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Wednesday, 22 October 1997
Page: 9441

Mr VAILE (Minister for Transport and Regional Development)(9.31 a.m.) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959, the Civil Aviation Act 1988, and other aviation-related legislation. The amendments to the Carriers' Liability Act and the Civil Aviation Act mainly relate to the Commonwealth's initiative in introducing a national scheme requiring air carriers to carry mandatory non-voidable passenger liability insurance.

This requirement means that, in the event of an air accident, passengers, or their relatives, are assured as far as possible of receiving compensation to the amount of $500,000 per passenger for their death or injury. The Commonwealth requirements are reflected in complementary state legislation, so that a mandatory passenger liability insurance scheme will operate nationally to cover all commercial flights in Australia. Uniform application of state legislation will not come into effect until these Commonwealth amendments are enacted.

The principal amendments proposed to the two acts are of a minor nature and are intended to make the administration of the national scheme simpler, and thereby ensure the full and effective implementation of the Commonwealth's initiative. The amendments to the Carriers' Liability Act will authorise the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, CASA, to directly administer both the Commonwealth Carriers' Liability Act and the complementary state legislation, rather than under delegation from the Commonwealth and state ministers responsible for transport. This will clarify the position on State-Commonwealth delegation of powers, and powers of enforcement.

In addition, to assist the Civil Aviation Safety Authority further with the enforcement of the national requirements, offences under the state acts must be regarded as Commonwealth offences. To this end, the Carriers' Liability Act will also be amended to enable Commonwealth authorities to investigate and prosecute offences under the state acts as if they were Commonwealth offences.

A further minor amendment to the Carriers' Liability Act will allow Australian governments to self-insure their risks under the act, instead of requiring them to take out commercial insurance. At this stage, Commonwealth and state government agencies are required to insure any passengers that they occasionally carry for reward, in accordance with the Carriers' Liability Act requirements. However, it is not the practice of Australian governments to carry commercial insurance. The bill therefore provides that, where both carrier and insurer are the Crown, the carrier need not have a stipulated contract of insurance to satisfy the technical requirements of the act, but must still satisfy CASA that the arrangements it puts in place for coverage of passengers satisfies those requirements of the act.

The amendments to the Carriers' Liability Act and the Civil Aviation Act will also impose conditions upon air operators' certificates, AOCs, which will require that operators continuously hold the mandatory passenger liability insurance required by the Carriers' Liability Act. Therefore, these amendments will give CASA the authority under legislation to more effectively prevent an operator carrying passengers without the mandatory insurance. CASA will be empowered to cancel, suspend or vary an AOC where an operator allows that insurance to lapse, but continues to carry passengers.

The bill also makes a number of minor corrections to other aviation related legislation. The corrections, of a formal or typographical nature, in the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Act 1995 have retrospec tive effect, in order to ensure that they have effect from the original date of commencement of the provisions being corrected. The retrospective repeal of certain amendments in the Civil Aviation Act 1988 is purely to remove them, as they are no longer necessary. The corrections and the repeal have no effect on the rights, duties and obligations of any person.

The principal amendments in this bill will ensure effective protection of an aviation consumer's entitlement to adequate compensation in the event of an air accident, anywhere in Australia. This will fully implement the original intention of the Commonwealth's initiative, in reforming this aspect of consumer protection in the aviation sector. I present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr McMullan) adjourned.