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