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Sales interview with Alan Jones -

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Sales interview with Alan Jones

Broadcast: 19/10/2011

Reporter: Leigh Sales

Leigh Sales interviews Alan Jones.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Whatever you think of Sydney radio host Alan Jones, it's indisputable that
he wields a substantial influence over Australian politics. We don't often get an insight into the
man behind the microphone, what drives his many campaigns and whether he ever admits to getting it
wrong. But today Alan Jones gave a speech to the National Press Club and afterwards he agreed to
join me for a rare one-on-one interview.

Alan Jones, welcome to the program.

ALAN JONES, BROADCASTER: Thankyou, Leigh. My pleasure.

LEIGH SALES: Of all the competing issues that are around at the moment, the one that you chose to
focus on in your speech today was coal seam gas mining. Why is that currently your number one
priority?

ALAN JONES: Look, I think this is the biggest issue facing Australia today and it's the biggest
land issue since native title. Kevin Rudd's made a couple of major speeches about this in relation
to Australia's food security. The thing is Kevin Rudd's a Queenslander, and our food-producing
capacity in Queensland has been compromised by open cut coal mining and coal seam gas mining. I
mean, when you think that 90 per cent of the Darling Downs, which is one of world's great food
bowls, is under a mineral licence of some sort or another, when you think that they're going to
have 20 to 30 open cut coal mines in the next 15 years, 40,000 coal seam gas wells, I mean, no-one
can be serious when they talk about food security and the great opportunities for us in Asia when
our prime agricultural land is being surrendered to mining.

LEIGH SALES: Throughout your career you've chosen issues that you want to campaign on and this one
is the latest. How do you decide among all of the issues that are out there, "OK, this is the one
I'm gonna pick to run with really hard on my radio program"?

ALAN JONES: Well, I always say that my listeners are my best researchers, so a lot of my issues are
taken from the correspondence. I answer over 100 letters a day and I gain information from them. So
I'm not picking up the Daily Telegraph or the Herald or the Australian and then saying, "What's on
the front page? We're gonna sort of run with all this." And as a result, those - people are only
going to write when there's a level of urgency about what they're saying. I'm not about saying, "I
must do this because it'll create a controversy and someone's going to listen and this'll improve
the ratings." I guess your critics say that, but that's not the way we go about it.

LEIGH SALES: What about - you used to be a fan of Julia Gillard and then you've changed your mind
on her. Was your judgment wrong in the first place on her then?

ALAN JONES: Well I hate to answer your question in the negative, but I think my judgment was wrong.
She was always welcome to come into the studio and she did. There was never any invitation, she
just came in, she had no notes like you and me here now. Then she became Prime Minister. I actually
thought that was a good thing because I thought that Kevin Rudd was in all sorts of trouble with
the electorate and was just making stuff up as he went along. And then suddenly Julia seemed to
out-Rudd Rudd. And then when you had the election business about - on July 23 last year saying
she'll only move on carbon tax when it's - the community are behind it and the economy is right and
then in the last week panicking.

LEIGH SALES: Putting aside your disappointment in her performance, is it appropriate that a
broadcaster of your influence would say that the Prime Minister should be taken out to sea and put
in a bag and left out to sea and do statements like that undermine the dignity of the office of
prime minister?

ALAN JONES: Well I think you're right about the - the criticism about undermining the dignity of
the office is very valid. On the other hand, the Prime Minister herself has done a good deal to
undermine the dignity of the office by not telling the truth to the electorate. On the other hand,
that was a bit of a throwaway line, meant to be a joke. People who didn't hear it wouldn't regard
it as a joke. To that extent, yes, it's regrettable, it would have been better left unsaid.

LEIGH SALES: Did you correct yourself or say anything to that effect on air at the time?

