Alan Jones pumps up the volume as defamation trial turns tables on the Parrot | Ben Smee | Media
Alan Jones looked every inch a man comfortable behind a microphone as he settled in to give evidence in the Brisbane supreme court on Thursday.
Few can boast Jones’s verbal flair. And in court his voice moved from calm and measured to bristling with anger as he told stories about Grantham flood victims, at one point pausing to fight back tears.
There was a defiance in his familiar voice. This sort of indignation is what he does best.
He said the people of Grantham “could most probably handle the loss of assets and homes and property”.
“They simply weren’t able to handle the fact that no one believed them.”
Jones did. And his series of broadcasts in 2014 and 2015 have led him to the Brisbane supreme court, where he is being sued by the Toowoomba-based Wagner family for defamation.
Jones sat and listened to himself, on air, describe the Wagner family in one of those shows as “selfish, insensitive grubs”. He denied that statements he made about the Wagners were “vicious”, but agreed they were “savage” and justified”.
Before the lunch break, barrister Tom Blackburn SC began his cross-examination of Jones. It represented a turning of the table. The shock jock on the other end of an interview.
Jones became angry at the dogged repetition in Blackburn’s questioning. He refused to answer questions he thought were “hypothetical” or that lacked context.
“You’re talking definitionally, I’m talking factually,” Jones said at one point.
The session was peppered with memorable exchanges.
“Mr Jones, we’ll get through this a lot more quickly if you just concentrate on my questions,” Blackburn interjected as Jones provided his own lengthy uninvited context.
At one point, Blackburn accused Jones of lying in a broadcast.
“Excuse me,” Jones thundered, the loudest moment in an afternoon session where the 77-year-old spoke with increased volume and speed and pitch. “We’re not in the business of telling lies, Mr Blackburn. We leave that to other people.”
The broadcaster become indignant at Blackburn’s repeated suggestion that the Wagner family was not given an opportunity to respond to the substance of the allegations against them relating to the deaths of 12 people in the town of Grantham during the 2011 floods.
“For goodness sake, I’ve got a lot to do in a day, I won’t waste time making phone calls to people who say ‘you are blackballed, I won’t speak to you’,” Jones said.
“So they actually they buy silence, by indicating that they won’t speak to you. Now that proposition is untenable in any journalistic place.”
“I was saying what I wanted to say, which was indisputable fact. The Wagners didn’t seem to be remotely concerned.”
The Wagner family refused to be interviewed on air on Jones’s terms.
The broadcaster now has no choice but to be grilled on theirs, in a courtroom.Questioning is expected to continue until Monday.
It’s unfamiliar territory for a man used to asking the questions.