Shock-jock Alan Jones, who sparked a storm of backlash for his offensive comments about prime minister Julia Gillard’s late father, has been removed as headline speaker for the upcoming Rock the Gate anti-coal-seam gas (CSG) rally in Murwillumbah.
Rally organiser Michael McNamara, spokesman for the Lock the Gate Northern Rivers, said the rally on October 13 would still go ahead but without the controversial broadcaster.
The backlash has spilled over to the anti-CSG campaign, with people emailing and posting comments on social media threatening to boycott the rally if Jones was speaking.
In a press release explaining the decision, Mr McNamara said the organisation had decided yesterday to withdraw the invitation to Jones ‘following derogatory comments made on Saturday by Mr Jones’ to a Young Liberals dinner.
Jones told a receptive dinner audience that Ms Gillard’s recently deceased father John had ‘died of shame’ over his daughter.
The comments and fallout, with several of Jones’s radio-station advertisers boycotting him, were recorded by a journalist at the dinner and splashed over media across the nation at the weekend.
Mr McNamara said the organisation had considered its options before making the decision ‘as to whether Jones will be welcomed to speak at what could be the biggest stand made against coal-seam gas mining to date’.
‘To see a woman’s efforts in any sphere of endeavour pilloried simply because she is a woman is despicable. To denigrate women’s capacity to fill any role in public life goes against everything I have worked for both in my professional and personal lives,’ Mr McNamara said.
‘In terms of our personal integrity, we believe that we had to make a strong statement that reflected our abhorrence of his comments. We had to decide whether, in all conscience and with our personal integrity intact, we could welcome him to the stage in Murwillumbah,’ he said.
‘What it came down to was a decision about whether we could, based on Alan Jones’s comments, the overall campaign against coal and coal-seam gas, and our personal sense of integrity, continue to have Alan Jones involved.
‘In terms of Alan Jones’s comments, we believe they certainly warrant a response at some level.’
Mr McNamara said it ‘has also been suggested to us that to withdraw the invitation to Alan Jones would in some way deny him “freedom of speech”.
‘Alan Jones expresses his opinions on a multitude of issues every morning on the radio, so not being able to speak at this event would hardly curtail his opportunity to make his views known,’ he said.
‘To those who said they would not come if Alan Jones is speaking, we say leave the personality politics out of the campaign. Stooping to personality politics is exactly what you are accusing Alan Jones of doing. Some of the comments we have received on Facebook and by email have been less than helpful and have done the same thing for which Mr Jones has been criticised.’