Alan Jones defamation case: claims of a coverup were 'sin­is­ter', court told

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines -

Claims by the broad­caster Alan Jones of a cover-up over the deaths of 12 peo­ple in the 2011 Queens­land floods have been de­scribed as “dra­matic” and “sin­is­ter” in his defamation case.

Jones is be­ing sued by mem­bers of the Wag­ner fam­ily, who claim they were ac­cused of the deaths in Gran­tham when one of the walls of the Lock­yer Val­ley quarry they owned col­lapsed.

Brothers John, De­nis, Neill and Joe Wag­ner are seek­ing $4.8m in dam­ages from the Syd­ney-based Jones, Har­bour Ra­dio, 4BC and jour­nal­ist Nick Cater over 32 broad­casts in 2014 and 2015.

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Clos­ing sub­mis­sions be­gan in the Bris­bane supreme court on Wed­nes­day, dom­i­nated by de­bate over whether Jones had made a lit­eral link be­tween the Wag­n­ers and the col­lapse of the wall, and an al­leged cover-up, or whether that was open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Jones’s lawyer, Robert An­der­son QC, ar­gued that his state­ments could be seen as blam­ing the Wag­n­ers only by an “un­duly sus­pi­cious mind”.

“The thrust of our sub­mis­sion is that the mean­ings by and large in this case just go that one step too far,” An­der­son said.

The sub­mis­sion was la­belled “fan­ci­ful” by the fam­ily’s bar­ris­ter, Tom Black­burn SC.

“Who is in­volved in the cov­er­ing up?” he said. amp;#xa0; “Apart from the govern­ment or the au­thor­i­ties, the only other peo­ple men­tioned are the Wag­n­ers.

“The idea, your hon­our, that the or­di­nary, rea­son­able lis­ten­ers would think the Wag­n­ers can’t be in­volved in this cover-up is just fan­ci­ful.”

Black­burn also took aim at Jones’s lan­guage dur­ing the broad­casts, par­tic­u­larly his de­scrip­tion of the floods and the al­leged cover-up.

“‘The day the wall of wa­ter surged through the town tak­ing the lives of 12 peo­ple.’ Your hon­our, that’s some­thing like out of a movie,” he said. “It’s dra­matic stuff. It’s sin­is­ter.”

The Wag­n­ers have al­leged they were also sub­jected to abuse, in­clud­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of a high-level cover-up, cor­rup­tion and in­tim­i­da­tion re­lat­ing to their Well­camp air­port.

Jones ad­mit­ted dur­ing the trial his com­ments about the Wag­ner brothers were sav­age but said he and his team al­ways took rea­son­able steps to be ac­cu­rate.

He also gave ev­i­dence that some of the claims made were his hon­est opin­ions.

The fi­nal wit­nesses in the defamation trial gave ev­i­dence two weeks ago. The case con­tin­ues be­fore jus­tice Peter Flana­gan on Thurs­day.

Pho­to­graph: Don Arnold/WireImage

Claims by Alan Jones that the Wag­ner fam­ily were in­volved in a cover-up af­ter the 2011 Queens­land floods were ‘sin­is­ter’, the Bris­bane supreme court is told.

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