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A full year since NSW parliament passed long-awaited updates to its defamation laws, the changes finally came into effect on 1 July.

Australia’s defamation laws have been nationally consistent since the first sweeping reform of defamation was passed back in 2005. NSW became the first jurisdiction to pass updated reforms to those laws last year but held off proclaiming the changes into effect as it waited on other states to make the same, nationally agreed, changes in their own legislation.

In July 2020, the Council of Attorneys-General had agreed that each jurisdiction would act as quickly as possible to introduce the Model Defamation Amendment Provisions in their respective parliaments.

A year later, after spending months in a holding pattern, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced the reforms would commence on 1 July. He told LSJ he had been puzzled as to why the “copy and paste” process was taking other states so long.

“For reasons that escape me, a number of jurisdictions have found it difficult to copy and paste. But NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT all brought in the changes on the first of July. The remaining jurisdictions have agreed they will catch up as soon as possible,” he said.

The Meeting of Attorneys-General in March released a discussion paper for the second stage of the reform project, focusing on reviewing online defamation, including via search engines and social media. Submissions are currently being reviewed.