It was surreal. I was on a brisk walk in late May this year when Alan Jones started talking to me from my backpack. The radio star was explaining that, having received a courteous request from Roger Rogerson, he “responded with a courteous acceptance.”
And then I realised what was happening. My digital recorder, bumping around in the backpack, had magically retrieved a treasure from October 2009: Jones launching a book called Roger Rogerson: The Dark Side, the disgraced former detective’s memoir, at the Iron Duke Hotel in Alexandria.
The timing of this retrieval was uncanny. Only the previous day it was revealed in court that Jones had provided a character reference for Ian Macdonald, the former state Labor minister who was now behind bars, awaiting sentence for corruptly granting his old union mate, John Maitland, a coal exploration licence.
Almost a decade had passed since Macdonald, as the NSW Primary Industries Minister, had been good to Jones and his friends in the horse-breeding business when equine influenza threatened to shut them down. Praising Macdonald at the time on his 2GB program, Jones told the minister: “I think you should be running the trains, the desalination plant and everything.”
But here we were in 2017 and Macdonald was doing porridge – along with Roger ‘The Dodger’ Rogerson.
Jones could not have known in 2009 that Rogerson would be jailed for life, along with fellow ex-cop Glen McNamara, for murdering young drug dealer Jamie Gao in a Padstow storage container in 2014.
By the time of the book launch, however, Rogerson had already served two stints in jail for perverting the course of justice and for lying to the Police Integrity Commission. He’d been under a cloud for killing drug dealer Warren Lanfranchi, although that did earn him a police bravery award. He’d been acquitted of conspiring to kill undercover cop Michael Drury. And he’d been booted out of the police force for his dealings with Arthur ‘Neddy’ Smith, the murderer and rapist who, incidentally, once owned the venue for Rogerson’s book launch, the Iron Duke.
Rogerson relished the notoriety. The scene of him shooting Lanfranchi – from the mini-series Blue Murder – played on a big screen behind Alan Jones as he did the honours.
“Now I’m not suggesting Roger Rogerson is Mother Teresa,” Jones told guests, whose notables included crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen.
But Jones also admitted: “I can’t pretend that I know anything at all about Roger Rogerson or his past or whatever – because I’ve heard all of this sort of stuff, and I’m old enough and stupid enough to know not to believe much of what you hear and even less, perhaps, of what you read. And if you don’t know the people yourself, then don’t make judgments about them.”
Jones left the judgments to testimonials from a bunch of cops: “one of the hardest, bravest and [most] talented detectives of his generation.”
He hankered for Rogerson’s “old-style” policing to make the streets safer: “99.9 per cent of people are law-abiding… They don’t much care how tough you are on the other point-one per cent.”Jones may now appreciate that Rogerson and Macdonald were among the point-one percenters.
Hours before the book launch, however, Jones had Rogerson on 2GB. “Thirty minutes on air this morning repaired more than 20 years of damage to Roger’s good name,” said Rogerson’s lawyer, Paul Kenny.
It was a testament to the power of Jones’s breakfast pulpit, from which his formula of damnation and redemption is unrelenting today. A climate-change naysayer on one hand, he has been the most potent voice for the Lock the Gate movement against coal seam gas. He picks his causes.
When the Iron Duke collapsed, undermined by a nearby development, Jones used the airwaves to holler for help – and 179 tradies turned up the next morning and they had the pub rebuilt in weeks.
2GB’s brekkie ratings slumped during Jones’s long absence as he endured a succession of operations, but they surged after he returned in late March, fighting fit, a convert to pilates and 30 kilograms lighter. Jones, at 75, remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of his timeslot.
As a grateful Paul Kenny told the Rogerson book launch: “You don’t dial triple-0 if you want to get something done in this country … you dial 131 873 and you get on to [Alan Jones] and it’s done.”
And yet that phone number is of little use now to Roger Rogerson or Ian Macdonald. Presented with Jones’s character reference for Macdonald, Justice Christine Adamson said: ‘‘You can imagine what weight I give that.’’ On June 2, Justice Adamson called Macdonald “devious” and sentenced him to a maximum 10 years in jail, with a minimum of seven.