IT COULD be at least another year before Toowoomba's wealthy Wagner family can test its $10 million defamation case against radio shock jock Alan Jones.
This is because all the Queensland criminals awaiting trial have Brisbane's courts booked for the next 12 months.
The revelation came during day two of a hearing that is determining which of the complaints relating to 34 of Mr Jones's broadcasts about the deadly 2011 Grantham floods and the construction of Wellcamp Airport should be put to a jury.
If the trial goes ahead as planned, jurors will effectively be asked to play the part of an everyday listener and determine whether they would have been left with the impression the Wagners orchestrated or were part of a ploy to "cover-up” the deaths at Grantham to avoid scrutiny about whether a fault in their quarry caused water to build up and burst into the Lockyer Valley with such lethal force.
Two consecutive inquiries cleared Denis Wagner and his family of any wrongdoing and the Wagners now believe Mr Jones should be called into question for the damage they say his on-air commentary caused to their reputation and businesses.
But Justice Peter Applegarth said on Wednesday the backlog of criminal cases in Brisbane's courts meant that would not happen this year.
He said he would be soon sitting on the bench at Toowoomba for two weeks but suspected "the criminal class will keep me occupied there”.
He also questioned why the case could not be settled through mediation because he was sure both Mr Wagner and Mr Jones had "better things to do with their time”. Neither of their lawyers responded.
Referring to large volumes of documents that would need to be prepared in coming months, Justice Applegath said that if no resolution was reached outside of court, he would order that the trial take place electronically to avoid paper waste and allow lawyers in Sydney to appear via video link.
Earlier, Justice Applegarth warned Mr Jones's legal team to mount a stronger defence against one particular broadcast in which the 2GB host alleged Wellcamp Airport was built "breaking all the rules”.
Justice Applegarth said Adani's North Queensland coal mine was approved despite strong objections from various groups and opposition to major developments was "part of the territory”.
He said even if the defence could prove the Wellcamp Airport development was fast-tracked in the absence of an environmental impact statement on koalas and without compensating landowners, the defence would only be "halfway there” and "near enough is not good enough”.
The hearing continues.
- ARM Newsdesk
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