Ruby Princess: the untrue Hillsong slur that Twitter can't let go of

It was refuted one month ago, but a false rumour about Hillsong and a Liberal MP continues to circulate on Twitter.

The allegation goes like this: Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke’s in-laws were on the Ruby Princess cruise ship – and that is the reason the passengers on that ill-fated voyage to New Zealand were “fast-tracked” and allowed to disembark in Sydney.

A further embellishment sometimes found in tweets suggests they were connected to the Hillsong Colour Conference because, allegedly, they attended it.

It’s perfectly delicious for people who don’t like Hillsong, or the Morrison Government – or both. The only problem is that it isn’t true.

Eternity has traced the earliest mention of it to a post on the “medium” website by a woman called Elle Black, on April 3.

It was given oxygen in an article on the inner city news site Cityhub the next day. “Hillsong link to Ruby Princess claimed” ran the headline and the article simply repeated the rumour.

But, by then, Newscorp senior journalist Samatha Maiden had established it was not true.

That was not good enough for some, so Maiden revealed that she had done the logical thing and asked Hawke.

But around and around Twitter the claims still circulate. Weeks later. And not-so-subtle digs about Hillsong and the Ruby Princess are even more prevalent. Check out the date on this tweet.

The idea that the Ruby Princess passengers were disembarked quickly so that a number of passengers, not just the Hawke in-laws, could attend the Hillsong Colour Conference – which had its second round on the weekend the ship came back – ignores the fact that the Ruby Princess came back earlier than planned.

If it had stuck to the original schedule, it would have arrived after the conference was over.

Another rumour (and there are many others) is that Hillsong visitors were connected to the Barossa valley COVID-19 outbreak in South Australia.

Former ALP MP and SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has been chasing down people who spread this one, asking them to provide proof. Crickets. That thread appears to start with a cartoonist for a daily paper (not in SA).

Finally, there is this one

Well, no. Eternity did not get a heads up from Hillsong, but we checked their website, and it tells us that they have cancelled their big conference until 2021. Just like the Olympics. So, nothing to do with schools.

Elle Black, who started the Ruby Princess rumour, provides these interesting stats. “The response to this post has been overwhelming with over 68,000 views, along with trending on Australian Reddit and Twitter, all within less than 24 hours.” There is certainly a vast appetite for this sort of rumour.

She adds: “I consider this post to be a blog post rather than an article and I have done my best to include linked citations to a majority of my claims — with the obvious exception of an anonymous source who shall continue to remain nameless.”

“My hope for writing this was to push the friends I have, who are real journalists, into investigating more and exposing the complete truth.”

Samatha Maiden did just that, Elle.