Veteran radio broadcaster Alan Jones has conceded that his on-air comments about a Queensland family were brutal, but has rubbished their claim he suggested they were murderers.
Brothers Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner are suing Jones to the tune of $4.8 million for suggesting they were responsible for the deaths of 12 people during the 2011 Grantham floods due to a wall of a quarry they owned collapsing during the natural disaster.
Jones made the accusations across 32 different broadcasts on stations 2GB and 4BC, as well as once on Sky News, during 2014 and 2015.
Harbour Radio (which employs Jones), 4BC and journalist Nicholas Cater are also facing a lawsuit.
Taking to the witness stand at the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Jones conceded his on-air comments about the Wagner family were “savage”, but stopped short of being them labelled vicious.
He also denied using his radio broadcasts to suggest the Wagner family were murderers, describing his criticisms as “accurate”, according to ABC News.
“I attempted to convey to my listeners the sentiments of the letter which called it a municipal murder, which in fact is what it is,” he told the Wagners’ lawyer Tom Blackburn.
“I was intending to say, Mr Blackburn, which I’ve said for six years, without the quarry 12 people wouldn’t have died.
“Without the Wagner quarry, many of these people wouldn’t die. It’s a self-evident fact.”
Fighting back tears, ABC News reported that Jones also detailed the stories he’d been told by families of the flood victims, and claimed he offered the Wagner family many chances to defend themselves on-air.
“It was just a blatant no,” he said.
“I was concerned about getting answers for the deaths of 12 people. And it seems that no-one else was prepared to answer that.
“The Wagners didn’t appear to be remotely concerned, and that’s the Wagner attitude. They want things done their way. Well, I’m sorry – I do things my way.”
Jones’ court defence came after Joe Wagner told of the barrage of verbal and physical abuse his family has suffered as a result of the radio host’s accusations.
The family has also received support from motorbike racing legend Mick Doohan, who gave evidence earlier this week in court.
The hearing continues today.