Today I am calling for an independent inquiry with Royal Commission powers into the Ruby Princess fiasco. The Premier has asked the Police Commissioner to look into this – but with the greatest respect to the Commissioner, this goes beyond his remit. It is not a narrow Police inquiry.
We need an arms-length inquiry into this catastrophic failure of Government. We propose a retired judge, with the powers of a Special or Royal Commissioner, to subpoena documents and call witnesses. On March 8, the Ruby Princess left Sydney in the middle of a pandemic. On March 19 it returned to a NSW port.
The NSW Government was informed that passengers were sick. It was the responsibility of the NSW Government to protect NSW public health. Instead, it failed to screen, test or quarantine around 4000 people on that vessel.
2700 passengers then got on buses, trains and planes. They dispersed across NSW, Australia and the entire world.
So far, the result has been 600 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, 340 cases in NSW – and tragically seven deaths.
Despite this, the Premier has failed to take responsibility. Last week, she blamed Border Force; now she blames the captain of the ship.
We need an independent inquiry – to restore public trust. To the families of the passengers who have lost their lives and to all who boarded that vessel – this is a crisis but it is not your doing.
I am very sorry for what you are going through – for all your pain, anxiety and grief.
You have been let down – as has the entire community.