Jones’ conversion on gay marriage. Australia’s gay marriage advocates have cast the intellectual figurehead of the New South Wales Liberal Party — 2GB host Alan Jones — as an ally in their bid to avoid what they fear will be a harmful plebiscite on the issue. This comes after the broadcaster used his program yesterday morning to say:

“On same-sex marriage I am totally opposed to a plebiscite. It could be angry and spiteful and divisive, the last thing we need. Many Australians have suffered enough as a result of their sexuality.

“This could be resolved, one way or another, with a vote in the Parliament. The bill could be drafted tomorrow in five minutes and the nation could get on with its life. How much more anguish are we going to impose on people over an issue of intense privacy?”

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome welcomed Jones’ comments, and called on the Turnbull government to drop plans for a plebiscite and simply allow a free parliamentary vote on the issue.

Jones has, in recent years, been increasingly open about his support for gay marriage, despite the fact that his audience is highly conservative. In 2012, in an interview with the Gay News Network, he passed on stating whether or not he supported gay marriage (though he didn’t deny he did), but by 2015 he explicitly stated his support. As he said on his radio show:

“The reality is this: in a very difficult world, which is often impersonal, uncaring, ruthless and sometimes brutal in personal relationships, love can prove elusive.

“And my view is that when people find love they should be able to celebrate it. And they shouldn’t be discriminated against according to the nature of that love. To deny people the recognition for a relationship which is based on love is to deny in my opinion one of humankind’s most basic, but as I said elusive, qualities.”

Jones has, however, in recent days spoken out against the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, which he says has been taken over by left-wing ideologues:

“No one objects to anti-bullying programs in schools designed to tackle homophobia. But a program that instructs teachers that it is ‘hetero-sexist’ to refer to students as girls and boys is going too far. And who put this program in the hands of a left-wing ratbag.”

Bullying is a serious problem, the host continued, but needs to be handled in a “politically-neutral” way.

In 2006, journalist Chris Masters wrote in his book Jonestown that Jones was gay. Jones himself has steadfastly refused to comment on the issue, stating it is irrelevant. In his aforementioned interview with the Gay News Network, he commented on society’s tendency to pigeon-hole someone once they come out as gay.

“We are still living in a fairly hypocritical environment … On the one hand we say, ‘sexuality is not an issue. Gender is not an issue. Equality is everything.’ And yet if someone happens to have the courage to say that they’re gay, suddenly they’re described as a ‘gay artist’ or a gay whatever.

“Hopefully one day we’ll develop a level of sophistication and decency where we’re not referring to people according to their colour, their sexuality, their whatever.”

Whiles Jones has aligned himself with many progressives on gay marriage, it’s worth noting he’s still firmly in the conservative camp on the other totemic political issue of our age: climate change. He’s one of the most prominent voices in Australia casting doubt on its occurrence. The state council of the NSW Liberals, to whom Jones is such a powerful figure, this week passed a motion calling on the Turnbull government to publicly debate whether or not the science on climate change is settled. — Myriam Robin

Print in from the cold at Fairfax … Consultation with staff has resulted in an amendment to the Fairfax metro editorial structure that now will see the head of print and production, as well as the weekend editors, reporting to the editor-in-chiefs of the SMH and Age, and no longer directly to the editorial director.

This will somewhat alleviate the startling isolation of print editors in the proposed hierarchy chart commented on by Crikey two weeks ago.

The changes were announced to staff this morning in an email — they’ll be briefed later today. — Myriam Robin

… while the Fin goes its own way. Also announced to staff this morning is the unwinding of the tie-up between Business Day, the business sections that run in The Age and SMH, and The Australian Financial Review. The business sections were combined three years ago, in a bid to save money by avoiding replication of business coverage. But the tie-up was always awkward because of the radically different paywall structures of the metro papers and the Fin. In practice, some Fairfax scribes say it amounted to a takeover by the Fin of the metro business pages, with much of the metro’s unique business coverage suffering for it.

But it’ll work differently now. Business Day will be a separate entity with its own reporters and commentators, who’ll presumably sometimes be filing on the same thing as their cousins over at the Fin, meaning Fairfax may have two different takes on the same story. The shift, Fairfax editorial director Sean Aylmer said in an email to staff, “will help Business Day build on its success as Australia’s most popular business site for retail investors and more consumer-oriented business topics”. That said, maybe the shift won’t be that big, he continued:

“Most news covered during the day by the Companies & Markets section [of the Fin] and Business Day — such as company announcements, press conferences, some business conferences, corporate court cases — will continue to be shared, as determined by the respective Financial Review Companies & Markets and Business Day editors.”

In other news, Paul Bailey, currently editor-in-chief of business, has been appointed editor of the Fin. He’ll be reporting to Fin editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury. Fin companies and markets editor James Thomson will be reporting to Bailey, while his counterpart at the metros, Business Day editor Matthew Dunckley, will report to the editor-in-chiefs of the SMH and Age, and “consult regularly” with Bailey and Stutchbury.  — Myriam Robin

Correction: An earlier version of this brief stated that Paul Bailey (the Fin’s new editor) was opinion editor when Mark Latham was writing his columns. He wasn’t — he was editor-in-chief of business at Fairfax at the time.

“Berlin-wall of silence” trips up Pezzullo. The guy who used to run the Department of Immigration’s communications team reckons Border Force has “drunk the Kool-Aid”. In comments to The Mandarin, Sandi Logan, who worked at Immigration for eight years until 2013, said:

“This stuff-up is symptomatic of an organisation having so comprehensively drunk the Kool-Aid. It is inured to any sense of reality let alone, in terms of communicating a message, a sense of what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s appropriate …

“Sadly, Mr Pezzulo has for too long said too little about his department’s operations — a complete Berlin wall of silence — and when he does, it’s always reactive, poorly phrased and, as in this instance, foot in mouth.”

Logan, we should point out, is a consultant for the Labor Herald, which is funded by the ALP. He was commenting on Border Force’s odd statements in the last 24 hours. — Myriam Robin

A nom to AFL Media. AFL Media’s Michael Willson is a finalist in the Best Sports Photo category of the Melbourne Press Club’s Quill awards. We’re not sure if it’s the first time a journo working for a content-marketing division got nominated as a finalist for a major journalism awards night, but it’s certainly unusual.

The Quill Awards are somewhat more commercial than the Walkleys, with categories dedicated to radio and TV news, giving commercial networks a look-in they rarely get at the other awards night. — Myriam Robin

Video of the day. Tony Windsor is expected to announce, tomorrow morning, that he’ll be running in New England against Barnaby Joyce. We wonder if he ever got to Africa …


Peter Fray

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