Jun 17, 2009

Address to Airservices Waypoint Conference 2009 Dinner


Anzac Hall, Australian War Memorial

17 June 2009

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft once said that airlines were the first true World Wide Web, as they brought people, languages, ideas and values together, and quicker than ever before.

In the interests of fairness and IT bi-partisanship, I’d like to also share with you a comment by his main competitor, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.

Steve Jobs said that the key to business success is focussing not just on how products look and feel. Just as important is how the product works.

There is no more important factor underpinning the safe and efficient “working” of our Australia’s aviation industry than the management of our airspace.

It is a pleasure to be here tonight speaking to a body charged with the safe and efficient management of air traffic across 11 per cent of the world’s airspace.

That is a great responsibility, and AirServices manages it well.

Another important responsibility of AirServices is maintaining strong links with industry through information sharing events such as this.

Since I spoke last year at Waypoint, the impact of the global recession has affected industries the world over.

It’s been a tough 12 months for the airline industry.

The International Air Transport Association predicts global traffic could be down 8 percent this year with a 15 percent drop in revenue.

That is twice the decline following September 11.

Asia-Pacific airlines are expected to bear the largest losses.

The Australian aviation industry has not been immune from the adverse affects of this global recession, both in terms of profits and employment.

Nevertheless, the industry is a resilient one.

It’s fair to say the industry has been buffeted with some turbulence in recent years, such as the ongoing terrorist threat, fluctuating fuel prices and health concerns, most notably SARS.

Later this year, the Government’s Aviation White Paper will provide the Australian aviation industry with a sound, long-term policy framework.

The White Paper will provide a framework to underpin growth when we emerge from the global financial crisis.

More on this shortly.

A pre-condition for growth is safe and efficient management of air traffic.

AirServices manages air traffic operations for more than 4 million flights carrying about 65 million passengers each year.

Looking beyond passenger numbers, AirServices is responsible for a significant slice of this nation’s key economic infrastructure.

AirServices has an asset base of $650 million at over 600 sites in Australia.

It operates 26 towers and 21 aerodrome rescue and fire fighting services at major capital cities and regional airports around Australia.

These figures highlight AirServices’ significant safety responsibilities.

I’d like to take this opportunity tonight to say how pleased I am that collective agreements have been agreed with air traffic controllers, rescue and fire fighters, and corporate staff.

I would like to thank the Chair of Airservices, David Forsyth, the negotiating team, and indeed all those involved in completing the agreements.

I would like to commend the CEO, Greg Russell, for his leadership and very hard work in getting those agreements sorted out.

I would also like to recognise and commend the Union representatives – Peter McGuane and Robert Mason from Civil Air, and Mick Farrell from the Firefighters Union.

Everyday their members work hard under pressure to help secure the safety of those who work in the industry as well as the general public. It has been an honour to meet many hundreds of those frontline workers since becoming Minister.

I am very pleased they are here tonight. Their presence is a practical demonstration that Airservices – both management and the workforce is moving forward together.

Another important organisational step for AirServices was the recent appointment of Liza Carver and David Burden to the Board of AirServices, and the re-appointment of the experienced aviator, Roxley McLennan.

Liza brings strong legal and economic experience to the Board. David offers a rich background in IT and corporate governance. I’m certain the Board will benefit from these appointments, and I look forward to a continued strong working relationship with the Board.

I would like to personally thank Christine Goode for her valuable contribution to the Board since 2005.

The Rudd Government recognises that appropriate salary, working conditions and training for air traffic controllers is crucial for safety and efficiency in aviation.

We also recognise that investment in infrastructure is critical to maintaining Australia’s strong safety record.

AirServices’ ongoing investment in safety infrastructure and in the skills and training necessary to keep that infrastructure working is fundamental for safe air travel and aerodrome rescue and fire fighting services.

Significantly, AirServices will spend nearly $800 million over the five years to renew existing infrastructure.

This includes critical radar and navaids replacement, and in emerging technologies such as ADS-B.

This investment will lay the foundations for the next generation of air traffic management services.

It will also improve safety and provide opportunities for industry to realise operational efficiencies.

AirServices will spend more than $70 million over the next five years to modernise its rescue and fire fighting services at Australia’s busiest airports.

This will include new fire stations at Perth and Maroochydore, and a further 33 “Mark 8” fire trucks.

Air traffic control towers will also undergo major equipment upgrades, including in new towers being built in Melbourne, Adelaide and Rockhampton.

For the Rudd Government, there is no higher priority in transport than safety.

This year’s Federal Budget provided more than half a million dollars to support the establishment of a new expert board for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The new CASA Board will provide high-level direction to the organisation’s crucial regulatory and safety role.

John McCormick started in March this year as the new Director of Aviation Safety.

John has made a very strong start, and the new Board will provide strategic leadership for CASA.

Safety must underpin every aviation operation.

But, of course, with safety there is always more to be done.

Later this year, the Rudd Government will release its Aviation White Paper, providing a policy framework for the aviation industry.

The White Paper will also recognise that the aviation industry, by its very nature, is highly sensitive to the biggest issues and the biggest challenges of our time — of safety and security; of the global recession; of climate change; and the need to continue to liberalise markets and encourage investment.

The Rudd Government understands these are difficult times for the aviation industry.

We recognise the pitfalls of focussing just on the short-term, and believe there are great possibilities for future growth in aviation in this country.

It is a future in which AirServices will play a key role.

I thank you for your efforts; congratulate you on your achievements; and wish you the very best for the rest of your conference.