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Chris Masters on 'Jonestown' -

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Chris Masters on 'Jonestown'

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's been the biggest and most contentious story in Australian publishing this year
'Jonestown', written by ABC 'Four Corners' investigative journalist Chris Masters about broadcaster
and former Australian rugby coach Alan Jones. This is the book the ABC suddenly decided not to
publish after years of work by Masters with ABC Books. What emerges is a complex profile of radio's
most powerful broadcaster, exploring his remarkable capacity to change government policy and
dictate to some of the most powerful politicians in the land. 'Jonestown' examines why Alan Jones
is so adored by some and, equally, reviled by others. And controversially, Chris Masters seeks to
justify why he felt it necessary to highlight the broadcaster's sexuality in the process. I spoke
with Chris Masters in Sydney today.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Chris Masters, you paint a picture of Alan Jones as a man driven by an obsessive
need to control, to be a powerbroker and certainly never to be ignored or contradicted. But clearly
you've developed your own fascination or obsession with him. Why?

CHRIS MASTERS: I wouldn't call it "an obsession". I think, in a way, investigative journalists are
a bit like a dog on a bone. It can appear obsession but it's really just simply trying to get to
the truth. It's more determination, in my view. But there's a real reason to be fascinated, because
he has an extraordinary power base. It isn't explained by his audience. It's really explained by
his activism. The more I looked into it, the more worried I was about the lack of transparency in
the way that deals are done and the way the political community appears to attempt to appease Jones
and win him over using flattery et cetera, doing deals with him, for the sake of favourable
mentions, et cetera. That seems to me to be a subject that investigative journalism ought to look
at.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, give me one outstanding illustration that justifies the effort that you've put
into this book and the exposure you've given him.

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, I think his interference in police affairs is an example. I know an Opposition
member said to me that he basically stopped police reform overnight. So when a police officer in
this case, Tim Priest, has got a conflict with his own police about a $2.5 million payment, when
Alan Jones is writing letters to the Police Commissioner on Tim Priest's behalf saying, "We should
pay this money," I think that's a subject that deserves transparency. I mean, why does Alan Jones's
processes appear to be better to him than the processes of government?

KERRY O'BRIEN: Because there are times, as we all know, when we all know when the processes of
government are deficient?

CHRIS MASTERS: Yes, well when the Immigration Minister speaks to Alan Jones, as we understood
occurred, and said "Well, if you're confident that this is a meritorious case, OK", you have to
wonder again. I've looked hard at the Alan Jones processes and I can tell you, they're nothing like
government process.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Just on that point, you offer many examples where Alan Jones has personally helped
vulnerable people, where a real sense of charity is in evidence. What's wrong with him extending
that sense of charity to taking up the cause of listeners with State or Federal Government
ministers, even Premiers or Prime Ministers? Isn't it in the end more a case of responsibility on
the part of government to act responsibility, or to react responsibly?

CHRIS MASTERS: Exactly. That's how I conclude the book. I don't know that - if the politicians
surrender to Jones, it's the politicians who are letting us down as far as I'm concerned.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You talk specifically about the relationship between Alan Jones and Prime Minister
John Howard, and his office, and the flow of letters to and from the Prime Minister's office. You
make something of the fact that there was a so called Minister for Alan Jones appointed to deal
with Alan Jones. But beyond that, it didn't seem to me, reading the book that there was anything
improper in the relationship, in the way Mr Howard responded?

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, I think he certainly attended to Alan Jones and he courted him in the way that
you see so many people doing. They feel that if you pay a bit of tribute to Alan you'll get a
better deal. Now, OK, I haven't got too much of a complaint with that and, indeed, I say in the
book that I thought that the Prime Minister handled him a bit better than many others, in that he
might be appearing to make policy than making policy himself. In the correspondence I saw between
Alan Jones and the Prime Minister and there's an enormous amount of it some of it can stick in your
throat, because he's lecturing to the Prime Minister. But the way the Prime Minister responded was
to say, "Well, Alan, we can have different points of view about this" and that seems to be the way
it's gone.

KERRY O'BRIEN: There's already been a lot of discussion about why it was necessary to out Alan
Jones as homosexual. You've said yourself that as a general principle a person's private life
should stay private. So why reject that principle now?

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, it was impossible to avoid the elephant in the room. Yes, I do respect
privacy, but I do think if you're going to tell the story of Alan Jones you're going to confront
this problem. I don't know how you would have written the rugby chapters and the schools chapters.
He was asked to leave a particular school. What was the reason for that? Well, the reason was his
closeness not his sexual relationships, but his closeness to a range of boys, and the trouble that
caused. He has this constant habit of playing favourites, which you see right through his very many
careers.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But how confidently can you lay that at the door of his sexuality, because when you
look through the whole of the book, although you on a number of occasions refer to his sexuality,
there is only one incident in the whole book where you actually go to any detail of a relationship
or attempted relationship?

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, I think that was being responsible. I mean, I had my own rules about staying
out of the bedroom and if I was going to deal with this issue of sexuality then there had to be a
point to it. I just think that if you look at the pattern of behaviour, I'd be astonished if you
could come to any conclusion that there's not a connection between the disguise of his sexuality
and this constant habit of playing favourites. I don't know how else you would have dealt with the
subject.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You write that on the subject of shame "it's hard to be sure whether Alan Jones has
too much or too little. He continues to use his power to insinuate a place in younger lives." Your
insinuation is that there's something wrong in that. What shame should he feel?

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, if he could be honest about who he is, I don't think he would feel any shame
at all. I mean, I think it's a pity that he appears to feel shame. I think he just comes from that
generation who understandably could not be who they are; to grow up in Queensland in rural
Queensland in an era when the act of homosexuality was illegal meant that layer upon layer of
concealment was applied. Now I have some empathy for Alan Jones and I think that's well described
in the book.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But when you say you don't know whether he feels too much shame or too little shame,
it's implicit in that that he should feel some shame, and I'm not clear why.

CHRIS MASTERS: Well, I think that professionally there are many acts that to me I would consider
shameful and he's very aggressive and proud and hubristic even about his professional performance.
I don't think there are too many people around him who are able to sort of pull him up, and I think
that is a problem. With the London episode, for example, it did seem to me that he appeared to be
ashamed. It was a humiliating circumstance. And I have some sympathy for his situation there.
That's a circumstance where I think it seemed to me that there was shame and there shouldn't have
been.

KERRY O'BRIEN: After years of working with the ABC on the publication of this book, the ABC board
and management decided not to publish. Now that the dust has settled and despite the enormous early
publicity 'Jonestown' has received even in these few days, is it just possible that the ABC might
prove to be right to have rejected it on commercial grounds?

CHRIS MASTERS: It is possible, yeah. I don't think it's likely. And I think the evidence would
already suggest that, commercially, there was an enormous appetite for the book. But it's also
clear to me that it was a good decision, but only because I needed the ABC to back me and if they
weren't going to back me I'd rather know before the book was published than after.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Chris Masters, thanks for talking with us.

CHRIS MASTERS: Thank you.

KERRY O'BRIEN: For the record, Alan Jones has taken a week's leave from his breakfast radio show
and declined to be interviewed for this program. That's all tonight. We'll be back at the same time
tomorrow, but for now goodnight.