Abbott stands by Jones, as petition for sacking nears 100,000
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Alan Jones’ comments about the prime minister’s late father are “wrong, unacceptable and offensive” but he won’t be boycotting the 2GB broadcaster or banning him from Liberal fundraisers.
Nearly a hundred thousand people want Alan Jones sacked from his radio station 2GB following the shock jock’s comments about the prime minister’s late father.
An online petition calling for his sacking had about 98,600 signatures by late on Tuesday night.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the comments are wrong and offensive but he won’t be boycotting the 2GB broadcaster or banning him from Liberal fundraisers.
The veteran Sydney breakfast presenter, who returned to the airwaves on Tuesday morning, acknowledged he was wrong to say in a speech at a Sydney University Liberal Club function that John Gillard had died of “shame” because of Julia Gillard’s political “lies”.
Senior Labor figures attempted to link the remarks of Mr Jones, a former Liberal Party candidate and adviser to Malcolm Fraser, to Mr Abbott and the trend towards personal attacks and vitriol in national political debate.
But Mr Abbott told reporters in Newcastle the Labor government blamed him for everything.
“Someone gets a flat tyre on the way to work, well that’s Tony Abbott’s fault,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, as far as my coalition colleagues are concerned, what Alan Jones said was wrong, unacceptable, offensive.
“He’s admitted that, he’s apologised.”
Mr Abbott said he would continue his regular appearances on Jones’ program.
“I’m not in the business of ignoring a big audience,” he said.
“My job every day is to reach out to the people of Australia and to reassure them we are a great country and a great people let down at the moment by a bad government.”
Jones, earlier on Tuesday, told his 2GB listeners he apologised “without qualification or reservation” and had sought to apologise in person to Ms Gillard, who declined to take his call.
“The comment that I made was out of order, the comment was wrong, the comment had the capacity to hurt the prime minister as a daughter grieving over the death of her father, the comment should not have been made,” he said.
Jones said he was astounded at the “hatred and anger” toward him.
“I’ve got news for these people: I don’t back off and I don’t frighten easily.”
His average week day audience in Sydney was 151,000 listeners in the last week of August, down 18,000 from July, Nielsen data showed last month.
More than a dozen sponsors have cancelled or suspended advertising on Jones’ program, which is estimated to make about $2 million a month for the radio network, and three regional stations have dumped the program.
Rival broadcaster John Laws said Mr Jones’ comments were cruel but he expects sponsors to return once the anger subsides.
“Of course they’ll come back – it’s a commercial world,” Mr Laws told ABC Television on Tuesday.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said Jones had not properly apologised and should be sacked.
He said when Mr Abbott goes on the radio program the pair “fill the airwaves with their poison”.
“They are at one when it comes to a political critique … which is vicious, aggressive and poisonous,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the sponsors were right to withdraw and the Liberal party should no longer invite Jones to its events.
Mr Rudd said there was no denying the close relationship between Jones and senior Liberals.
“When you listen to part of the transcript of Mr Jones’s speech, he constantly uses the word ‘we’,” Mr Rudd said, adding he would not go on the program.
Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella accused Labor of trying to “drain every last drop of political advantage” against Mr Abbott over the Jones affair.
“The opposition leader has strictly limited his criticism of the prime minister to her public, policy and political record,” she said.
Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne said the minor party would no longer appear on Jones’ program.
Meanwhile, another 2GB broadcaster said a Twitter campaign against the station would only lead to job losses involving innocent and junior staff, according to private tweets seen by AAP. – AAP