Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (“Political Free Speech case”) [1997] HCA 25 | 8 July 1997

ON 8 JULY 1997, the High Court of Australia delivered Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (“Political Free Speech case”) [1997] HCA 25; (1997) 189 CLR 520; (1997) 145 ALR 96; (1997) 71 ALJR 818 (8 July 1997).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1997/25.html

The court re-examined it’s earlier decisions of Stephens v West Australian Newspapers Ltd [1994] HCA 45; (1994) 182 CLR 211; (1994) 124 ALR 80 (1994) Aust Torts Reports 81-298 (12 October 1994) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1994/45.html and Theophanous v Herald & Weekly Times Ltd [1994] HCA 46; (1994) 182 CLR 104; (1994) 124 ALR 1 (1994) Aust Torts Reports 81-297 (12 October 1994) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1994/46.html.

Implied from the text and structure of the Constitution is a freedom of communication between the public concerning government or political matters. The freedom  restricts legislative and executive powers but does not confer individual rights and freedoms. Accordingly, there is no constitutional freedom of communication defence to a defamation action as had been previously held in Stephens and Theophanous. However, the common law provides a defence of qualified privilege to defamation actions involving government or political matters provided that the comment is reasonable and not malicious.

Lawyers

Sydney, Australia

1300 00 2088