12 Sep 2018

Wagners awarded $A3.75 million defamation payout

2:45 pm on 12 September 2018

In what's reported to be the largest defamation payout in Australian history, the broadcaster Alan Jones and two radio stations have been ordered to pay a prominent Queensland family $A3.75 million.

Former Australia rugby coach Alan Jones.

Broadcaster Alan Jones denied he was motivated by a "bitter hatred" of the family. Photo: ABC

The Brisbane Supreme Court has ordered the money be paid to the Toowoomba-based Wagner family over 27 radio broadcasts between 2014-to-2015 that Justice Peter Flanagan said conveyed "extremely serious" defamatory allegations.

The allegations included the suggestion that the Wagner family were responsible for the deaths of 12 people, when a quarry wall owned by the family collapsed in the 2011 Grantham floods.

The 12 died in flash flooding around Grantham in the Lockyer Valley on 10 January 2011.

The broadcasts also alleged that the brothers had illegally built the Wellcamp Airport and had stolen airspace from the Oakey Army Base.

Jones and 2GB tried to argue many of the broadcastings were substantially true and others were a fair report of the Grantham Flood Inquiry.

Speaking outside court Denis Wagner said he and his family had faced "vilification" by Alan Jones for years.

"Until we commenced this action, Mr Jones' malicious attacks on our character and that of our family were unrelenting," Mr Wagner said.

"Justice Flanagan has delivered a judgement today which has clearly indicated that people regardless of how much influence they may consider they have will be held accountable for their words and their actions."

In cross-examination, Jones denied he had a "bitter hatred" of the family and was merely dealing with the facts as he saw them.