Chapter 23: Privacy and defamation in Australia – a post-colonial tango
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This chapter considers defamation and privacy law in its uniquely Australian context, where statutory and case law have evolved without explicit protections of free expression in its Constitution. After offering an Australian constitutional, legislative and common law context, the chapter surveys the laws of defamation and privacy since English colonial settlement in the late eighteenth century. Emphasis in the discussion of defamation is upon its relationship with privacy through various statutory iterations of the truth/justification defence which has at times featured privacy protections. The focus of the survey of privacy law is the story of reform momentum over four decades towards an actionable tort for the serious invasion of privacy, which remains unfulfilled. The chapter explains how this has impacted on celebrity plaintiffs’ preference for defamation when the media has scrutinised their private lives. The case law and statutory and regulatory dimensions of both defamation and privacy are covered, with the chapter comparing and contrasting Australian defamation and privacy law with some key aspects of that jurisprudence in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).

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