Jeff Kennett has clashed with Today host Ally Langdon over the Hawthorn racism scandal in a fiery live TV interview.
The Hawthorn president has been on the offensive since last week, breaking his silence on Friday after allegations of past mistreatment of Indigenous players rocked the AFL community.
ABC Sport first revealed late last month that an external review into the Hawthorn football club contained unsubstantiated allegations that key figures at the Hawks were responsible for the shocking mistreatment of the club’s Indigenous players.
Appearing on the Nine program on Monday morning, Mr Kennett said while the allegations “took place six to 12 years ago and they are shocking, I accept that”, the club had a “process in place to try and work out … what weight we should put to those allegations”.
He insisted the leaked allegations did not amount to a “crisis”, referring back to his tenure as Victorian Premier from 1992 to 1999.
“But can I tell you, to me a crisis is something I experienced some years ago when Premier when I was driving back from the country and was rung up and told that the Langford gas plant had had an explosion, people had died, people were injured, and the gas supplies to Melbourne had been cut off,” he said.
“That to me is a crisis. These allegations are shocking and they have to be managed and they have to be dealt with … particularly in the interests of those who have been named.”
Langdon asked, “So hang on, are you saying that this isn’t a crisis because no-one has died?”
“No, no, I am saying how you go about managing a situation,” he replied.
“And I am just saying to you, the way to deal with this is calmly, maturely, put in place the requirements that are necessary to ensure that all parties get justice in the way in which it is dealt with, and we have that process in place.”
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan last week confirmed the league would form an external four-person panel to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
“It is a management issue, with shocking information being given, but the only way we are going to get to a conclusion is if we manage it calmly and we allow all parties now to have their say — that is what we are trying to do,” Mr Kennett told Today.
Langdon hit back, “I think that is what these players are trying to do and I know you have attacked them for speaking to the media saying it is not fair. Why do you think they have done that?”
Mr Kennett replied, “Sorry, Ally – Ally, we had a process in place. I haven’t attacked the players and it is your sort of comments that make the situation more difficult. We have a confidential process in place …”
Langdon cut in that “I think when you call it a bump in the road it’s quite offensive to those players, Jeff”, referring to comments Mr Kennett made on Saturday night during the club’s best and fairest.
“Sorry, it is also offensive so those they have accused,” Mr Kennett said.
“If you try to make this a media beat up, rather than trying to deal with it calmly which we are trying to do – I am not saying that people don’t have a right to talk to you people in the media … but when you a confidential process, and you ask for confidentiality yourself, but you don’t give it to those that you are accusing of making these terrible allegations, then that is unfair. It is not natural justice. And that is why you have to deal with this calmly.”
He added, “I am not accusing them of anything. I am simply stating a fact that we put in a process to hear their story. We have found some horrific things from what they have alleged and we are trying to deal with it.”
Langdon asked, “Why did they feel it was necessary to speak publicly? What do you think is behind that?”
Mr Kennett replied, “Well, Ally, with due respect, and this is why I don’t come on your show very regularly, if you continue to interrupt you won’t get the answers you seek. I don’t know why they went public. It was a confidential survey to find out the experiences of all our Indigenous players. Confidential.”
The external review alleges four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson and former assistant Chris Fagan, who is now the coach of the Brisbane Lions, were involved in some of the cases.
Clarkson has stepped aside from his role at North Melbourne, due to begin on November 1, as an investigation gets underway into the accusations. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Fagan has stepped aside from his role at Brisbane and has also denied any wrongdoing.