Insults and chaff bags leave Jones in bad odour

ALAN JONES'S ill-chosen comments about the Prime Minister's father have erupted into a commercial, political and broadcasting disaster for the talkback radio king.

Sponsors started lining up to withdraw advertising as more than 36,000 people signed an online campaign targeting companies such as Harvey Norman, Big W and Mercedes-Benz, urging them to boycott Jones and his employer, 2GB.

The deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, launched an extraordinary attack on Jones, saying he would ''rather eat cardboard for breakfast than tune in to Alan Jones in the morning''.

''Listening to someone spray his microphone with such vitriol as you're waking up isn't just bad for your eardrums - it's bad for the country,'' Mr Swan writes in an opinion article that appears on The Punch website.

''Bully boys and whingers like Alan Jones and his poster boy Tony Abbott are trashing our country and filling our national debate with bile, aggression and needless personal abuse.''

The federal government is considering a blanket ban on all ministers and MPs appearing with Jones.

It sought to steer the blame towards the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, claiming he had created the culture of personal abuse and denigration that gave the green light to the likes of Jones.

''Tony Abbott has engaged in personal attacks and vilification of the Prime Minister that have sent a sign to people on the conservative side of politics that there's nothing too low, nothing out of bounds, nothing that goes too far in personal attacks,'' said the government leader of the house, Anthony Albanese.

The financial services provider Challenger, Lexus Parramatta, ING Direct, Bing Lee and Dilmah Tea joined Freedom furniture yesterday in pulling advertising from 2GB.

In another blow to Jones's prestige, Mercedes-Benz instructed dealers to stop advertising.

The supermarket chain Woolworths suspended periodic advertising during the program after it emerged that one of its senior staff was involved in the Jones fiasco. Coles also suspended advertising on his program.

Jones told a Sydney University Liberal Club function 10 days ago that Ms Gillard's father, John, died of shame because of the lies his daughter had told.

The function also featured an auction of a jacket made from a chaff bag. Previously, Jones said Ms Gillard should be tied in a chaff bag, taken to sea and dumped. The organiser of the jacket auction was Simon Berger, who was an adviser to Brendan Nelson when he was the opposition leader. He later sought preselection for Dr Nelson's North Sydney seat of Bradfield.

Mr Berger is now a community relations manager at Woolworths. A company spokeswoman said it was not responsible for Mr Berger's private activities.

The regional radio station 2QN, based in Deniliquin, pulled its broadcast of Jones's breakfast show, and 2AY in Albury axed the program, saying it had received an overwhelming number of emails and calls from listeners upset by his remarks.

Even anti-coal seam gas protesters turned on him, dumping him as guest speaker at the ''Rock the Gate'' rally and concert to be held at Murwillumbah on October 13.

A defiant 2GB boss yesterday refused to distance himself from Jones. Asked for his response to the desertion of advertisers and sponsors, Russell Tate, chief executive of 2GB's owner Macquarie Radio Network said ''the relationship with advertisers is a private one and a commercial one''.

Jones did not know his speech was going to be reported and after his comments were published in a Sunday newspaper he called a 45-minute news conference, in which he said he would apologise to Ms Gillard and went on to explain his comments. ''This was a throw-away thing at a private function, which - I thought it was a private function,'' he said. ''A bit of a smart alec remark, and if I've got to be belted up for it, well so be it.''

A spokesman for Ms Gillard says she had declined to take a call from Jones.

The Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, would not rule out appearing on Jones's program but fellow frontbencher Craig Emerson called for him to step down.

With more than 37,000 people signing a change.org petition, Mr Albanese said the jacket auction was as bad as the statement about Ms Gillard's father.

Other Liberals present at the function were MPs Ray Williams, Alex Hawke, and Sussan Ley and Alexander Dore, the Liberal candidate for Mr Albanese's seat of Grayndler at the 2010 election.

Mr Albanese said Mr Abbott's one-line statement describing Jones's comments as ''completely out of line'' and accepting his apology was ''pathetic'', given the heavily qualified nature of Jones's apology.

''The whole of Australia has seen an insight into what is the modern Liberal Party.''

Victorian senator Mitch Fifield said Labor was trying to politicise ''this awful situation'' and it was offensive that it was trying to implicate Mr Abbott.

with Michelle Grattan and Karl Quinn

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