of meaningful defamation law reform still lies ahead and that this task will benefit from being informed by an understanding of previous, failed attempts at reform.