1978: Political ambitions
Jones ran in the 1978 by-election for the former NSW state seat of Earlwood. He lost to Labor challenger Ken Gabb despite being the Liberal candidate in a traditionally conservative seat. In the late ’70s, Jones also worked as a speechwriter for Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
1984: Wallabies coach
Jones replaced Bob Dwyer as the coach of the Australian national rugby union team. During his four-year tenure, Jones led Australia to success on New Zealand soil for the first time in almost 40 years. He also coached the Wallabies to a first ‘grand slam’ in Europe with victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Jones was later made a Member of the Order of Australia.
1985: Radio career flourishes
Jones kickstarted his broadcasting career in the mid-1980s when he became the mornings presenter on Sydney AM station 2UE. He moved to the breakfast timeslot when his predecessor, John Laws, returned to the station.
1993: Australian of the Year comments
When Indigenous musician and Yothu Yindi frontman Mandawuy Yunupingu was named Australian of the Year, Jones caused outrage after he suggested Yunupingu was given the award because of his “colour”.
1999: Cash for comment scandal
The ABC’s Media Watch program revealed that companies such as Qantas and Optus were paying Jones for favourable, unscripted comments on his 2UE program without the commercial arrangement being properly disclosed to listeners. Fellow 2UE broadcaster John Laws was also caught-up in the controversy. No laws were broken.
2002: Move to 2GB
Jones famously left 2UE in 2002, causing the station’s ratings to plummet. His new employer, 2GB, soon became Sydney’s most popular AM station. In his book Jonestown, journalist Chris Masters wrote that Jones was lured to 2GB with a lucrative stake in the company.
2005: Cronulla race riots
During the month the riots took place, Jones accused ‘‘Middle Eastern grubs’’ of wreaking havoc in Cronulla. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found Jones likely fuelled violence and vilification against people of Middle Eastern backgrounds during this time. In subsequent years, Jones was often referred to ACMA over controversial on-air comments.
2012: Julia Gillard comments
At a Sydney University Liberal Club function, Jones told the crowd that Labor prime minister Julia Gillard was a liar and that her recently-deceased father John had ‘‘died of shame’’. Radio station 2GB temporarily suspended all advertising on his breakfast show. Jones held a press conference apologising for his comments.
2018: Wagner family defamation
Jones was found to have defamed a prominent Queensland family over comments he made about the 2011 Grantham flood. He was ordered to pay a portion of $3.7 million in damages to the Wagner family.
2019: Jacinda Ardern controversy
Jones said Prime Minister Scott Morrison should “shove a sock” down New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s throat because of her comments on climate change and Pacific nations. Jones was forced to apologise but the comments cost his show half of its 2019 revenue due to an advertiser boycott.
2020: COVID-19 commentary
Jones courted controversy in March when he claimed on air that the COVID-19 pandemic was like the “health version of global warming … exaggeration in almost everything”. In the most recent radio ratings, Jones’ audience share rose by 3.1 percentage points to 17.9 per cent in the 5.30-9am breakfast time slot. It was his highest audience share since late 2018.
Broede Carmody is a culture reporter at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald