The Morrison Government must urgently take action to assist the crews on board the last remaining cruise ships in Australian waters.
The most immediate priority is the more than 1000 crew members on board the Ruby Princess docked in our local port. These people are confined to their cabins, with no idea on when they will be able to return home.
These are ordinary workers who must be looked after.
I was very happy to provide support to our local community campaign to extend our deep care and compassion through the Mission to Seafarers to get care packages to those on board the Ruby Princess - now we must see State and Federal Government extend them care and compassion too, and treat these people the same way we would want Australians treated in other countries.
Every day the Morrison Government waits to assist in repatriating these crews, it risks more crew members becoming critically ill, requiring transport to Australian hospitals and placing unnecessary additional stress on state health systems.
The Government must urgently put in place a plan to support these workers now. This plan must include testing of all remaining cruise ship crew members which I believe the NSW Government has now committed to doing, providing medical assistance or quarantine to any unwell crew members, and repatriating all crew members who are not required for the return of the ships to their home ports.
Under the conventions of maritime law, Australia must not force these vessels to leave Australian ports while the scale of infection is unknown and sick crew are still on board.
Once the scale of the infection on board these vessels in Australian waters is known, arrangements need to be put in place, at the expense of the cruise liner companies, for crew members to return home as quickly and safely as possible.
Only the Federal Government has the capacity to deliver the required national response as it controls our borders, our biosecurity responsibilities, and our management of diplomatic relationships.