Sep 1, 2008

Questions without Notice – Qantas

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE – Qantas

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (3:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister outline the very important results of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s systematic review of Qantas’s engineering and maintenance control?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —This government’s first priority in aviation is safety. Australia has a safety system that is second to none, with internationally respected agencies in the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Airservices Australia and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. These three agencies have independent oversight of aviation safety in Australia.

On 3 August, the CEO of CASA, Bruce Byron, ordered a systematic safety review of Qantas. CASA’s review followed an incident on 25 July when a Qantas Boeing 747 flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne was forced to divert for a safe landing in Manila as a result of an explosion that tore a hole in the fuselage. This incident was followed by a number of incidents relating to maintenance of Qantas planes. To Qantas’s credit, and consistent with its absolute commitment to safety, Qantas was open with CASA and fully cooperated with it during this review.

This afternoon CASA announced the result of its review of Qantas’s engineering and maintenance controls. CASA’s review did not find any direct link between recent incidents, including that on 25 July, nor did CASA find any increase in the monthly rate of incidents. CASA found that recent incidents were unrelated and that there was no apparent common cause. CASA has recommended that Qantas review its management structure to better align responsibility and accountability for safety. CASA has recommended that Qantas take action on a range of safety and maintenance issues.

I am advised that CASA will now move to carry out two additional intensive audits of Qantas. The first audit will focus on Qantas’s 737, 747 and 767 fleet and involve a physical check of the planes as well as a check of maintenance documentation. The second audit will focus on Qantas’s maintenance systems and internal procedures relating to airworthiness directives. This ongoing action sends a signal to the aviation industry and to the travelling public that CASA and Qantas are very serious about maintaining Australia’s high safety standards. Australia can indeed be proud that we have a rigorous, world’s best practice safety regime and that Qantas is rightly regarded as an airline with a reputation for safety that is second to none. My No. 1 priority as the minister for transport will always be safety. The government will never be complacent about safety.