Wagner & Ors v Harbour Radio Pty Limited, Alan Jones, Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd & Ors.

Wagner & Ors v Harbour Radio Pty Limited, Alan Jones, Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd & Ors.

Queensland’s Wagner brothers (Denis, John, Neill and Joe) launched defamation actions against Harbour Radio, Alan Jones Radio 4BC and journalist Nick Cater over comments about the fatal 2011 Grantham flood disaster and construction of the Wellcamp Airport outside Toowoomba.

They allege they were subjects of sustained attacks, implying they were responsible for the Grantham flood disaster and the deaths of many people, attempted to cover up their culpability, orchestrated a campaign of bullying and intimidation to prevent he truth coming out, are corrupt businessmen, dishonest, careless, built an illegal wall and an airport at Toowoomba without proper approval, and they were selfish irresponsible grubs, among other things.

The Wagners sued over 34 broadcasts. The defendants denied that the broadcasts conveyed the pleaded meanings, or were even capable of doing so.  The Wagners complained about the absence of any proper particulars in the defence about how they were alleged to have caused the deaths in Grantham.  The Wagners pointed to findings at the Sofronoff Inquiry that neither the quarry nor materials in the area materially contributed to the damage caused in Grantham.

Appearances for the Plaintiffs: Tom Blackburn SC and Patrick McCafferty instructed by Corrs Chambers Wesgarth and for the Defendants: Robert Anderson QC instructed by Banki Haddock Fiora.

The matter resumed today in the Supreme Court of Queensland “The Wagners were the subject of an extraordinary, serious attack by perhaps the best known and most influential radio broadcaster in the country, Alan Jones,” Mr Blackburn said.

Mr Blackburn said the Wagner family started out in the quarry business in 1989 before becoming recognised as one of the most successful businesses in the state. He told Justice Peter Flanagan this was a defamation case like no other due to the volume of allegations.

“The damages in our submission must be very large indeed because … they constitute a defamation that is unparalleled as far as we are aware in this country,” he said.

“Reckless in their baselessness and repetition, vicious in their accusations and highly irresponsible as journalists.”

The trial is being heard in front of only a judge and is expected to run for several weeks

The Wagner family were published along side the Reynolds family in the publication Stars under the Southern Cross: The untold stories of Queensland family businesses. There are stories of families and businesses that have gone on to become household names both in Australia and overseas. The stories come from all regions of Queensland and all industries are represented, such is the scope of the family business community.

In September 2017  Rebel Wilson obtained the highest ever damages award in a defamation case in Australia, about $4.56 million read more about that story here.

For more information on defamation resources please visit my website resource. 

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