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Published: 13 Aug 2020
Paul Garrett with Ruby Princess in Port Kembla
The NSW public are being denied vital answers about the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle, with the limited terms of reference and a refusal to give evidence by federal public servants meaning the findings of the Special Commission of Inquiry will be fundamentally flawed.
Commissioner Bret Walker is due to hand down his findings today, but the Maritime Union of Australia has accused the Federal and NSW Government of failing to uphold their commitments to full transparency.
Lawyers representing maritime unions wrote to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian requesting an expansion of the terms of reference to allow a proper examination of several key issues, including: the availability of testing and medical treatment on the vessel, the facts behind the transfer of the vessel to Port Kembla, the treatment of crew, and the circumstances of their eventual repatriation.
The failure of health and border control measures when the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock resulted in a cluster of COVID-19 infections on board the vessel spreading to the broader community, causing hundreds of infections and dozens of deaths. Despite this, key federal public servants refused to testify before the inquiry.
MUA Sydney Assistant Branch Secretary Paul Garrett said the inquiry’s failings would not only produce flawed findings, they would not be able to provide all the information needed to prevent a repeat of the disaster.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian stood hand-on-heart and promised the public a full, transparent inquiry, but that’s not what has been delivered,” Mr Garrett said.
“Key questions will not be answered because the scope of the inquiry was too narrow, and key government officials with intimate knowledge of the situation have been shielded from appearing.
“We urged the NSW Government to address the inadequate terms of reference to ensure they answered key questions, but Premier Berejiklian refused.
“It is imperative that a full, fearless examination be undertaken that also looks at the inadequate testing and treatment on board, the treatment of crew, and the reckless situation where the vessel was sent to Port Kembla, away from hospitals with more capacity to treat the outbreak among crew members.
“The health and safety of the 1,200 crew members was disregarded by authorities at every stage, yet this inquiry will do nothing but assist with the cover-up of their shameful treatment. The voices of the workers both on the ship and on the shore deserve a chance to be heard.
“The public deserve a full examination that includes testimony and thorough examination of all government officials with knowledge and oversight of the situation to ensure the full story is brought to light, sees all failings exposed, and results in necessary changes to the cruise ship industry being implemented to prevent any repeat of this debacle.”
Media comment: Paul Garrett 0418 422 589 or Mich-Elle Myers 0401 202 667