China labels Pompeo a ‘doomsday clown’ and Uyghur genocide claims ‘wastepaper’

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has called outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper”.

The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups such as the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo”, spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

“This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century.”

Mr Pompeo’s announcement on Tuesday does not require any immediate actions, although the US must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China.

China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability.

Biden administration should ‘view China rationally and objectively’

Mike Pompeo says China is trying to “destroy” Uyghur Muslims.(AP: Andrew Harnik)

US President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign declared, before the November presidential election, that genocide was occurring in China’s western Xinjiang region.

A spokesman for Mr Biden’s transition team declined to comment on a possible genocide determination before the new administration took office this week.

Ms Hua said over the past four years the Trump administration had meddled in China’s internal affairs and “done its best to suppress, smear, and discredit China” causing “serious damage to the US-China relationship”.

“I think this situation is not in the interest of the people of China and the United States, nor is it the wish of people of insight, including the ordinary American people, who want to see the healthy and stable development of China-US relations,” she said.

“I hope China and the US could meet each other halfway in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, to promote [the] China-US relationship, and to make the China-US relationship back to a healthy and stable track as soon as possible.”

‘Genocide’ designation the latest of a series of US measures

A Uyghur woman and children sit on a motor-tricycle after school.
The Chinese Government has been accused of imposing forced abortions and sterilisations in Xinjiang.(AP: Andy Wong)

The US has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour.

Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under US sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose.

Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues ranging from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric towards the US.

According to US officials and human rights groups China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps.

People have allegedly been subjected to torture, sterilisation and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.

Media organisations have reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uyghurs in 2020, including the mass sterilisation of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group.

China has denied all the charges, but Uyghur forced labour has been linked by media reporting to various products imported to the US, including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.

Responding to a question about China’s treatment of Uyghurs, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was up to the courts to determine cases of genocide.

Academic says pressure on China working

James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, said international pressure appeared to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the Government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions.

“So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new [Joe Biden] administration on holding China to account,” Mr Leibold said.

“And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese Government,” he said.



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Russia Labels First Individual ‘Foreign Agents’ Amid Worries of Clampdown

Russia has labeled a prominent human rights activist, three journalists and an artist-activist as “foreign agents” on Monday, the first time that individuals, not organizations, have been given the designation amid worries of a renewed clampdown on dissent.

Veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov; Radio Svoboda and MBKh Media journalist Lyudmila Savitskaya; Pskovskaya Guberniya newspaper editor-in-chief Denis Kamalyagin; 7×7 news website journalist Sergei Markelov and St. Petersburg-based artist and activist Daria Apakhonchich have been added to the Justice Ministry’s registry of “foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

The ministry did not give an explanation for why these individuals were added to the registry.

Ponomaryov, 79, was the longtime head of the For Human Rights movement, of one of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations. The group was included in the foreign agents registry twice and in November 2019 was disbanded by the Supreme Court at the Justice Ministry’s request. 

He told Interfax he was surprised to see his name on the list as he doesn’t work in journalism except for occasional blog posts for the Echo Moskvy radio station that he writes for free. He called on the other individuals on the list to unite and form a new organization called “Foreign Agents for Human Rights.” 

“I think there are other bloggers who are much more active in commenting on the situation in the country,” he told Interfax.

Russia’s “foreign agent” law passed in 2012 requires labeled organizations to report their activities and face financial audits. Activists have denounced the law, saying it seeks to silence groups critical of the Kremlin’s human rights record.

Russia has gradually expanded the law, which initially targeted NGOs, to include “undesirable” organizations and media outlets. A December 2019 law also expanded the “foreign agent” label to encompass individual journalists and bloggers.

The new additions to Russia’s foreign agent registry come days after lawmakers in both houses of parliament passed legislation expanding the “foreign agent” label to any politically active, foreign-funded individual. Failure to comply could lead to up to five years in prison if President Vladimir Putin signs the controversial proposals into law. 

Critics say the latest expansion to the legislation is meant to further limit Russia’s opposition ahead of next year’s elections for the State Duma.

