Defamation is one of the more complex and fluid areas of the law and varies considerably across the Australian jurisdictions. There are moves to unify defamation law. The threshold issue that is raised in any such process is whether there is in fact a justification for continuation of defamation law. Recent advances in happiness studies and positive psychology suggest that the chief interest protected by defamation law, reputation, is over-rated and is not in fact conducive to human well-being. What others think of us is not relevant to our well-being. Anecdotally it seems that people spend much time and energy in a bid to impress others in the hope that they will grow in the estimation of others and the world at large. Hence, the results of the studies into human well-being so far as reputation is concerned may appear counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, the studies are far more convincing than lay assumptions. People are often wrong about what is in their interests. This is recognised in the concept of regret. Individuals yearn for some things, but sometimes when they acquire them they discover that the journey was wasted. Reputation is one such thing. Defamation law perpetuates the myth that reputation is intrinsically important. Defamation should be abolished. In its place, a new cause of action should be introduced whereby damages are awardable for misleading and deceptive communications which cause damage to the individual who is the subject of the communication. This cause of action should be modelled on the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth).
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