"Gut wrenching stuff”: Jones email accuses Wagners of bribe
RADIO broadcaster Alan Jones wrote to Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce accusing Toowoomba company Wagners of bribing him to get the airline to fly out of its airport.
"Were you aware that Mr Jones had accused Wagners of bribing Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas?," Tom Blackburn SC asked Neill Wagner in court today.
Mr Wagner, one of four brothers suing Mr Jones and others for alleged defamation in radio broadcasts, said he was not and said it was "gut wrenching stuff".
The sensational email exchange, in September, 2014, was read out in the Supreme Court in Brisbane, after it was obtained by subpoena from Qantas by lawyers for the Wagners, the day before.
Qantas was a foundation customer of Wellcamp Airport at Toowoomba, which was built by the Wagners, and still flies in and out of the airport.
In one email on September 3, 2014, Mr Jones said to Mr Joyce: "Of course, these people will bribe you to go there", after speaking about the Wagners.
Neill Wagner was asked by his counsel, Tom Blackburn SC, if Wagners bribed Qantas or anybody else.
"Absolutely not," Mr Wagner replied.
In the first email, Mr Jones said to Mr Joyce: "Dear Alan ... Are you seriously telling me you're flying planes into Wellcamp, after all the discussions we've had?"
Mr Jones then referred to what he regarded as "one of the most corrupt infrastructure deals ever done".
In another part of the email Mr Jones said to Mr Joyce: "And now I'm told you're going back on your word and you're endorsing this behaviour.
"I have to tell you, I'm not the only one who is beyond disgusted"
Mr Joyce replied in an email telling Mr Jones that later that day he would be telling the Queensland Premier that Qantas would be operating air services to Wellcamp Airport.
Mr Joyce said since they had spoken months earlier, he had held long discussions with the airport operators.
"Their offer to Qantas is commercially very attractive," Mr Joyce said.
He said he had been contacted by Federal Ministers who were supportive of Wellcamp Airport and he had also discussed it with the Department of Infrastructure.
Mr Jones replied: "Alan, I feel we're on a collision course. Of course these people will bribe you to go there."
Later, as part of the same email exchange, Mr Jones, referring to the airport, said to Mr Joyce: "No one can make it pay, but now it seems now you have taken Qantas into this cesspool of political behaviour which does not pass muster.
" ... because you see it, it's not going to be a passenger airport at all. You will disappear unless they bribe you to stay, whether you fill a plane or not."
Mr Jones went on to say it was a conduit for coal seem gas, adding: "Which is the reason Alan you got into bed with these people. I thought you were better than this.
"There are some principles surely that money can't buy.
" ... Did it ever enter your head why these people are loving you, why they were bribing you? I have to reserve my decision Alan ... I may well go public."
Neill Wagner said that last comment about going public sounded like a threat, but Alan Jones had been saying things about the Wagners and their airport for 12 months.
Counsel for the defendants, Rob Anderson QC, put to Mr Wagner that the alleged bribery comments were "a nonsense".
He also put to him that it was really a reference to the commercially attractive nature of the deal Wagners had offered Qantas.
"It was an allegation that we bribed, we were bribing Qantas to come there ... I certainly didn't bribe Alan Joyce ... We did not bribe Alan Joyce," Mr Wagner said.
He said he knew the allegation was not true.
Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner have sued Alan Jones, Radio 4BC Brisbane, Jones's employer, Harbour Radio and journalist Nick Cater for damages for alleged defamation.
The total claims against the four defendants were recently increased to $4.8 million.