AFP contributed reporting to this article.

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Paul Gallen labels Sonny Bill Williams ‘yesterday’s hero’ and targets Rob Whittaker after beating Mark Hunt

“I saw Whitaker’s interview about [me] a year ago,” Gallen said.

“I don’t know if it was a podcast, I can’t remember what it was – but someone asked if he’d fight me and he said: ‘Yeah, I’d fight him but he wouldn’t fight me’ and he laughed, like in a way that annoyed me.

“I felt ‘Stuff you, you condescending pr–k, I’ll fight ya’.

“I had options for this fight, but Mark was the big name and the big drawcard and we’re here to promote Australian boxing and all the other guys who were on the undercard tonight, he was the biggest name, he was the biggest scalp.

“I’ve got that one done. If we can come with a deal with Rob Whitaker, we’ll sort that one next.

“I won’t be taking any less than 50-50. I saw what he asked for [to make the fight happen] the other day.”

After defeating Mark Hunt in an epic battle, Paul Gallen has his sights set on another combat sports legend.Credit:Getty

Gallen was paid less than Hunt for their bout in front of 11,820 fans at Parramatta, but the 39-year-old said he won’t be taking less than an even share against his next opponent. He is resigned to the fact it won’t be Williams, despite calls for them to meet in the ring for the best part of a decade.

“Sonny Bill is yesterday’s hero,” Gallen said.

“Where is he? Where is he?

“I’ve said I’ll fight him for how many years now. You’ll have to go and ask him.

“Why doesn’t [somebody] ask Sonny Bill if he wants to fight me? I’m always the one answering the question.

“Go and ask Sonny. Actually go and ask Khoder [Williams’ manager Khoder Nasser]. Khoder speaks for him. Sonny can’t talk.”

Gallen, right, claimed the biggest scalp of his boxing career via a unanimous points decision against Mark Hunt.

Gallen, right, claimed the biggest scalp of his boxing career via a unanimous points decision against Mark Hunt.Credit:Getty Images

Gallen, who came into the Hunt fight as a rank outsider, believes Whittaker would present an even greater challenge.

“I know how fit he is,” Gallen said. “I know I won’t be fitter than him, I won’t be stronger than him. It’s going to be a challenge. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to promote boxing and what bigger challenge than Rob Whitaker.”


Gallen admitted he was “rattled” after taking a series of heavy blows from knockout specialist Hunt.

“It was that second round, I don’t even know what he hit me with,” Gallen said.

“I was rattled without a doubt. We all know what he’s renowned for.

“I’m not happy I got hit like that, but I’m happy that I never went down.”

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Former premier labels Ashley a ‘mini Risdon Prison’, urges its closure

A former Tasmanian Labor premier has described how she “felt sick” walking into Ashley Youth Detention Centre when responsible for the facility, and is joining calls for the Liberal State Government to close it down.

Lara Giddings, premier between 2011 and 2014 and a current member of the national Justice Reform Initiative, has spoken after the ABC confirmed five staff from Ashley have been stood down since November pending investigation into allegations of misconduct.

Ms Giddings said recent events showed the model was not working and she has urged the Government to pursue a different one.

Human Services Minister Roger Jaensch confirmed three people had been stood down on November 13.

Parliament heard one of the employees was facing historical allegations of sexual misconduct.

Another two staff members were stood down last week, with one of those employees also facing allegations of child sex abuse from more than a decade ago, according to a statement from a government spokesman.

Ms Giddings said while she could not comment on the allegations, she believed Ashley was not working for anyone.

“The reality is you have 10-year-olds going into a facility like Risdon and you are putting them onto a pathway to graduate from Ashley into Risdon.”

Former premier Lara Giddings wants the Government to pursue another model for juvenile punishment.(Supplied: Facebook)

A government-funded review in 2016 recommended that Ashley close in favour of two smaller facilities at each end of the state.

Instead, the Government has committed more than $7 million to upgrading the centre.

Mr Jaensch has said the upgrades would make the centre safer.

Ms Giddings said there would always be a need for youth detention facilities but said Ashley was the wrong model to achieve rehabilitation.

