I am an admirer of much of Margaret
Simons’ work – even if I disagree with some of her conclusions. However, Ms
Simons was disingenuous in making the following claim in yesterday’s
Crikey: “It is not true that the ABC indemnified Chris Masters
against defamation, as was suggested by Gerard Henderson on Lateline on
Tuesday night.”

Sure, I did suggest that the ABC would have had to stand
by Chris Masters if his book Jonestown had been published by ABC
Enterprises and if Alan Jones had sued the author along with the publisher. Lateline presenter Tony Jones also stated, during a question to me, that
the ABC would have had to indemnify Chris Masters.

As a published author – like Margaret
Simons – I know that, in a technical sense, it is the author who indemnifies the
publisher. But, like Ms Simons, I also know that publishers rarely – if ever –
activate such clauses. It is impossible to imagine ABC Enterprises publishing a
book by a leading ABC personality only to leave him or her unsupported in the
face of a defamation writ by a wealthy plaintiff.

In any event, as Margaret Simons well
knows, the discussion at management and Board level concerning Jonestown
turned on the anticipated cost of the ABC defending a writ from Alan Jones. At
no time was the possibility canvassed of the ABC deserting Mr Masters,
consequent upon a writ from Mr Jones.

On another issue, I have no special knowledge of Alan
Jones’ s-xual preferences. However, I am quite stunned at the double-standard
which has been evident in this matter. For years, Mike Carlton – on his “Friday
News Review” comedy sketch on Radio 2UE in Sydney – has made
comments about Alan Jones (aka “Gloria Parrott”) which are blatantly
homophobic. I doubt that even such paragons of virtue as the Rev. Fred Nile
would engage in such homophobia. Yet Mr Carlton presents as a libertarian –
except when he is attacking his commercial rival Alan Jones.

And then there is the
matter of outing, where Mike Carlton has also taken a leading role.
Chris Masters seems to believe that Alan Jones can only be fully
understood if his s-xual history is revealed. Bollocks. In my view,
Alan Jones the broadcaster can be profiled – and criticised – without
reference to his s-xuality.

Today on ABC Radio National Breakfast
David Marr declared that “Jones is gay”. Where is this to stop? Is Mr
Marr intending to out all the prominent individuals in Australian
society who happen to be gay – just because he believes that this is in
the public interest? Such behaviour would not have been tolerated with
respect to, say, Justice Michael Kirby before he came out. Why
should Alan Jones be different? Especially since Mr Jones cannot be
accused of hypocrisy in this matter since he has never preached at
large about s-xual morality.

In conclusion, I should point out that I publicly
defended Justice Kirby – on Lateline – when (false) allegations were
first made about him by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan some years ago. Just
like I defended Alan Jones on Lateline last Tuesday.

Perhaps one day Margaret Simons might turn
her obvious talents to analysing the appalling double standards in the Alan
Jones case matter. How ironic it is that – in this matter – the likes of Mike
Carlton sound like homophobes while the likes of John Howard sound like
libertarians.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW