Rollback of defamation laws on track: Goodwin

THE state government says it’s on track to roll back uniform defamation laws introduced in Tasmania and across Australia in 2006.

Under the proposed changes, corporations with more than 10 employees will be able to sue for defamation in what the Law Society of Tasmania has said will have a “chilling effect on freedom of speech”.

However, the government argues the changes are about standing up for the forestry industry which has been the subject of damaging environmental campaigns.

It said disinformation regarding veneer producer Ta Ann had cost Tasmania 40 jobs.

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin, who will oversee the roll-back, said the government remained committed to providing legal remedies against green groups who used the tactics.

“Giving businesses the right to protect themselves from such attacks is absolutely in line with our clear commitment to support the forest industry in Tasmania,” she said.

Dr Goodwin wouldn’t say whether the increase in regulation for publishers went against the government’s pledge to reduce red tape.

The uniform defamation laws were ushered in by the states after the Howard government threatened to introduce Commonwealth defamation legislation.

Under the uniform laws, a corporation’s right to sue for defamation was removed due to concerns that companies were using it to silence criticism.

Society president Anthony Mihal said corporations could already sue for “injurious falsehood” if a false and malicious publication had caused financial loss.

“The chilling effect on freedom of speech is a matter of great concern to the law society,” he said.

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