“I think people have been frightened to close a facility around [the northern town of] Deloraine that has been quite critical to Deloraine’s economy,” she said.

“There are alternatives that you could use Ashley Detention Centre for … why not use that infrastructure in a way that will rehabilitate adult offenders?”

Ms Giddings said while her government didn’t close Ashley, a “conversation” had begun on the possibility of closing it in favour of a new model of care.

“These things take time to bring communities with you,” she said.

“It also takes time to build the alternative model that needs to be in place before you can close the doors on the old.

‘Something is rotten’

The same 2016 review of Ashley found almost three-quarters of released detainees returned to the facility within a year.

Figures from the Productivity Commission show it cost an average of almost $3,200 per young offender per night in 2018-19.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said she had long been calling for the facility’s closure.

“With each passing day, it becomes more clear there is something rotten at Ashley, and those young people are being let down terribly,” she said.

“It was a political decision, on the Liberals’ part, to keep Ashley open at the state election.

Aerial photo of Ashley Youth Detention facility.
The cost of keeping young offenders in Ashley has been estimated at almost $3,200 per night.(Supplied: Tasmanian Government)

Under questioning on human rights standards from Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb in scrutiny hearings in November, Communities Tasmania deputy secretary children and youth services Mandy Clarke told MPs that children’s rights were front and centre at Ashley.

“Universal rights, education, health, those sorts of things are on site in Ashley and, importantly, the cooperation of the teams to ensure people are learning whilst they are in detention, their healthcare needs are actually being met and being delivered through the Department of Health,” Ms Clarke said.

“Other factors get picked up in the domain of the child and well-being strategy of nutrition, diet, often for many young people … It is an opportunity for them to probably have a more stable diet than they have had for a little while.”

Mr Jaensch told hearings the facility was on its way to being a therapeutic model of care.

Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Young People did not respond to requests for comment.

Calls for more transparency

Ella Haddad
Labor shadow attorney-general Ella Haddad wants the Government to reveal the terms of reference for the inquiry.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

The ABC understands that three Tasmanian Education Department employees have also been stood down since November.

The Government has confirmed one — a teacher in the north — is facing historical sex allegations.

A spokesman said on Tuesday:

“The Tasmanian Government has taken legal advice on what information it is able to release on these matters, while being as transparent with the Tasmanian public as possible.”

“The approach the Government has taken is based on that advice to ensure that principles of natural justice are afforded, as well as fulfilling our duty of care to employees’ health and welfare, while appropriate investigations are undertaken.”

He added it was “fundamental” that investigations were not prejudiced and said no further comment would be made.

Shadow attorney-general Ella Haddad said Tasmanians deserved answers, and called on the Government to release the terms of reference for the upcoming commission of inquiry by the end of the month.

The commission of inquiry — Tasmania’s version of a royal commission — will replace three concurrent investigations into the departments of Health, Education and Communities.

“We’ve got scant information about how the commission will work and scant information about new allegations,” Ms Haddad said.

“We’re talking about really sensitive subject matter which is deeply personal and deeply traumatic, and since then we’ve seen more secrecy, and we need to see terms of reference released which explains to the community what supports will be available.”

Speaking at a press conference last week, Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the terms of reference would be released early next year.

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Port Arthur massacre survivor labels film depiction ‘inappropriate’, Premier says still ‘too raw’

A survivor of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre and Tasmania’s Premier are among those who have criticised a new film in production detailing the tragedy.

It is understood the film will not name gunman Martin Bryant and fictitious names and titles will be used for other characters.

The film is directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant, who collaborated on a film adaptation of the Snowtown murders that was released in 2011.

NITRAM is the current working title for the film, Bryant’s first name spelled backwards.

Justin Kurzel was also behind the Snowtown movie.(Supplied: Stan)

In a press release announcing the film, streaming service Stan described it as “a scripted feature film that looks at the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in Australian history in an attempt to understand why and how this atrocity occurred”.

The film is due to premiere on the online platform and in cinemas in 2021 after debuting at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Production for the film is currently underway at several locations in and around Geelong, Victoria.

