“The Andrews Labor government supports reforms to Australia’s defamation laws to better protect public interest journalism and respond to the challenges of new media. However, Victoria has advocated that the proposed reforms may need to go further,” a spokesman said.
“Whilst we acknowledge the need for these reforms to proceed, we consider that more work is needed to address important issues, such as how the interests of victims are protected as well as protections for individual journalists.”
Mr Speakman and Mr Porter have made clear they want changes to be “parliament-ready” by mid-next year, in line with the original timeframe agreed by governments. At the meeting on Friday, the attorneys-general will decide whether to release draft laws for public consultation.
The co-operative effort is seeking to modernise the defamation framework introduced in 2006, when all jurisdictions put in place consistent laws based on a national model. The uniform approach replaced a complex patchwork of laws.
The 2006-era laws have since been outpaced by technological change, with internet platforms generating an explosion of minor claims. Current laws also treat online publications as a new publication each time they are accessed, allowing for perpetual renewal of the one-year time limit for defamation suits.
There is growing agreement that protections for journalism should be boosted as well, with Mr Porter declaring “current defamation laws no longer strike the perfect balance between public interest journalism and protecting individuals from reputational harm”.