NSW Premier announces special Ruby Princess inquiry

 

The state government has announced a special commission of inquiry to investigate the handling of the Ruby Princess which is expected to leave Australian waters on Sunday.

The powerful probe, announced this morning, will report back within three to four months and is set to be spearheaded by esteemed barrister Bret Walker.

The launch of the inquiry comes after the Premier was told a criminal investigation into the matter won't be completed until September. Separate coronial inquiries could take more than a year to complete.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pledged to "leave no stone unturned" until the truth around what happened comes to light.

"It is important that answers are provided quickly for the people of NSW," Ms Berejiklian said.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian promised the criminal investigation would be “robust”. The inquiry would run alongside the police probe. Picture: Joel Carrett
Premier Gladys Berejiklian promised the criminal investigation would be “robust”. The inquiry would run alongside the police probe. Picture: Joel Carrett

The independent inquiry, with powers similar to a royal commission, will give the "quickest path to answers," she said.

Leading barrister Bret Walker SC will head the inquiry as Commissioner and have 'extraordinary' powers to examine all matters involving the cruise debacle including the actions of all agencies and parties involved.

It's understood the Premier received legal advice yesterday declaring the probe could occur alongside the ongoing police inquiry. However, at a media conference yesterday, Ms Berejiklian promised the ongoing criminal investigation would be "robust", and examine "everything from go to woe".

As The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday, the Premier was considering launching a commission of inquiry into the handling of the debacle to run alongside a police probe.

Yesterday, there were 128 confirmed coronavirus cases on-board the ship, which still holds more than 1000 crew.

 

Of the 69 crew with symptoms, all have "mild" cases of the disease, NSW Health said.

Two crew members were evacuated from the ship on Monday and Tuesday night, both suffering appendicitis. There are 12 crew members being treated for COVID-19 in state facilities.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the latest evacuation was a 20-year-old man but there was "no suggestion" he has coronavirus.

Mr Fuller also said police along with Carnival Cruises, Border Force, NSW Health and Aspen Medical are working towards a "hopeful" departure date of Sunday for the cruise ship.

Previous Commissions of Inquiry, which have wide-ranging investigative powers, have been called to examine the Waterfall rail disaster in 2003, and the Glenbrook rail disaster in 1999, both of which caused the deaths of seven people.

The Ruby Princess has been linked to 18 deaths across Australia, and more than 600 cases of COVID-19.

In the past 24 hours, a further 1305 people were tested for the virus with 16 diagnosed bringing the total number of NSW cases to 2886.

Originally published as Premier to announce special Ruby Princess inquiry



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