I acknowledge the findings of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess, led by Bret Walker SC. We are considering the Inquiry’s report and recommendations.
I do however note that the report outlines that:
1.47 Given its lack of medical or epidemiological expertise, it is well for the public good that the ABF (and, for that matter, the Department of Home Affairs) do not bear any responsibility for the Ruby Princess mishap. As this Report was being finished, some interesting journalism was published that advanced the notion that a basic misreading by an ABF officer of negative influenza results as meaning negative COVID-19 results, had somehow contributed to the decision to let the passengers go as they did on 19 March. As the body of the Report spells out, that is not correct. It was the State’s Expert Panel that made the operative decision, relayed accurately (if by a clumsy means) to the DAWE Biosecurity Officer who granted pratique. That seems by far to be the most likely understanding of what happened, by dint of administrative conduct that undoubtedly could have been more crisp and formal. To repeat, neither the ABF nor any ABF officers played any part in the mishap.
The findings of the report are consistent with the statements made by me, including on 25 March 2020 and the submissions made by the Commonwealth. As previously addressed by the ABF’s statement on 30 July, the report from the Special Commission notes the erroneous broadcast and print journalism which has accompanied the hearings of, and submissions to the inquiry.
The ABF occupies a trusted position at the border, and our service to the Australian community is guided by the values of integrity, professionalism, respect and accountability.
Whether on the front line or in the huge effort behind the scenes throughout the pandemic, I remain proud of my officers in the ABF who have performed with the professionalism, commitment, diligence and compassion expected of them by the Australian public.
Michael Outram APM
Australian Border Force