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Frankenstein’s Monster: Australian defamation laws and how to fix them

Australia's defamation laws are a monstrous mess. At this event, leading defamation lawyer, Dr Matt Collins AM QC, will explain the problems and prescribe some thought-provoking solutions.

Defamation laws are supposed to balance two fundamental rights when they come into conflict: the right to reputation, and the right to freedom of expression.

In this seminar, defamation silk Dr Matt Collins AM QC will argue that Australia’s defamation laws have come to resemble Frankenstein’s monster, and are failing both plaintiffs and publishers. He will explain why, for plaintiffs whose reputations have been ruined, our laws are incapable of providing effective remedies, while for publishers, our laws too often stymie serious investigative journalism exposing malfeasance in the public interest.

Drawing on his experience on both sides of the Bar table, and examples from cases including Rebel Wilson’s battle against Bauer Media and Geoffrey Rush’s case against the Daily Telegraph, Dr Collins will explain the problems as he sees them, and prescribe some thought-provoking solutions.

Includes light refreshments and an opportunity to network with students and legal practitioners.

Dr Matt Collins AM QC is the President of the Victorian Bar and one of Australia’s best known media and commercial lawyers. He is the author of The Law of Defamation and the Internet (OUP, 2000, 2005, 2010), the leading international text on the application of principles of defamation to online publications, and Collins on Defamation (OUP, 2014), one of the standard texts on the law of libel and slander in England and Wales. He is a Senior Fellow at the Melbourne Law School and the immediate past National Chair of the Law Council of Australia’s Media and Communications Committee.

Dr Collins has acted in many of the most significant free speech cases of the past generation, including Andrew Bolt’s case for contravention of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, former Treasurer Joe Hockey’s case against Fairfax over its ‘Treasurer for Sale’ series of articles, and Rebel Wilson’s case against Bauer Media. He is presently acting for the ‘Pell 36’: the 36 media organisations and journalists prosecuted for contempt for their coverage of the verdict in the George Pell sexual abuse case, and for the ABC in relation to the June 2019 raid on the ABC’s Sydney headquarters by the Australian Federal Police.