Jun 26, 2008

Better Protection for Air Crash Victims, less red tape for business

Better Protection for Air Crash Victims, less red tape for business

MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Anthony Albanese

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 26 2008

The Rudd Labor Government has been successful in its efforts to provide better compensation to the families of air crash victims, while also cutting red tape for industry.

Following nine years of inaction by the previous government, the Parliament has today passed the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (1999 Montreal Convention and Other Measures) Bill.

The legislation incorporates into Australian law the 1999 Montreal Convention, a multilateral aviation agreement that updates the potential legal liability of international airlines.

The Convention includes new, tougher liability arrangements for:

  •  The death or injury of a passenger;
  •  The loss or damage to a passenger’s baggage;
  • The loss or damage to a freight shipment; as well as
  •  Delays to the scheduled arrival of a passenger, baggage or freight.

The big change is that the existing caps on airline liability for passenger injury will be abolished – a significant step forward in consumer protection. To aid more rapid settlement of claims, the Convention also allows passengers to claim up to $172,000 in damages without having to prove the airline was at fault.

By expanding jurisdiction for court cases, the new scheme will also make it easier for Australians to seek fair and timely compensation following an air incident overseas.

This will mean that, in most cases, Australians will be able to bring their claim for compensation in Australia under Australian law, rather than having to deal with complicated overseas legal systems.

The new Convention will allow claims to be progressed in the country where the passenger lives, as long as the airline flies to that country – even if they only codeshare; and as long as the airline or its codeshare partner has an office in that country.

At the moment, claims can only be brought in the airlines’ ‘home country’; the country where the ticket was purchased; or the passenger’s destination country. Business will also benefit under the new system because it provides a standard legal framework that recognises the way business works in the modern age. Under the old scheme, people sending air cargo were meant to fill out detailed ‘air waybills’ which had to be paper based, and provided in triplicate.

The Montreal Convention will support new initiatives such as e-ticketing. Industry will now get legal certainty, as well as the benefits of a standardised system.

I expect the Montreal Convention to become operational on flights out of Australia within six months.

Further information on the Montreal Convention is available at:

http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/international/liability.aspx