Alan Jones 'hinted' Wagners to blame for deadly flood
CONTROVERSIAL broadcaster Alan Jones used "loaded rhetorical questions" and innuendo to imply Toowoomba's most high profile business family had a hand in "covering up" Queensland's deadliest flood.
That's the accusation levelled against the 2GB shock jock who, along with his employer Harbour Radio, is being sued by Wellcamp Airport developer Denis Wagner and his three brothers.
The Wagners argue that while Jones never said it directly, he repeatedly hinted on air that the family did not want the world to know the inland tsunami that killed 12 people at Grantham in 2011 may have been caused by a build-up of water in a quarry they then owned.
Tendering 32 separate broadcasts in Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday, lawyers for the Wagners said Mr Jones "painted a picture" for the everyday listener of a family so powerful it could influence consecutive Queensland premiers, mining and gas giants and the police.
Tom Blackburn QC for the Wagners told the court that while Mr Jones "absolutely fails" to say what he implies time and time again, the language chosen "never fails to get its target".
He claimed one broadcast went as far as to allege the Wagners had colluded with former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and possibly bribed others to "avoid public scrutiny".
The Wellcamp Airport was said in the same broadcast to have been built "breaking all the rules".
An interview between Jones and freelance journalist Nick Cater, who is also being pursued by the Wagners for defamation, alleged news footage, photos and witness accounts from Grantham were "completely at odds" with the report of a hydrologist who claimed the flood was called by "natural overflow" from Lockyer Creek.
Mr Jones questions why the report was commissioned by engineering consulting firm Sinclair Knight Merz - same company who had business interests in the Wellcamp Airport Industrial Estate and how a disaster of such significance "refuses to yield to any investigation".
In another broadcast, Mr Jones questions "who is being protected" and if the Wagners are "untouchable".
While Justice Peter Applegarth found some of the commentary did not, as the Wagners claimed, meet the threshold required, several of the broadcasts did have the potential to imply the Wagners had orchestrated or at least played a part in the said "cover up" and the broadcasts should be referred to a jury.
A 2014 commission of inquiry cleared the Wagners of any responsibility for the floods after three separate hydrology reports showed the collapse of their quarry wall was not to blame for the deadly deluge and may even have slowed its ferocity.
Mr Jones has always maintained his actions were that of a journalist acting in the best interests of a community that wanted answers about the unprecedented tragedy.
The hearing continues.
- ARM Newsdesk