ALAN JONES COURT
Radio host Alan Jones admits he subjected a prominent Queensland family to a series of savage criticisms on air, but denies calling them murderers.
The controversial broadcaster gave evidence in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday, to defend himself against a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit.
The Toowoomba-based Wagner brothers are seeking $4.8 million in damages from Jones, Harbour Radio, 4BC and journalist Nick Cater over 32 broadcasts made between 2014 and 2015.
John, Denis, Neill and Joe Wagner allege they were blamed for the deaths of 12 people in the town of Grantham during the 2011 floods, when one of the walls of the Lockyer Valley quarry they owned collapsed.
They claim they were also subjected to accusations of a high-level cover-up with politicians, corruption and intimidation relating to their Wellcamp Airport.
Jones admitted his broadcasts were savage, but he and his team always took "reasonable steps" to be accurate.
The talkback radio host stood by his allegations the Wagners lied about the cause of the Grantham flood and the fact the quarry wall that collapsed was man-made.
"They built the bund, the bund collapsed, 12 people died," he said, despite two inquiries finding it wasn't responsible for the deaths.
Barrister Tom Blackburn SC accused him of intentionally telling his listeners the Wagners had murdered the flood victims.
"I didn't call them murderers," he said, adding he simply read a letter from a listener in which the deaths were described as municipal murders.
"Without the Wagner quarry many of these people wouldn't have died. It's a self-evident fact," he said.
Jones also stood by his claims the processes involved in the family receiving approval to build the airport at Toowoomba were corrupt.
"Something has to be going on that I don't know about, that's what I'm arguing," he said.
"I can't understand the Wagners. The rules seem to be bent everywhere."
Mr Blackburn repeatedly accused Jones of grossly irresponsible reporting because of his failure to tell the family about the "grave allegations of misconduct" he was going to make on air.
But Jones said his team had previously contacted them and had made it clear they wouldn't speak to him.
"I'm not going to waste my time calling people up who won't speak to me," he said.
Earlier in the day, he fought back tears as he claimed the death of a one-year-old girl in the Grantham flood was what kept him investigating the matter.
Jones said the residents could deal with the loss of their homes and property, but not the fact no one believed them about what caused the wall of water.
"The Wagners kept on saying there was no bund ... whereas every eyewitness gave evidence that they'd seen this bund going up and up and up," he said.
"I was the only person at the time representing ... the concerns of these people."
Jones said the "overwhelming and repetitive message" from residents was that there had been a cover-up.
"What I meant by cover-up was that it seemed impossible to believe that 12 people had lost their lives in six homes and we didn't know how, and there was no resolution of this," he said.
The trial continues on Friday.