Jun 16, 2010

Abbott now a risk on aviation safety

Abbott now a risk on aviation safety

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 16 2010

Under Tony Abbott, the Federal Coalition has today opposed the extra resources which would allow the nation’s independent aviation safety watchdog, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, to employ almost 100 additional safety inspectors.

Worst still, this opposition wasn’t based on a matter of high principle; it was the latest example of Tony Abbott opposing simply for the sake of it.

Mr Abbott has yet again proven he isn’t fit to be Australia’s Prime Minister.

Not satisfied with trying to sabotage the Government’s efforts to strengthen the oversight of our aviation industry, Mr Abbott’s colleague Sussan Ley launched a bizarre attack on the integrity of CASA and its safety inspectors, going so far as to question the need for drug and alcohol testing of pilots:

“…so a lot more dollars going in the door of CASA and no real accountability for the use of that money other than a hundred new cops on the beat.

“The average private pilot probably wants to be able to sit in the hangar at the end of the day and have a couple of beers, when all flying is concluded, without somebody coming past with a clip board and a breathalyser and a reason to do a drug test. It’s beyond a joke…”

But this is not the first time the Federal Coalition has repudiated the long standing bipartisan approach to aviation safety. Last year, they voted down regulations restricting access to a plane’s cockpit and closing a dangerous loophole in our aviation security laws.

Today we’ve learnt that Mr Abbott is not only a risk to the economy and our national security; he’s also a big risk to aviation safety.

BACKGROUND:

The legislation introduced by the Rudd Labor Government and opposed by the Federal Coalition – Excise Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010 – would give effect to the decision taken in this year’s Budget to increase to the aviation fuel excise from $0.02854 to $0.03556 per litre.

Importantly, every single cent of the extra revenue raised would go to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), delivering a 30 per cent increase over four years to its annual budget.

CASA will use this extra funding to:

  • Employ 97 additional safety specialists, safety analysts and airworthiness inspectors and other staff, allowing the organisation to expand its surveillance activities and fulfil its increasingly complex regulatory responsibilities.
  • Provide expanded and ongoing training to its staff.
  • Make permanent random alcohol and drug testing as well as a number of other programs which until now had been funded on a temporary or ad hoc basis.
  • Make sure the Office of Airspace Regulation continues to have the resources to properly regulate and administer Australia’s airspace, an area covering almost 11 per cent of the earth’s surface.

The actions of the Government are in part a response to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s 2008 audit of Australia’s aviation safety system which identified room for improvement for CASA, specifically in relation to the numbers of technical staff in some areas of expertise and the need for greater technical training within the organisation.