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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 3048


Mr SHARP (Minister for Transport and Regional Development)(4.52 p.m.) —I wish to refer to some of the comments made by the opposition spokesman, the member for Melbourne (Mr Tanner), in regard to the so-called press release war that he alleges is occurring between the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and me. I make the point—he would be well aware of this—that I made a ministerial statement in the House on Tuesday afternoon, which is a most appropriate thing for a minister to do. It is something that dropped off during the last few years of the previous Labor government. They were the sorts of people who, rather than make an appropriate statement in the House, would actually put out press releases.

I was making a ministerial statement following the Monarch coronial inquiry—the final presentation of that report. As did the coroner in the Monarch case, I made criticisms of the old CAA—I referred those criticisms to the new body, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority—and I made criticisms of the current CASA. Justice Fisher, who was the Chairman of CASA, decided off his own bat to put out a press release yesterday afternoon criticising me for criticising CASA. He said it was almost defamatory of me to make those sorts of criticisms. I make the point that I, as the minister, take the responsibility for what goes on in aviation safety in this country.

I believe that, in order to fulfil that task properly, I need at times to pass on criticisms, to make criticisms, and also to give praise where it is due. For the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to say that I do not have the right to make criticisms of CASA is a serious misjudgment on his behalf. I will continue to make criticisms where I believe they are appropriate.

I would make the point, as I did in the Main Committee earlier today, that his press release—which is not the first such press release he has chosen to put out—contradicts totally the letter he wrote to me in April this year, which said that he would give me complete loyalty and give the government loyalty. He used this expression of loyalty as justification for his continuing in his role as chairman of that organisation. I would put the proposition to members of the House that the two press releases he has issued since would be a long way away from expressions of loyalty to the minister and the government.