Alan Jones, 2GB and 4GB ordered to pay $ 3.7m for damages to the Wagner family

File image of Alan Jones

Alan Jones and two radio stations were hit with a record $ 3.7 million payment for defacing a Queensland family by claiming they were responsible for 12 deaths in the floods of the Lockyer Valley in 2011.

Jones, his Sydney radio station, 2GB license, Harbor Radio and 4BC were sued by the prominent Wagner family, who say they were blamed for the deaths in Grantham when one of the quarry walls they owned collapsed.

Jones and his co-defendants could not prove any defense to defamatory comments labeled "extremely serious and of the gravest kind" by Brisbane Supreme Court Judge Peter Flanagan on Wednesday.

Denis Wagner with Father Henry Wagner and Mother Mary Wagner leave the Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Jones began his attack against the Wagners in 2 GB in October 2014 when he claimed a high level of cover-up of his participation in the deaths.

It went on the air about 30 times to discuss the matter before giving in August 2015.
Judge Flanagan noted the effect that the comments had on the Wagners.

"Prior to the publication of defamatory broadcasts, each plaintiff enjoyed an excellent reputation for honesty and integrity, both in commercial and community circles," he wrote.

"The publication of the defamatory broadcasts was very extensive.

"Defamatory transmissions have caused each of the plaintiffs to suffer profound personal harm and damage to their reputations, which includes their commercial reputation."

The Toowoomba brothers John, Denis, Neill and Joe Wagner had asked for $ 1.2 million each from the three defendants plus veteran journalist Nick Cater, who had been dismissed from his complaint.

The $ 3.7 million in damages breaks the previous Australian defamation compensation record when Perth lawyer Lloyd Rayney received $ 2.62 million last year after police defamed him by naming him the "main" and "only" suspect in the murder of his wife, Corryn.

Judge Flanagan noted an independent investigation into the floods by Walter Sofronoff. QC had discovered that the deaths would have occurred because of the sudden surge of water in Grantham, regardless of the quarry.

Judge Flanagan also considered defamatory the assertion that the Wagners had put their interests ahead of those of the nation by "illegally" building their Wellcamp airport in Toowoomba and were able to do so due to political access.

Denis Wagner says he does not expect an apology from Jones.

"Mr. Jones and his co-defendants inexorably misled his listeners and the people who had trusted them to be honest and truthful," he said in court.

"We decided to take a stand against this abhorrent, vicious, deceptive and spiteful behavior.

"Justice Flanagan has issued a judgment today that has clearly indicated that people, regardless of the influence they think they have, will be responsible for their words and actions."

"Everything we asked Nick Cater was an apology, he was not received, hence the reason he included him in the action," said Denis Wagner.

"We will consider our options about that in the future."