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- Start of Business
- WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT BILL 1997 [No. 2]
- ANL SALE BILL 1997
- HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- CRIMES (SUPERANNUATION BENEFITS) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- CLASSIFICATION (PUBLICATIONS, FILMS AND COMPUTER GAMES) CHARGES BILL 1997
- GAS PIPELINES ACCESS (COMMONWEALTH) BILL 1997
- CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (No. 6) 1997
- INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- COPYRIGHT AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1997
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1997-98
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1997-98
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 4) 1997-98
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (No. 2) 1997-98
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ms MACKLIN, Mr WARWICK SMITH)
(Mr ENTSCH, Mr DOWNER)
(Mr CREAN, Mr MOORE)
(Mr NAIRN, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Mr SAWFORD, Mr MOORE)
(Mr RICHARD EVANS, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Ms HANSON, Mr BRUCE SCOTT)
Veterans: Health Research
(Mr FORREST, Mr BRUCE SCOTT)
(Mr O'CONNOR, Mr MOORE)
Civil Marriage Celebrants Program
(Mr ANDREWS, Mr WILLIAMS)
(Mr CREAN, Mr MOORE)
Jindalee Over-the-Horizon Radar Network Project
(Mr McDOUGALL, Mr McLACHLAN)
Information Technology: Outsourcing
(Mr MARTYN EVANS, Mr FAHEY)
Overseas Trained Doctors
(Mr NEHL, Dr WOOLDRIDGE)
Bipartisan Steel Industry Committee Report
(Mr ALLAN MORRIS, Mr MOORE)
Women in Business
(Mrs GASH, Mrs MOYLAN)
(Mr ADAMS, Mr MOORE)
(Mr DONDAS, Mr ANDERSON)
- Nursing Homes
Parliament House: Energy Efficiency
(Mr KERR, Mr SPEAKER)
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- Procedural Text
- RIGHT OF REPLY OF PERSONS REFERRED TO IN THE HOUSE
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- CHEMICAL WEAPONS (PROHIBITION) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- CIVIL AVIATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- ASSENT TO BILLS
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (YOUTH ALLOWANCE) BILL 1997
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT (FAIR TRADING) BILL 1997
- SUPERANNUATION CONTRIBUTIONS TAX (MEMBERS OF CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) ASSESSMENT AND COLLECTION BILL 1997
- SUPERANNUATION CONTRIBUTIONS AND TERMINATION PAYMENTS TAXES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT (FAIR TRADING) BILL 1997
- Start of Business
- CIVIL AVIATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- AUSTRALIA NEW ZEALAND FOOD AUTHORITY AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1997
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Wednesday, 26 November 1997
Mrs VALE(11.13 a.m.) —There is perhaps no matter of greater concern to the travelling public than the issue of aviation safety. In a country where the tyranny of distance has been subdued only by the aeroplane, the concern for safety of air transport is felt by almost every Australian at one time or another.
This government is determined to ensure that the people of Australia can rely on the highest standards in aviation safety regulation and that those in charge of that regulatory function have the appropriate qualifications. This government is presently involved in a fundamental and comprehensive review of civil aviation in Australia. The review involves the full participation of the industry itself through a series of technical committees which have as their focus the rewriting of rules to ensure that they are comprehensible and consistent.
This government also demands full accountability from our airline operators, and the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment Bill 1997 addresses the issue of aviation consumer protection by enhancing the scheme, providing uniform, non-voidable national insurance coverage for fare paying aircraft passengers and including intrastate as well as international and interstate air travel.
The full purpose of this legislation is to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959, the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and other aviation related legislation to allow this initiative to take the fullest possible force in the protection of aviation consumers anywhere in Australia. This is a national initiative and it will make it mandatory for all commercial airline operators—international, domestic and now intrastate—to carry non-voidable passenger liability insurance of $500,000 per passenger.
These amendments will also ensure that the administration of this important national initiative will be simple and uncomplicated so that the government's objective of mandatory non-voidable liability insurance will be fully effective. These amendments will also allow the uniform application of complementary state legislation which will then ensure that the Commonwealth's non-voidable insurance requirements will operate to cover all commercial flights in Australia.
Prior to 1996 there was no mandatory requirement for airline operators to carry insurance cover for passengers. Even worse, where passengers did have insurance cover, an insurer could refuse compensation if the airline operator had violated aviation safety regulations.
The lack of non-voidable insurance cover for aircraft passengers was raised as a serious issue in the national consciousness by the two tragic events in commuter airline operations in New South Wales in recent years. Referred to as the Monarch and Seaview aircraft crashes, these two aircraft accidents seized public attention. As the stories unfolded, the situation with the insurance cover of the operators became known and there was considerable public sympathy for the plight of the victims' families.
In his ministerial statement to this House on 25 June 1996, the then Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the member for Hume (Mr Sharp), said:
. . . insurance arrangements should be changed so that unscrupulous insurance firms cannot weasel their way out of their obligations by claiming that the operator breached safety regulations, thus voiding the policy at the expense of the victims.
