Feb 12, 2009

Government moves to strengthen safety oversight of airlines

Government moves to strengthen safety oversight of airlines

MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

February 12 2009

Parliament has been asked to consider new measures that will strengthen the nation’s two key aviation safety agencies and their oversight of the airlines.

Today I introduced the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill and Transport Safety Investigation Amendment Bill.

These pieces of legislation will put in place new governance arrangements for both the Civil Aviation Safety Agency (CASA) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) by 1 July, honouring a pledge I made when releasing the Government’s Aviation Green Paper late last year.

The Rudd Labor Government is taking decisive action to preserve public confidence in the safety and reliability of air travel. While Australia has an enviable safety record, we cannot take past success for granted.

Civil Aviation Amendment Bill

The Bill will create a small expert Board of five members for CASA – Australia’s independent aviation safety regulator.

The new Board will include CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety and provide high-level direction to the organisation’s regulatory and safety oversight role.

The legislation also:

  • Improves CASA’s ability to oversight foreign carriers flying into Australia;
  • Strengthens the provisions for preventing operators from continuing to operate services where CASA considers it unsafe for them to continue; and
  • Closes a gap in the current legislation by introducing an additional offence of negligently carrying or consigning dangerous goods on an aircraft.

Transport Safety Investigation Amendment Bill

The Bill seeks to reinforce the independence of the ATSB by establishing it as a separate statutory agency with a full-time Chief Commissioner and two part-time Commissioners.

Under the proposed changes the ATSB would have operational independence from the Infrastructure Department with respect to the exercise of its investigation powers and administration of its resources.

Clarifying the ATSB’s independence as the national safety investigation agency was a key recommendation of the 2007 Miller Review.

The legislation also gives the ATSB new powers to compel agencies and operators within the aviation industry to respond to its formal recommendations within 90 days, giving the public greater confidence that the lessons from past accidents will be acted upon in a timely manner.

There is widespread industry support for these amendments and I would like to thank the representatives who provided constructive input on these matters.

While these are significant reforms, there is more work to be done.

Further measures to strengthen the safety and reliability of air travel will be outlined in the Australia’s first ever Aviation White Paper which is expected to be finalised by the Government in the second half of 2009.

I encourage anyone with an interest in the future of the nation’s aviation industry to have their say by going to: www.infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/nap/.

Public submissions to the Aviation Green Paper close on 27 February.