One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has called for “heads to roll” in the wake of the Ruby Princess debacle a day after NSW Police announced criminal investigations would begin into the ill-fated cruise ship.
More than 2,700 people were allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in Sydney Harbour on March 19, many then heading interstate and overseas, unaware four people on the ship were awaiting COVID-19 test results.
There have since been more than 600 cases in Australia linked to the vessel, while 11 people who were on board have since died.
On Monday, the ship arrived in Port Kembla near Wollongong where it will remain for 10 days. Border force officers and health workers will board to test the remaining crew members, with about 200 of 1040 currently displaying coronavirus symptoms and will treat the most seriously ill.
Amid ongoing attempts to shift responsibility between NSW authorities and the Australian Border Force, Ms Hanson laid blame on the NSW state government, who at the time said allowing passengers off the vessel was “low risk”.
“I blame the New South Wales Government for it. We knew, everyone knew, that there was a problem on the Ruby Princess that people had the coronavirus,” she told Channel Nine’s Today on Monday.
“They should not have been allowed off the ship. They should've been put into isolation. And it wasn't done.
“So as far as I'm concerned the buck stops with the NSW Government, the Health Minister and the Premier.”
"I blame the New South Wales government for it... the right decisions weren't made. People have died from that." @PaulineHansonOz on the Ruby Princess criminal investigation. #9Today pic.twitter.com/rEoLDlLSLr— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) April 5, 2020
In the wake of the coronavirus-riddled Diamond Princess which eventually docked in Yokohama, Japan with more than 700 COVID-19 cases on board, there was initial discussion the Ruby Princess’s voyage could be scrapped altogether on March 8, however after lengthy delays, thousands flocked on board and set off before returning 11 days later.
While at sea, the federal government banned cruise ships arriving in Australia but gave special dispensation for those at sea with Australians to return immediately. However Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly stressed anyone who was showing symptoms would not be allowed to disembark.
As community transmission continues across Australia, Ms Hanson said there should be consequences to the cock-up.
“The Australian people will want answers to this. And they want to see someone... heads have got to roll.”
Hanson says Hazzard considered ‘weak and useless’
She labelled certain people in parliament as “absolutely useless” and that they shouldn’t be holding such positions.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, whose own role has been questioned in recent days, defended the actions of his department in a tense press conference over the weekend.
“Can I just say that the experts who made the decision were the best in the world, and the appropriate thing at this point is for the investigation to continue,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Each of the staff of the Chief Health Officer made the decision to the best of their ability. And those people are experts in their field.”
Yet Ms Hanson suggested Mr Hazzard lacked the leadership Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been showing throughout the pandemic.
“I don't always agree with [Scott Morrison] but at least he's prepared to make the tough decisions. And that's what you need when you have a crisis,” she said.
“Brad Hazzard... I've heard from people that consider him weak and useless. I'm sorry, heads have to roll over this.”
‘Unanswered questions leads to criminal investigation
On Sunday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced an investigation involving cruise line operator Carnival Australia.
Led by the NSW police homicide squad, the investigation aims to identity how passengers were allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in Sydney, resulting in several deaths and COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country.
"From my perspective there are many unanswered questions," he said.
"There seems to be absolute discrepancies between the information provided by Carnival and what I would see is the benchmark for the laws of the federal and state government."
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