Jones' lawyer attempts damage control

June 14, 2018

Alan Jones - the Wagners are seeking $4.8 million in damages from the radio broadcaster and others.

A Brisbane Supreme Court judge has questioned whether Alan Jones wanted to continue with a defence of honest opinion in the broadcaster's defamation trial.

Justice Peter Flanagan warned Jones' defence counsel that his honest opinion defence would fail if his allegedly defamatory statements against the prominent Queensland Wagner family were found to be substantially untrue.

John, Denis, Neill and Joe Wagner are seeking $4.8 million in damages from the radio broadcaster, Harbour Radio, 4BC and journalist Nick Cater over 32 broadcasts in 2014 and 2015.

The brothers claim they were accused on-air of the deaths of 12 people in the town of Grantham during the 2011 Queensland floods, when one of the walls of the Lockyer Valley quarry they owned collapsed.

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.

A $2.5 million inquiry by then solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff in 2015 cleared the Wagners.

Justice Flanagan also on Wednesday said he would have to consider the credibility of Jones.

The trial, which has entered its final days, will continue on Thursday with more oral submissions.

Wednesday's hearing was 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' lawyer Robert Anderson QC argued the radio host's statements could only be seen as blaming the Wagners by an "unduly suspicious mind".

The submission was labelled "fanciful" by the family's barrister, Tom Blackburn SC.

"Who is involved in the covering up? Apart from the government or the authorities, the only other people mentioned are the Wagners," Mr Blackburn said.

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