2GB radio talkback host Alan Jones has been one of the most prominent opponents of the carbon tax, and the idea that Julia Gillard had misled Australians about its introduction, coining the term JuLIAR in relation to this policy. And in a speech to the Sydney University Liberal Club he went probably a step further than even his loyal listeners could handle, when he claimed Gillard’s father’s death was attributable to the shame he would have felt about her lying.
What is surprising about these insensitive remarks is not that Jones made them, but the importance attached to the remarks. It is truly bizarre that Alan Jones wields such influence and importance in NSW considering his track record of getting simple facts wrong.
On climate change, Jones is full of hyperbole who feels little compulsion to cross-reference his statements against the bulk of research published in scientific journals. He stated to an anti-carbon tax gathering outside Victorian Parliament that, “the notion of global warming is a hoax” and “witchcraft”.
In 2011, Jones claimed "human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and therefore human induced global warming was a beat-up. Spurred by complaints, the Australian Communications and Media Authority followed up on whether these claims were supported by any evidence. According to ACMA, the licensee of 2GB, “conceded that it was a claim researched by Mr Jones himself and they weren't able to adduce any evidence supporting that claim."
In the lead-up to the introduction of a carbon price, Jones regularly played host to a range of personalities claiming that human beings have no influence over the climate. But he didn’t once interview anyone from the National Academy of Science, the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO or any other academic with a long track record of studying and publishing scientific papers on atmospheric science. This is in spite of an obligation on commercial radio broadcasters to “promote accuracy and fairness in news and current affairs programs.”
He has been an enthusiastic promoter of the idea that wind farms constitute a major health risk. This is in spite of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s own review of the literature suggesting there was little evidence to support such claims.
And he has also claimed the carbon tax would “bankrupt the nation”. Something I’m still waiting to show any evidence of transpiring.
Yet in spite of the fact that Alan Jones spouts arguments that would take a high school student about two minutes on Google to pull apart, he remains incredibly popular.
What is incredible is that his entire credibility was shredded back in 1999 when it was revealed that he, and John Laws, had been paid to give favourable comment to companies including Qantas, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and major Australian banks, without disclosing this arrangement to listeners. The Australian Broadcasting Authority estimated the value of these arrangements at $18 million and found Laws, Jones, and their employer at the time, 2UE, to have committed 90 breaches of the industry code and five breaches of 2UE's license conditions.
As a result of these revelations, both Jones and Laws conceded they should be seen as entertainers rather than journalists, and therefore exempt from any expectation of factual accuracy.
The fact that Jones still retains influence with a large number of Sydneysiders in spite of this, and probably still will even after his ridiculous recent remarks, defies any sense of logic.