An inquiry has been established after weeks of calls by officials to answer questions about why passengers were allowed off the Ruby Princess cruise ship without completing health checks, despite an outbreak of the CCP virus onboard.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pledged to do all that she can to get to the bottom of it.
“As I have said before, we will leave no stone unturned until we find out exactly what happened,” Berejiklian said at a press conference.
The Special Commissions inquiry will be led by senior counsel Bret Walker, who will be given “extraordinary powers” to probe all the NSW agencies involved. This will include state and federal departments like the NSW border force, NSW emergency services, and the Federal Department of Agriculture.
“[Walker] is an eminent barrister, he knows and is aware of the powers he has. It’s a matter for him on how he proceeds,” Berejiklian told reporters on April 15.
Walker led the 2007 Special Commissions inquiry into the Sydney Ferry services. Most recently, he is known for representing Cardinal George Pell who was acquitted by the High Court of Australia of sexually assaulting two teenaged choirboys in the 1990s, freeing the 78-year-old cardinal after 404 days in jail.
As well as investigating decisions made by medical staff, and communications between departments, the terms of reference state that Walker is free to look into any other related matters that he may deem appropriate.
There are also ongoing police and state coroner investigations relating to the Ruby Princess.
The Special Commissions inquiry will have four months to submit its report. Berejiklian said that “the quickest path to answers is through a powerful and independent inquiry.”
The Ruby Princess cruise ship accounts for one-third of Australia’s confirmed national cases. Statistics show that at 2,897 confirmed cases (as of April 17), NSW accounts for about 45 percent of Australia’s confirmed cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.