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Defiant Jones back on air

Alan Jones returns to the radio and mounts an assault on the government, as the opposition ponders how to handle its relationship with the defiant broadcaster.

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Tony Abbott says Labor's attempts to link him to the Alan Jones controversy was ham-fisted and part of a knee-jerk, daily campaign called "blame Tony".

"Honestly, the government blames me for everything," Mr Abbott said. "If someone gets a flat tyre on their way to work, it's Tony Abbott's fault.

"If the government misses out on a UN Security Council seat, you can be sure it is Tony Abbott's fault.

"But as far as I am concerned, and as far as the Coalition is concerned, Mr Jones' comments were wrong, unacceptable and offensive.''

Jones told a Sydney University Liberal Club function 10 days ago that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father had "died of shame" because his daughter had told lies in Parliament.

Jones returned to broadcasting this morning for the first time since his comments were made public late on Saturday.

Mr Abbott said: "I was shocked and dismayed to read the report and I said that he was completely out of line.

"He has admitted that it was wrong to say, and it is good he has [done so]."

Mr Abbott has been targeted by Labor politicians, who claim his leadership style has caused a deterioration in the standard of political debate.

Treasurer Wayne Swan wrote in a comment piece for News Limited that "bully boys and whingers" such as Jones and his "poster boy" Mr Abbott were trashing Australia and filling the national debate with "bile, aggression and needless personal abuse".

"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," he said.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said he backed the withdrawal of support from Jones' show by a number of sponsors.

"I think what this guy suffers from is absolute delusions of grandeur," he told ABC Radio today.

"And I think that's being cultivated by his intimate association with previous conservative leaders over a long period of time."

The Opposition Leader said political debate should be kept civil.

Asked about a tweet by Labor MP Mike Kelly that referred to Mr Jones' personal life, Mr Abbott said: "I don't thing we should be casting personal slurs on people, and as far as possible, where people go over the top, people should be prepared to apologise."

Mr Abbott said he would continue to appear on Jones' program.

"I have never been one to ignore a big audience. I am the Leader of the Opposition – I try to reach out to people every day," he said.

"I am not going to ignore an audience of half a million people in Sydney - I never have and never will."

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