Minister refused to meet filmmaker

In Question Time in the Tasmanian Parliament on Tuesday, Premier Peter Gutwein said he felt “highly uncomfortable” about the film, but admitted there were few options available to limit its production.

“This is a production that is not being shot in Tasmania and from the point of view of what we could do as a state we have very few, if any, options in terms of being able to limit this production taking place,” he said.

Mr Gutwein said Arts Minister Elise Archer refused to meet with the filmmaker when asked.

Elise Archer and Peter Gutwein, at coronavirus briefing.
Attorney-General and Arts Minister Elise Archer with Peter Gutwein. He says she refused to meet with filmmakers.(ABC News: Tony King)

“When contacted about this [Ms Archer] made the point very clearly that she wouldn’t meet [with the filmmaker] and the Government would not support the upcoming film project, saying that there is an understandable and ongoing sensitivity in Tasmania around the subject and it was not appropriate for the Tasmanian Government to lend support or enter into discussions regarding this project,” Mr Gutwein said.

Neither the Tasmanian Government nor Screen Tasmania had been involved in the film.

“I would hope that the filmmakers would be sensitive in the way that they craft this particular production.”

Survivor says film ‘inappropriate’

A close up of a man wearing a cap
Justin Woolley was 12 years old when he was in the Broad Arrow Cafe just before the gunman entered and began shooting.(Supplied)

Justin Woolley was visiting Port Arthur with his family on the day of the massacre in 1996.

The then 12-year-old was in the Broad Arrow cafe with his sister looking at souvenirs 10 minutes before the gunman entered.

Like many tourists that day, he thought the gunfire was a form of historical re-enactment.

He then saw people screaming and flooding out of the cafe.

His grandfather realised bullets were being fired in their direction and the family took shelter in nearby ruins.

His family survived, but said the film about the perpetrator was “inappropriate”.

“As someone with direct involvement, it’s only natural that I would be more sensitive than most to the announcement of the film,” he said in a statement.

Now an author, Mr Woolley said his concern about the film stemmed from his understanding of needing to humanise the main character.

“I know well that in order to create a story about this individual it is necessary to generate sympathy in the audience, at least have them relate to the subject,” Mr Woolley said.

“It is this, in a film portraying the life of Martin Bryant, that I strongly object to.”

“The language in the announcement of this film that it will be a ‘study of one of the darkest chapters in Australian history’ and will focus on the study of a man being driven to do something so horrific immediately raised these alarm bells.

“We do not need a study of the motivations of the perpetrator of this crime. We know them already.”

The producers did not comment when contacted by the ABC about the concerns.

In its statement on Monday, Stan said it had “complete faith” that the subject matter would be handled with sensitivity and respect.”

Remains of the Broad Arrow Cafe at Port Arthur
The shell of the Broad Arrow Cafe where 20 people died still stands at the site.(ABC News: Gregor Salmon)

Snowtown filmmaker showed ‘sensitivity’

The prospect of a film being made about a dark day in Australian history is familiar to Paul McCormack.

The South Australian grain farmer was a member of the Snowtown Community Management Committee, which represented community interests after learning a film would be made about the infamous Snowtown murders in the 1990s.

“There had been a number of documentaries made in the period from the crime until the film was actually made, there had been documentaries that probably hadn’t painted the town in a really good light,” he said.

“So there was a little bit of disappointment, frustration, a ‘why us’ sort of attitude.”

Reflecting on his experience, Mr McCormack said any concerns and apprehensions were taken on board.

“There are references on travelling to Snowtown and he [the filmmaker] took that on board that in the dialogue, it wasn’t mentioned directly,” he said.

“I think there was an element of sensitivity in our film that made us out that we were at the end of a chain of events.

Port Arthur memorial pool
A memorial pool has also been built at the site to honour the victims.(ABC News: Gregor Salmon)

He said he can understand the mixed reception to the upcoming film.

“It’s human nature to be curious about certain events in history, and unfortunately, Snowtown was victim to that,” he said.

