Alan Jones accused of ‘grossly irresponsible’ allegations in defamation trial
Mr Jones is being sued by four members of the prominent Wagner family. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)
Broadcaster Alan Jones has denied a “bitter hatred” of a prominent Queensland family drove him to make defamatory comments about the group over several years.
Mr Jones is giving a second day of evidence at his defamation trial at the Supreme Court in Brisbane before Justice Peter Flanagan, where he has maintained he was not a liar and was not “careless with the truth”.
Mr Jones is being sued by the Wagner family, who claim they were defamed when the broadcaster implied they were responsible for the deaths of 12 people when one of their quarry walls collapsed during the Grantham floods in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley in 2011.
Mr Jones also made allegations of a “cover-up” and “corruption” regarding the Wagner’s approval to use the Wellcamp Airport at Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
On his popular radio show, Mr Jones claimed the Wagners were stealing “40 per cent of the airspace” and vocalised concern the family had bypassed the proper approvals process.
‘Bitter hatred of the Wagners’
In court, the Wagner family’s lawyer, Tom Blackburn, accused Mr Jones of making “grossly irresponsible” allegations.
“You said these things because by this time you had a bitter hatred of the Wagners, didn’t you?” he said.
Mr Jones replied: “No, not at all”.
“I don’t hate people — I’m only trying to convey the concerns expressed to me by the community,” he said.
Mr Blackburn asked: “Can I suggest to you it was grossly irresponsible of you to say what you said?”
Mr Jones replied: “I don’t accept that Mr Blackburn.”
“I can only say what I believe — that is what I believed then, that is what I believe today.”
Mr Blackburn put to Mr Jones: “What you have done is continually accuse the Wagners of corruption.”
Mr Jones was accused of being “grossly irresponsible” by the Wagner family’s lawyer. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)
Mr Jones replied: “Corruption of process.”
He continually denied in court that his commentary was not based on credible evidence.
“I’m not careless with the truth Mr Blackburn, as I explained yesterday I leave that to others,” Mr Jones told the court.
“You’re accusing me of being a liar — I tell the truth.”
The court heard Mr Jones failed to appropriately research issues relating to the Wellcamp Airport or approach the Wagner family for comment.
Mr Blackburn asked: “Mr Jones, you were just wilfully blind to the truth or otherwise.”
He claimed Mr Jones did not do further research because “it spoilt your narrative … that the Wagners stole 40 per cent of the airspace?”
Mr Jones replied: “Not at all.”
A railway crossing at Grantham littered with debris from floodwaters in January 2011. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
Application withdrawn to tender more broadcasts as evidence
Earlier today, the Wagner family tried to more than double the number of broadcasts being used as evidence of slander.
Mr Blackburn told the court the additional 35 broadcasts contained “no new allegations”.
But the application was rejected by the judge, who agreed with Mr Jones’s lawyer that the defendant had not had a chance to examine the material and form his defence.
Mr Jones’s employer Harbour Radio, along with 4BC and journalist Nicholas Cater, are also being sued.
The Wagner family is seeking $4.8 million in damages, which would represent the largest defamation payout in Australian history.
The court previously heard the Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry in 2015 exonerated the Wagner family over the deadly 2011 floods.
The trial is being heard in front of only a judge.