Oh dear, the Land of Oz is turning into Old Blighty. As many already know, the UK has some ridiculously strict defamation laws, and if this recent case is anything to go by Australia is going down the same slippery slope.
A couple of years ago a well known comedian called Mick Molloy made a joke about some thin-skinned woman cheating on her husband. That’s all it was, a joke put out there by a man who nobody in their right mind takes seriously. Yet the woman, failed Labor politician Nicole Cornes, has just won an $85,000 lawsuit against Molloy and the TV station that broadcast the alleged defamation.
What this means is that in Australia, unless you have a corporation backing you, you had better not say anything negative about anyone who can afford a good lawyer, no matter how obvious it would be to a reasonable person that you weren’t being serious. This seems to me bad news for Australian political bloggers as well as for the independent press, who would easily be ruined by such a settlement. It’s also bad news for the lower strata of society, since as we have seen time and again, the mainstream media cares little for anyone other than the rich, the powerful, and a few fashionable causes amongst which neither the poor nor homeless are to be found.
A caveat to American bloggers – an Australian called Joe Gutnick once successfully sued an American publication for defaming him, but he did so under the stricter Australian laws. You heard me. Gutnick sued a bunch of Americans not under their country’s law, but under ours. Why did he succeed? Because the allegations may have been made by Americans writing in America, but they did so on a website, which means he was being defamed in Australia whenever someone viewed the offending site. At least that was the excuse. And Gutnick’s target wasn’t some small fish either, it was Dow Jones, so keep in mind that you are less liable to our fascist laws, but by no means immune.