“I can understand that the filmmaker would like to depict a part of history but I’d urge him to be very careful and very tasteful and very sincere in the production.

“I think it’s best if it’s not shown in some ways, but it’s not for me to judge.”

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Premier labels 15-year delay for South Road tunnel outlined in leaked plans as ‘fake news’

Labor says it has been given leaked documents which show the design to turn Adelaide’s South Road into a non-stop motorway and also reveal the project’s end date will be delayed by more than a decade.

Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said the document prepared by the Department for Infrastructure and Transport also identified a tunnel as the preferred option for the section of the road from Tonsley to near Anzac Highway.

It would take four and a half years to complete, and the second stage — between Anzac Highway and the River Torrens — would not begin until after that work was finished.

“What we know now is the Government was planning to announce in the budget a tunnel from the Gallipoli Underpass towards Tonsley,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

The incomplete part of the project is shown in green.(Department for Infrastructure and Transport)

“It also shows South Road now won’t be completed until 2035.

In 2013, then prime minister Tony Abbott pledged to upgrade South Road within a decade.

The State Government wants to turn the route into a 78-kilometre non-stop motorway from Old Noarlunga to Gawler.

Mr Koutsantonis said the “extraordinary leak” showed an open motorway would be the cheapest option, have the highest cost-benefit ratio and would be the cheapest to maintain.

Heritage and acquisition difficulties

The last part of the project, through inner-western suburbs such as Edwardstown and Mile End, is among the trickiest because of the heritage and commercial buildings that straddle the road, including the Thebarton Theatre.

The report said it would be $800 million cheaper to not build exits at Sir Donald Bradman Drive for airport access, a move which would also save up to 100 properties from acquisition.

The Thebarton Theatre
The Thebarton Theatre in Tom Koutsantonis’s West Torrens electorate.(ABC Open: Mickw78)

A further $300 million could be saved by building the motorway over the River Torrens instead of a tunnel under it.

If the State Government proceeds with this plan, the project is expected to cost $8.9 billion.

Only $5.5 billion has been budgeted for it at this stage.

The RAA first suggested tunnels for the project in 2009 under the former Labor government, but enquiries into the possibility only started under the Liberals in 2018.

‘Fake news’, says Premier

Premier Steven Marshall said any suggestion Adelaide’s north-south road corridor project would take until 2035 to complete was “fake news”.

Mr Marshall said the leaked papers looked to him like an old document.

A graphic showing cars in a tunnel.
A proposal for a South Road tunnel released by the RAA in 2009.(Supplied: RAA)

He said he would reveal more details about the project and its expected duration in coming weeks, but he insisted a 2035 completion date was wrong.

“That’s definitely not correct; that is absolute fake news,” he said.

“As the Treasurer said two or three weeks ago that we would be completing this project in 10 years — it’s a very important project.

“There are real complexities to this project. Part of it is making sure we get the balance right in terms of the cost, in terms of the timeframe, also in terms of the inconvenience of the build and also the property acquisition.”

Treasurer Rob Lucas is due to hand down the State Budget on November 10.

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White House labels Venezuela’s Maduro cocaine ‘kingpin’ over alleged drug trafficking ties

The White House on Wednesday called out Venezuela and almost two dozen other nations as “major drug transits” or “drug-producing countries,” in an effort to tackle the ongoing drug trade in the U.S. – an issue Trump has attempted to curtail since he took office.

The Justice Department in March already indicted Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro for his alleged involvement in a decades-long narco-terrorism and international cocaine trafficking conspiracy scheme. A $15 million bounty has been placed on Maduro for information that could lead to the arrest of the socialist.

The United States no longer accepts the validity of Maduro’s presidency, instead recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the true president of Venezuela in 2019.


“The most complicit kingpin in this Hemisphere is the Venezuelan dictator, Nicolas Maduro,” The White House said in a statement. “He joined a multitude of other regime cronies who are either under U.S. indictment or were sanctioned for drug crimes by the Department of the Treasury.”

Maduro, along with Venezuelan National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello Rondón, were accused of conspiring with Colombian rebels and military members “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America,” according to the DOJ indictment from March.

