litigation and dispute resolution

Defamation Lawyers Brisbane

When unsubstantiated information about a person is either spoken or published – whether in print or online – it can have long-term detrimental effects on the person about whom the unproven material is written. The single most effective step that you can take if you believe you’ve been defamed in any way is to seek legal representation as early as possible. 

The team at Victor Legal are experienced and passionate local Brisbane legal advocates and can guide you through everything you need to know about raising or defending a defamation case in Queensland.    

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Defamation Law in Brisbane

What is defamation law in Queensland?

Defamation in Queensland is explicitly outlined in the Defamation Act 2005. Whilst the Act can be a little tricky to navigate, the overarching purpose of the legislation in Queensland is to ensure that the law of defamation is upheld to a standard that aligns with the laws of our Australian State and Territory counterparts. Additionally, defamation laws in Queensland seek to protect freedom of expression and discussion around matters of public interest. These laws exist to enable effective and fair remedies for victims whose reputations have been disgraced, with a view to resolving disputes as early as practicable and, where possible, without court involvement.  

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We have extensive experience in dealing with defamation claims in Queensland.

What are Defamation Disputes?

For a defamation claim to be prosecuted successfully, the person who is alleging that they have been defamed – called the plaintiff – must satisfy the court of the following four elements:

  • The defamatory material must have been published
    • ‘Published’ can refer to various forms of distribution, including in a news article, on a website, via Twitter or other social media, through a speech in a public forum or any other means of communicating to someone other than the person whose reputation has been harmed.
  • The material must actually be defamatory
    • There are a number of legal tests that can be used to determine whether published information about a person is in fact defamatory, but the common theme between these tests is that the defamation occurs when the material has injured the person’s reputation and caused ‘the ordinary reasonable person’ to think less of them.
  • The plaintiff must be identifiable in the publication
    • Explicit identification by name is not required for this element to be satisfied.  Any indirect reference to, for example, a person’s title or circumstances may be considered identification (eg, “the former Chief Health Minister” or “the Police Detective’s widow”).
  • The plaintiff must have suffered serious harm
    • A cause of action in defamation in Queensland can only occur where the defamed person has suffered serious harm as a direct result of the published material. 

What our clients are saying…

What is the ‘serious harm’ threshold?

In 2021, parliament passed legislation to amend the Defamation Act to include the necessity for a plaintiff to prove that they suffered serious harm as a result of the claimed defamatory publication. Section 10A(2) states:

It is an element (the “serious harm element”) of a cause of action for defamation that the publication of defamatory matter about a person has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the person.

Given the recent introduction of the serious harm threshold, very few cases in Australia have considered how this threshold should be applied in defamation cases. Since the legislative amendment also removed the defence of triviality, the new serious harm threshold has the effect that any trivial or overall insignificant injury to reputation can no longer amount to a cause of action in defamation.

Available defences to defamation in Queensland

Division 2 of Queensland’s Defamation Act provides that the following defences may apply in defamation cases:

  • Justification
    • Where it is proved that the defamatory matter is substantially true
  • Contextual truth
    • Where some defamatory imputations are true and some are not, but the untruthful imputations do not further harm the reputation of the plaintiff because of the fact that some imputations were true
  • Absolute privilege
    • Where matters were spoken in specific types of court or tribunal hearings or by ministers in parliament
  • Publication of public documents
    • Where matters were honestly published in documents such as court judgments, legislation, reports or other government documents 
  • Fair report of proceedings of public concern
    • Where the defamatory matters occurred as part of things such as a parliamentary body, court hearing or local government meeting
  • Publication of matters concerning issues of public interest
    • Where the matter concerned a genuine issue of proper public interest 
  • Qualified privilege for the provision of certain information
    • Where the person who received the defamatory material had a particular interest in a particular subject that warranted the publisher to deliver such information (eg, police officers receiving information from a witness whilst investigating a crime) 
  • Scientific or academic peer review
    • Where the matter related to a scientific or academic issue and was published in a scientific or academic peer reviewed journal 
  • Honest opinion
    • Where the matter expressed was an honest opinion, rather than statement of fact, AND it related to public interest and is based on substantially true information 
  • Innocent dissemination
    • Where the person who published the defamatory information did so in their capacity as an employee of a distributor and did not know that the matter was defamatory

Think you’ve been defamed?

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Notable Australian cases

Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd [2017] VSC 521 – Actress Rebel Wilson successfully sued Bauer Media, the publisher of Woman’s Day magazine, for publishing defamatory material about her.

Dutton v Bazzi (No 2) [2021] FCA 1560 – Politician Peter Dutton sued refugee rights advocate Shane Bazzi for defaming him on Twitter.  Dutton’s case was initially successful, but the decision was later overturned by the Full Court on appeal from Mr Bazzi. 

How can Victor Legal help?

Whether you’ve been defamed yourself or you’re being accused of defaming someone, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced Queensland defamation lawyer. Victor Legal are specialists in the field of defamation in Queensland and we’re renowned across the State for our tireless work ethic to ensure that suitable remedies are achieved for victims. If you’re worried about your reputation being negatively affected, are facing court proceedings, or have received a concerns notice about unfairly published defamatory material, get in touch with our team now.

Simplify and Solve Your Legal Matters

If you require legal support, let’s make it as seamless and straightforward as possible. Get in touch with our team today to arrange your free ten-minute phone consultation.

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