ALAN JONES: I didn't say anything about that, no. On the earlier occasion when I had a occasion to
- which I was criticised for when she was late for an interview which she sought to have - I didn't
ask her on, she asked to come on. And she was 12 minutes late, and as with this program or any
other program, 12 minutes is an eternity. You don't know whether to put another person up or
whether you'll wait for her. And so when she came on and said, "Look, it's 22 minutes after seven,
I mean, this was a 10 past seven job, I mean, what's going on? She said, "I'm busy," and I said,
"Well so's everybody." And then I had a bloke out on the road who'd rung in earlier about the Prime
Minister and the waste of money and I asked her what she thought about all of that. Subsequently
when I got off air I did think that that was a bit much so I immediately sent an email. I had her
email address; when I sent it to the email address, it didn't answer, it bounced back. So I
thought, well, could I get - I had my staff ring her office. They said, "No, we can't give out an
email address; send it to us." Well I wasn't going to be sending a private letter to the Prime
Minister to somebody else or anybody else around, so she never got it and I s'pose those
misunderstandings continued. But the chaff bag thing, yeah, most probably too clever by half.

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that often you overstep the line or are too clever by half? Do you think
that that is a mistake you make?

ALAN JONES: I don't think so. Look, you're going at 100 miles an hour. You know, you've got 3.5
hours of it, and I guess in all of that you're going to make mistakes and you're going to say
things you regret. I think the important thing is to just recognise that and hope that you don't
repeat it.

LEIGH SALES: Why do you - when people come on the show who disagree with your views, why do you
personally attack them or abuse them?

ALAN JONES: No, I don't attack them, I attack the issue.

LEIGH SALES: But you called people things like, you know, "That fool Windsor," "that idiot Wilkie,"
"that fool Garnaut," "This brain-dead Sarah Hanson-Young". Why does it go to that level?

ALAN JONES: Well if you take them one by one, I think we can justify all of them.

LEIGH SALES: No, but is any of that valid to ... ?

ALAN JONES: Well I think - no, no, what you said about Oakeshott and Windsor, surely you'd have to
be brain dead, wouldn't you, to represent a conservative electorate which voted overwhelmingly
against a carbon tax and then vote in favour of a carbon tax knowing that your political career is
finished. If that's not brain dead, I don't know what it is.

LEIGH SALES: No, but they might not view it as brain dead because they might think, "Well, I'm
standing up for what I believe."

ALAN JONES: But I think they're brain dead for behaving in that way. You'd have to be brain dead.
Oakeshott's got a family, he's got little kids. Where the hell's he gonna get a job, this bloke?

LEIGH SALES: But it's so subjective. They might say, "Oh, well, Alan Jones is brain dead because he
doesn't believe in climate change." It's a subjective thing, isn't it?

ALAN JONES: No, but that's not the point. Robert Oakeshott is representing an electorate in which
94 per cent of them don't support a carbon tax.

LEIGH SALES: But nonetheless, why does it have to be expressed in those terms? Why can't you simply
express it in terms of, "Well, I disagree with that view and I think it's incorrect"? Why does it
have to come down to brain dead or idiot?

ALAN JONES: Well because I s'pose it's the Alan Jones program and that most probably exemplifies
how I feel about that.

LEIGH SALES: Last month you said on your show that name calling is the province of those who can't
sustain an intellectual argument. Does that extend to people that call the Prime Minister Ju-liar?

ALAN JONES: Well, no, I didn't see - there you are; thank you for - I didn't call her Ju-liar.

LEIGH SALES: I'm not saying that you did, but people do.

ALAN JONES: Well I didn't. What happened was - no, well, that was first coined on my program. I
asked her after - because she asked to come on the program to announce that she was introducing a
carbon tax. You can imagine at 10 past nine at night I couldn't believe what I was hearing. So she
came on in the morning and it was that time - that stage this thing was raging. And I said, "Look,
how do you feel about the fact that people are now calling you Ju-liar?" Well of course that morphs
into Alan Jones calling her Ju-liar and so on. But it is ...

LEIGH SALES: Is it an appropriate term?

