Madgwicks is proud to present the Mandarin Guide to Defamation in Australia.


While defamation cases may have once seemed a rare occurrence not often seen, the recent cases involving Australian actors Geoffrey Rush and Rebel Wilson have shone a spotlight on this legal issue. It is therefore important to understand the basic concepts of defamation in Australia to ensure you do not breach the legal requirements.


For an act to be considered defamation it must satisfy the following three requirements:

  1. 发表



The publication, or defamatory statement must be made to another person (that is not the person who is the subject of the publication). A publication can be written or oral. Written publication can be in the form of an article, or as informal as a text message. Oral publication can be made to a small group of people or in the course of a speech to a larger crowd.

  1. 该发表辨认或者针对原告

The publication must identify the person allegedly defamed (plaintiff)


The person allegedly being defamed can be identified even if they are not named.

  1. 该发表具有诽谤性质的传播

The publication is defamatory


The publisher's intention is irrelevant. Words are judged in context, either by the standards of a reasonable person in their ordinary use of such words, or with a special meaning (if it is established that some people will understand the special meaning). Generally, a publication is defamatory if any of the following can be established:

在社会思想端正人士眼中, 原告的地位被贬低

The person's reputation is lowered in the eyes of the general public.


The publication results in the public avoiding the person.


The publication results in the public forming an adverse view of the person.


Even if all the requirements above are met and it could be found that a defamatory statement has been made, there are a number of defences. They include:

  • 真实依据 Truth


If the defamatory statement is true, this is a defence against defamation. Truth is the strongest defence.

  • 均衡评论 Fair comment or honest opinion


The defamatory statement/publication is based on honest opinion or is a fair comment.

  • 绝对特权 Absolute privilege


The publication is made in the context of a parliamentary debate or a court judgment.

  • 限制特权 Qualified privilege


A person with a moral or social duty to make the publication does so and acts properly and free of malice.

  • 无辜传播者 Innocent dissemination


This defence is intended to protect innocent dissemination of publication such as booksellers, newsagents and internet service providers where they may be seen as publishing defamatory publication, without negligence on their part.


Two things to note:

  • 澳大利亚诽谤法只保护活人。如果往生者被诽谤,财产执行人没有权利通过法院对被告索求任何赔偿

Only a person who is alive is protected by the laws of defamation. An executor of the deceased's estate cannot commence an action in defamation where the deceased is being defamed.

  • 公司(法人)不能成为诽谤受害者,除非全体公司员工不超过十人

A corporation cannot be a plaintiff to an action in defamation where it has more than 10 employees.


Sharing an article with defamatory statements can potentially lead you to become a second publisher. So be mindful of what you are sharing and commenting, especially on social media!


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Madgwicks is a member of Meritas, one of the world's largest law firm alliances.