Derryn Hinch has used his first Senate speech to name
five paedophiles whose identities are otherwise the subject of
suppression orders. In the Senate he wears the snug (smug?) cloak
of parliamentary privilege. He can name names with impunity and,
given how much publicity he got the first time, surely there are
plenty more to come.
The question is, what can be published about Hinch's
speeches? Does his privilege also protect media who report what he
says in Parliament?
Let's start at the start. Court proceedings are meant to be
public; the idea is that we the public will think the courts are
acting fairly if we can see what they're doing. It's called
There's a bunch of laws that allow for aspects of court
proceedings to be suppressed when it will serve some greater public
interest. Suppressing sex offenders' names is controversial
because people like Hinch say it is not in the public
Depending on the legal basis for the suppression order, if you
publish suppressed information you can face contempt proceedings
and/or criminal prosecution.
Parliamentary privilege means that politicians can say what
they like during speeches and debate in parliament without legal
consequences. They are immune from things like contempt of court
and defamation. That's why Hinch can safely name names during a
speech in the Senate.
Parliamentary privilege does not extend to communications
outside the Senate. If Hinch says the same stuff on the steps
outside, he could end up in the slammer for it (again).
There are some legal protections available for reports on
parliamentary proceedings. For example, a fair and accurate report
will not give rise to a claim for defamation.
There is no blanket protection for reports of parliamentary
proceedings that involve the publication of otherwise suppressed
Whether a defence is available will depend on the legislative
basis for, and the terms of, the original suppression orders.
It's a case by case thing, literally.
Heads up though, we haven't seen suppression laws which
provide a 'Hinch-said-it-in-the-Senate' defence.
So for our two cents, if you publish the names that Hinch names
then you're taking a big risk. The courts do not love journos
who ignore their orders.
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