ALAN JONES: Well, when you say, "Where will be no carbon tax under the government I lead," and you
introduce a carbon tax, were you lying to the electorate? I think you were.

LEIGH SALES: Sufficiently - again, sufficiently respectful to the office of prime minister?

ALAN JONES: Well, she should be respectful to the office of prime minister and not betray the faith
of the electorate in such a way.

LEIGH SALES: I wanted to talk about a few other issues. I don't want to get bogged down in a
discussion about climate science and numbers because I'm not a climate scientist and that's a
discussion for another time. But, broadly, the Australian Communications Media Authority is
investigating your program over whether it's been fair and accurate in its coverage of climate
change issues. Do you think that they're going to find in your favour?

ALAN JONES: That's a very subjective question. How would I know what they're going to do?

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that your approach to that issue is fair and balanced?

ALAN JONES: Leigh, what I've done about carbon tax and climate change, I've interviewed some of the
leading scientists in the world. Every one of the people that I've asked, the overseas people, have
responded. I have - and they, by and large, were people who said this was a hoax. These are some of
the finest minds - Professor Timothy Ball, Professor Richard Lindzen juxtaposed against a
government which says the science is settled.

LEIGH SALES: But do you have orthodox scientists on as frequently as you have on sceptics, and when
you do have them on, do you treat them in such a friendly manner as you do the sceptics?

ALAN JONES: Well you'll be able to test that tomorrow; I've got someone on tomorrow. But I'll tell
you what, Leigh, getting them to the microphone's tough. I mean, I've asked Flannery and I've asked
Professor Stefan. David Karoly came immediately. Julia Gillard, who's the proponent of 19 bills and
1,000 pieces of legislation which were passed last week that no-one has read - 19 bills and 1,000
pieces - the seat's available to her; she's never accepted it. Greg Combet has. He's been on the
program several times.

LEIGH SALES: Is it tough because they think they won't get a fair go?

ALAN JONES: They get a fair go. I'll tell you why it's tough: they can't argue the case.

LEIGH SALES: But when - you mentioned Richard Lindzen and David Karoly before. When Lindzen was on
you spoke for 30 per cent of the time and he spoke for 70. When Karoly was on, you spoke for 60 per
cent of the time and him for only 40 per cent.

ALAN JONES: Oh, God, this is a good ABC analysis, isn't it?

LEIGH SALES: Well, but it's ...

ALAN JONES: It depends on the nature of the conversation. I mean, if Karoly then stops I've gotta
talk, and he stopped and I filled up the void. But he got a fair go. I don't think he didn't think
- I don't think he thought he didn't get a fair go.

LEIGH SALES: Do you ever think, "What if I'm wrong on the climate change thing? What if the CSIRO
and NASA and all of the others are right on that and what if I'm wrong?" Do you ever wonder about
that?

ALAN JONES: Do you ever wonder why Garnaut, Professor Garnaut and Tim Flannery and David Karoly and
Will Stefan and the CSIRO might argue their position. Might it have something to do with who's
paying the bill? These aren't objective - their comments are not peer-reviewed.

LEIGH SALES: But do you want me to believe that there is a global conspiracy involving the CSIRO,
NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology, the British Government, the Chinese Government, absolutely
everyone, that there's this big mass conspiracy?

ALAN JONES: Well have a look at the IPCC email leaks.

LEIGH SALES: But is that - is that what (inaudible)?

ALAN JONES: No, I don't know about a conspiracy, but I mean, Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime
Minister - presumably he's not a dunce - has sacked the whole of the Department of Environment and
Climate Change in Canada. Is Barack Obama running off about all of this? I mean, why - China -
China are opening a coal-fired power station every week. This is the source of our international
strength. This is the source of our economic well-being.

LEIGH SALES: And to hear Alan Jones quizzed further on climate change, on whether he was paid to
appear at an anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra and on when he might retire, the full half-hour
version of that interview will be on our website tomorrow.