Corporations will be able to sue protesters for defamation in Tasmania

Corporations will be able to sue protesters for defamation in Tasmania

Australian commonwealth country, Tasmania, has passed a law allowing corporations to sue citizens for protesting.

The Tasmanian government has committed to a package of anti-protest laws which gives corporate giants the right to bring a defamation suit against anyone who turns up to a protest against the policies put forward by a corporate entity.

The legislation also hands out lengthy jail sentences and fines for “unlawful” demonstrations.

The state’s attorney general, Vanessa Goodwin, said the government “remains committed to implementing” the change, which would make Tasmania the only jurisdiction in the country where corporations could penalise those who speak out against it.

Announcing the law, Ms Goodwin, said: “We know that there are radical environmental groups who make a hobby of spreading misinformation to markets with the aim of destroying Tasmanian jobs.

“We will always support the right to free speech but that right to free speech needs to be balanced by the opportunity to challenge clearly false and misleading claims which have the potential to destroy jobs.”

In the country, libel laws were introduced in 2006 removing the right of corporations to sue for defamation, but retaining their right to make a similar claim, injurious falsehood, in cases where it can be proved that a malicious statement had a financial impact.

However, under these new laws, corporations would not have to prove any financial loss.

All a company would need to claim is that only that the reputation of the company was disparaged by a false or misleading claim.

These new proposals come after a famous case in the country in which the Tasmanian forestry corporation Gunns infamously used defamation laws to sue a group of 20 activists for nearly $7 million just days before announcing a new pulp mill. The case collapsed five years later, with Gunns ordered to pay more than $1 million in defendants’ legal costs.

It also comes after the government introduced legislation in November increasing financial penalties and maximum jail terms for protests that “prevent, hinder or obstruct the carrying out of a business activity”.

Campaigners claimed the new law could be used against those who protest against sweatshop labour and fracking, or highlighting the environmental impact of mining or fracking.

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