The Sydney University Liberal Club (SULC) is under fire for endorsing the speech made by Alan Jones at its President’s dinner on September 22, during which he said that Julia Gillard’s late father had “died of shame”.
SULC’s official Twitter account, @SydneyUniLibs, tweeted the next day: “brilliant speech by Alan Jones last night. It’s no wonder he’s the nation’s most influential broadcaster”.
That tweet was deleted last night, and today Mr Jones called a press conference to apologise to the Prime Minister for his remarks.
“There are days when you just have to concede and man up and say you got it wrong,” he said, emphasising that he had heard someone else make the remark earlier in the day and was only “repeating” it at the SULC dinner.
The SULC President, Alex Dore, could not be reached for comment. But he told the Sunday Telegraph: “It was a very long speech and I did not hear it. I have always found Alan to be respectful.” Mr Dore was preselected as the Liberal candidate for the safe Labor seat of Grayndler at the 2010 election, but was unsuccessful in his preselection bid for the winnable seat of Reid ahead of next year’s election. Mr Dore had been endorsed by Mr Jones, but he was defeated by pub heir Craig Laundy.
Honi understands Mr Jones spoke at the event as a personal favour to Mr Dore, as the two are close friends. Senior members of the Liberal Club were today distancing themselves from the remarks. The standard line was that Mr Jones’ address was too long to recall in detail, but that his “died of shame” comment was in bad taste.
“I personally don’t endorse the comments, I think they were in bad taste,” said Henry Innis, a SULC Vice-President. “But we were lucky to have a speaker of Alan Jones’ calibre at the SULC dinner.”
“The Liberal Party should be about debating ideas and principle, not personal attacks.”
Mr Innis would not comment as to whether any SULC members had expressed their displeasure about the remarks immediately following the speech.
SULC Vice-President and USU Board Director Zac Thompson declined to comment, but took to Twitter last night to voice his objection to the “media frenzy” that was unfolding.
“Why are people shocked that Jones has said something outrageous or shocking? That’s what he does. It’s his job. He’s a shock-jock,” Mr Thompson tweeted.
“There is no question Jones was unaware he was being recorded (jeez, CONTEXT people).”
Mr Jones’ speech had, in fact, been recorded by a Sunday Telegraph journalist, who paid the $100-a-head ticket price to attend the event. A source close to the proceedings told Honi they expected Mr Jones to seek legal advice about the audio recording, because it was taken in the course of a ‘private function’.
A list of donated items were auctioned off at the dinner, including a “chaff-bag jacket signed by Mr Alan Jones AO”, which had been donated by Woolworths manager and former adviser to Brendan Nelson, Simon Berger. The item refers to a previous comment by Mr Jones that Prime Minister Gillard should be put in a chaff-bag and taken out to the Tasman Sea.
Mr Jones bid for and won the item at the dinner but did not take it home. He said at his press conference that he “threw them a few bob to help them out”
Additional reporting by James O’Doherty
Do you know more about the SULC dinner? Do you know the location of the chaff-bag jacket? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org