A petition calling for Transport Canberra to immediately remove 2CC’s Alan Jones ads from the back of buses in their fleet has been tabled in the Assembly.
Transport Minister Chris Steel will have three months to respond to the petition started by Canberra Women in Business president Peta Swarbrick, but because it garnered more than 500 signatures it will also go to the Environment and Transport and City Services Committee, which may recommend changes to Transport Canberra’s advertising guidelines.
The petition was sparked by Jones’ on-air comments about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a month after 2CC announced it would syndicate the Alan Jones Breakfast Show.
The ACT Greens threw their support behind the petition, stating that the government should not profit from Jones’ “blatantly sexist, misogynistic dog-whistling”.
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Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur tabled the petition, which drew 540 supporters in four weeks.
Ms Swarbrick said the petition underlined the depth of feeling in the community about comments and attitudes like those expressed by Jones.
“The greatest good that can come from this is that the guidelines are tightened up,” she said.
She said the government should be setting the standard about whose money it takes and whose it doesn’t.
“Jones uses hate speech and the government has a responsibility not to be seen to be promoting hate speech,” Ms Swarbrick said.
She rejected arguments that the petition was anti-freedom of speech and that 2CC and the government had a right to engage in a commercial arrangement.
“It’s always a freedom of speech issue when its someone in a position of power who has the power to damage another group in society,” she said.
“People with privilege have responsibility and he is totally unrepentant about it.
“It’s about the government as a purveyor of advertising holding themselves to a much higher standard than any other commercial entity.”
Ms Swarbrick said she would be happy to give evidence to the committee, saying it would be a good discussion to have in the current climate.
Ms Swarbrick she can’t believe 2CC broadcasts the Jones show, given his relentless Canberra bashing.
The current Transport Canberra advertising policy states that ads must not represent, portray or promote “a message that can be deemed offensive or demeaning to specific community groups (i.e. religious, ethnic, women, etc)”.
Jones said of Ms Ardern on 15 August: “I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat … Now I hope Scott Morrison gets tough here with a few backhanders.”
Around 80 advertisers have withdrawn their support from radio station 2GB and the Jones show since he made the comments about Ms Ardern. Macquarie Media said they would terminate Jones’ contract if he made similar comments again.
Jones wrote to Ms Ardern on 16 August apologising for his remarks, saying he would “never wish any harm” towards her. The apology letter was obtained under freedom of information laws.