Maduro responded to the March indictments by calling Trump a “racist cowboy,” and warned the U.S. against attempting any sort of invasion.

“Donald Trump, you are a miserable human being,” Maduro said during a televised address.


“If one day the imperialists and Colombian oligarchy dare to touch even a single hair, they will face the Bolivarian fury of an entire nation that will wipe them all out,” he added.

Maduro has not yet commented on the U.S.’s most recent attempts to target the socialist country but faces additional international challenges as United Nations’ investigators accused the president and other top officials on Wednesday of crimes against humanity.

The Human Rights Council found that the socialist government wasdirectly responsible for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and illegal detentions of thousands of victims that opposed the regime.

Venezuela is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which means the findings found in the U.N. report could be utilized by the ICC to prosecute Maduro and other senior leaders.


Maduro is already under increased pressure by the U.S., along with other nations who support Guaidó’s presidency, but with the recent findings they could expect to see increased international sanctions which have already crippled Venezuela’s economy.

Maduro believes the U.S. is trying to overthrow him in order to exploit the massive oil reserves Venezuela contains.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Former Bomber slams the club’s current state, labels them “imposters”

Former Essendon premiership defender Dean Wallis has slammed the current state of the club, calling them AFL “imposters”.

The Bombers are currently enduring a difficult season in John Worsfold’s final year as coach, languishing in 11th spot with six wins from 15 games.

The club has continued its struggles of recent years in 2020 and Wallis, who used to work at the club as a development coach, said it was time someone spoke out about Essendon’s problems.

He called for a “review and investigation” into all aspects of the club, detailing the “lifeless environment” which he believes currently exists at the Bombers.

“If there was an Olympic Games for imposters in the AFL, Essendon would win gold, silver and bronze,” he told the Herald Sun.

“Some people will have a go at me for speaking out like this, but someone needs to stand up. The reality is, I’m just a past player who cares about his club.

“There needs to be a full review and investigation into the ongoings of the past and hopefully there are some passionate Essendon heavy hitters that can rally together to make drastic and necessary changes.

“There was some amazing energy around the place when Hirdy (James Hird) and Bomber (Mark Thompson) came back to the club and if the saga hadn’t happened we could have won a couple of premierships by now.

“But unfortunately, lives have been destroyed.

“The people who I still speak to at the club tell me it’s a lifeless environment today. I’m on the outside now, but they’re telling me it’s lost its soul.

“And unfortunately, those people won’t stand up and say anything because they are scared of losing their jobs – and don’t worry there are plenty of frustrated past players out there too.”

Essendon’s task of finishing the season off well doesn’t get any easier, with a meeting against the ladder-leading Port Adelaide to come on Saturday.

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Victoria records 81 COVID-19 cases, Daniel Andrews labels Victoria lockdown roadmap ‘out of date’. Fitness First Randwick case confirmed, Australia death toll at 737

“Victorian business is on its knees, Victorian business has barely got a heartbeat. The government must come out and give our small businesses some hope this Sunday,” the Liberals leader told reporters.

“Too many people are facing the end of their dreams. Too many people are facing the end of their jobs. It’s not enough for the government to keep people waiting. We need to be able to get businesses and small businesses safely reopened. And that’s what the government’s roadmap must have, if it’s to be any plan at all.”

He welcomed the City of Melbourne’s proposal to transform footpaths and streets into dining areas as the city emerges from lockdown over the summer months.

“I think it’s a terrific idea. I think anything that can give these businesses a chance to do what they do, to give people a chance to get back into work, I think that’s fantastic,” he said.

Mr O’Brien, whose party will vote against the government’s six-month state of emergency bill when it’s brought before the lower house afternoon, also had a message for anti-lockdown protesters.

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Look, I at least have been consistent when it comes to protests, whether it’s been Black Lives Matter, or anti-masks, or anti-5G or anything else. This is not the time for a protest,” he said

“This government rolled out the red carpet for Black Lives Matter protesters, and it’s held up a red card to this weekend’s protest. You know what, red card them all we don’t need protests at this time.”

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