by ALEC SMART
2GB Radio broadcaster Alan Jones, who faced censure and a massive advertiser boycott for suggesting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison should ‘give a backhander’ and ‘shove a sock down the throat’ of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has attacked one of his principle boycotters.
Apparently buoyed by a recent survey revealing that his breakfast program still tops the ratings in the morning timeslot, Jones singled out Coles supermarket chain and went on the offensive.
In a lengthy on-air diatribe on Oct 3, Jones urged his loyal listeners to give Coles “a very wide berth” and respond with their own boycott of the supermarket giant.
“I can tell my listeners to give Coles supermarkets and their groceraunts [in-store dining cafes] and their petrol stations a very wide birth. This is a two-way street. We can both play the same game. It might be time I entered the ring and started playing that game. And good luck to you by the time I’m finished.”
Jones’ aggressive rant urging violence against the New Zealand Prime Minister took place during a live broadcast of his breakfast show program on Thursday 15 August, and was his reaction to Ms Ardern appearing to criticise Australia’s poor environmental record. He also described her as an “utter lightweight” and a “clown”.
The misogynistic reproach provoked a widespread public backlash and Coles, along with reportedly over 100 other companies, including Commonwealth Bank, Bing Lee, ME Bank, Total Tools, and Anytime Fitness, withdrew advertising sponsorship.
The boycott has led to an estimated $1million loss in revenue for 2GB’s owner Macquarie Media, which this month was compulsorily-acquired by principle shareholder Nine Entertainment Company, owners of Channel 9 TV and the Sydney Morning Herald.
Jones, whose show is simulcast on Canberra’s 2CC and Brisbane’s 4BC radio stations, initially issued a statement saying his comments had been “misinterpreted”.
Jones’ tirade was brought to Ms Ardern’s attention on Thursday night, but her only public response was: “I don’t know that I’m going to give it the light of day, that comment. I think I’ll just leave it where it is.”
Yet the following morning Jones continued his verbal onslaught, calling Ms Ardern a “hypocrite” and “gormless” and he refused to formally apologise, despite Prime Minister Morrison saying he thought Jones’ comments were “very disappointing” and “way out of line”
However, Mr Morrison stopped short of condemning the former Liberal Party speechwriter, saying, “I will leave it to others to explain what they’ve said and how they’ve said it,” despite ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull demanding on Twitter that Jones apologise for “his latest misogynistic rant.”
In a statement explaining its decision to withdraw funding, the latter said: “Coles values diversity, respect and actively promotes the rights of all our team members and customers.”
In the Nadi Bay Declaration of 30 July 2019, leaders of Pacific islands at threat of rising sea levels called on Australia to immediately stop new coal mining, warning that some of their countries could be uninhabitable within the next decade unless radical solutions were employed to stop the burning of fossil fuels.
At the 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) representing 18 South Pacific nation states, which Tuvalu hosted from 13-16 August, Ms Ardern was questioned by journalists about Australia’s reluctance to address climate change seriously.
She replied that Australia “will have to answer to the Pacific” on climate change. “We will continue to say that New Zealand will do its bit and we have an expectation that everyone else will as well; we have to.”
Australia has refused to heed the UN Secretary-General’s call for all countries to strengthen their commitments to the Paris Agreement (an international agreement reached in 2016 within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to lower greenhouse gas emissions) before 2020.
Instead of investing in renewable energy, Australia assigns carry-over credits to meet its obligatory Paris Climate Accord targets, which it uses to justify the continued burning of coal-fired power stations.
Mr Morrison said Ms Ardern’s comments about Australia’s climate change policy were “taken out of context, “ although he added he supported “lively debate and lively discussion,” and “showing respect to each other.”
Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, said he respected Australia’s financial aid programs for Pacific nations, but insisted stronger action on reducing ozone-damaging emissions was the priority for their long-term viability. “Cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines, that is the thing we want to see.”
Yet despite Mr Sopoaga being directly critical of Australia, and Ms Arden being vague, Alan Jones – who thinks global warming is a “hoax” and describes Pacific Islanders anxious about their homelands submerged by rising seas as a “mob” of “absolute jokes” – directed his vexations at Ms Ardern.
But Jones is not shy when it comes to criticising powerful women, witnessed during Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s tenure when he frequently condemned her, including an infamous suggestion she should be “shoved in a chaff bag”.
The last significant advertiser boycott of 2GB came in the wake of Jones stating in Sept 2012 that Ms Gillard’s father ‘died of shame’ because she was a ‘liar’. Jones’ subsequent refusal to apologise cost Macquarie an estimated $1.5million in lost advertising revenue.
The day after Jones urged the choking of Ms Ardern, when public reaction reached fevered pique, Jones sent the New Zealand Prime Minister a grovelling letter of extenuation.
The Guardian newspaper obtained a copy under Freedom of Information laws:
“You may be aware of media coverage of comments that I made on my Australian radio program yesterday morning,” the letter stated. “One of my comments, which has been broadly reported and doesn’t need to be repeated here, didn’t come out quite as I intended. I had meant to say ‘put a sock in it’ and my actual words were taken literally by some who took offence on your behalf.
“I clarified this online yesterday afternoon, and again this morning on my radio program, stating that while I may disagree with your stance on climate change, I would never wish any harm to you.
“Please accept my sincere apology for the words spoken, and I hope that my intentions are, at least now, clear.”
But many felt Jones’ sincerity was disingenuous, and more advertisers joined the boycott of his program.
Macquarie Media chairman Russell Tate wrote to them promising a review of Jones’ Breakfast Show. “Notwithstanding his apologies,” Tate said, “I have today discussed the matter with Alan and advised him that any recurrence of commentary of this nature will result in the termination of his contract…”
Jones, who hosts The Alan Jones Breakfast Show on Sydney radio station 2GB in its Pyrmont studio, and co-hosts Jones & Credlin, with Peta Credlin, on Sky News, is described as one of the most prominent and influential broadcasters in Australia.
He uses his program to advocate his conservative views; however, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found him in breach of the Commercial Radio Code several times, for mis-reporting environmental issues as well as his infamous April 2005 comments when he racially vilified Lebanese men. On that occasion he read out a text message on his breakfast program urging people to “Get down to North Cronulla to support the Leb and wog bashing day”. This resulted in the infamous Cronulla Riots.
The latest audience survey of breakfast radio, assessed between July 14 – September 21, declared Jones’ morning program maintains its lead over its rivals with a 16.8% audience share with only a 0.3% drop..
Although significantly lower than its mid-1990s peak of 22%, Jones is still well ahead of his nearest rival, fellow ‘shock-jock’ Kyle Sandiland, at 11.6%.
But Jones’ new tactic of haranguing Coles for joining the advertiser boycott of his program, which suggests his apology to the New Zealand Prime Minister was disingenuous, is another incautious move in a long career characterised by bullying and harassment.
Macquarie Media’s new owners Channel Nine won’t be amused at their demagogic DJ driving away such a lucrative source of income. Jones’ describing Coles as “corporate hypocrites” directly contravenes a 2GB ban on radio hosts criticising advertisers.
Meanwhile, consumers have begun taking to social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook expressing their commitment to shop at Coles, just to spite the bellicose broadcaster.