This is exactly what this amendment addresses.
Before Monarch, the dependants of one of the victims of one of Australia's worst aircraft crashes had to fight for over 14 years to obtain an insurance payout, only to finally receive around $20,000 after legal fees were paid. This tragedy occurred in February 1980 when 12 passengers on board an Advance Airlines of Australia commuter flight from Sydney to Temora died when their aircraft crashed just after take-off at Mascot airport. The Beech Super King Air twin aircraft lost all power to one engine and crashed into a seawall on an attempted emergency landing.
At the time, the maximum insurance cover for aircraft passengers was limited to $45,000. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 November 1994, three young sisters—Tracey, Kerrie and Rachel Henderson, who were then aged 10, 12 and two—were tragically orphaned by the crash, and 14 other Australian children lost one parent.
The details of the lives of the victims' families after the Advance Airline crash show very clearly the need for this legislation and the importance of non-voidable insurance cover for all aircraft passengers. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Henderson girls, who were subsequently raised by their widowed grandmother, Mrs Rene Holt, received a total of $90,000 for losing both parents. Their two-week-old brother, Adam, had also died in the crash. Mrs Holt said that after legal fees, the sisters received $70,000. Tracey and Kerrie had since married but she still looked after Rachel. Mrs Holt said:
It is very hard trying to bring up the girls on my widow's pension and a bit of child allowance. There were many times when I thought we'd never make ends meet.
No amount of money will ever bring back a family member, but had this legislation been in place at that time, the significant hardships and sacrifice by this family alone would have been avoided and their lives, already touched by the deepest loss imaginable, would not have been further blighted by severe financial struggle and uncertainty.
On a later occasion, on the night of 11 June 1993, flying in poor weather to Young airport in New South Wales, a Piper Chieftain flying for Monarch Airlines on flight 301 from Sydney crashed into a hill on approach to the airport killing all seven people on board.
At the inquest, the New South Wales Deputy Coroner, Mr Peter Gould, found `persistent and overwhelming evidence of breaches of safety regulations' by the now defunct Monarch Airlines and he quoted the intention of section 6(3) of the Air Transport Act 1987, which provides:
.. that the Minister consider the following additional matters which particularly take account of the concerns of consumers: adequate insurance of the aircraft, operator, pilots and passengers; and the ownership of or extent of the applicant's right to operate the aircraft used by the licensed applicant. This will assist the Minister in determining the bona fide intentions of applicants to provide viable passenger services.
The coroner stated on page 116 of the coronial inquest report that:
The only matter which the Air Transport Council says it had regard to under section 6(3) when issuing the Monarch licence was whether it was adequately insured, yet it did not get any evidence of that insurance until after the aircraft crashed.
The coroner went on to say:
The insurer claims that the insurance obtained was voided in respect of the deaths because of the unsafe conditions of the aircraft. How the Air Transport Council could disregard that matter is difficult to conceive, unless one could say that it is in the interests of consumers to leave it to the dictates of the market.
He then highlighted the sentiments not only of the families of the victims of the Monarch crash but of every member of the air travelling public in Australia when he said:
Adequate insurance is not just a matter of providing compensation for death or injury. Non-voidable insurance enhances public safety because an operator would not be likely to get that insurance unless he satisfied the insurer that he was fit and suitable to operate RPT services safely. If a person cannot legally drive a motor vehicle without a green slip, why then should the Minister, or his delegate, not consider it inappropriate to provide the same insurance cover for passengers and pilots?
The extent of public concern on this issue focused on the news report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 November 1994 in which it was made clear that the underwriter who had insured Monarch Airlines stated he believed he would never have to make a payout for the families of the victims of that tragedy. This case makes it very clear to the public that an airline's insurers can refuse claims for compensation if it is held that the aircraft was operated contrary to the conditions of the insurance policy. It was also made abundantly clear at this time that, in any event, the total insurance liability forthcoming from any underwriter was limited to $180,000 a victim.
A formal recommendation regarding the kind of insurance cover necessary was defined by Coroner Gould at the inquest in the coronial report:
That the Minister determine, pursuant to section 6(3)(h), that only non-voidable insurance for passengers and pilots be deemed adequate and the proof of such insurance in an appropriate amount be furnished before any licence is granted or renewed.
In his ministerial statement already referred to, the then Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the member for Hume, said:
The coroner has made several recommendations, some of which, such as those relating to insurance, have already been implemented. It is now mandatory for aviation operators carrying passengers for financial reward to have non-voidable insurance for their passengers. That has not helped the victims of the Monarch crash, who are still waiting for acknowledgment and settlement of their claims against the insurer of the operator. The changes to the legislation were made largely necessary because of the disgraceful treatment they have suffered, and still suffer, at the hands of the Monarch's insurer.
This bill is a further important part of the government's ongoing commitment towards the protection of all Australians who travel by air across our vast country. In January 1996, the government made a legislative requirement for all domestic and international airline operators to have non-voidable passenger insurance cover of $500,000 a passenger. However, only interstate and international travel was covered by that legislation. Later in 1996 the states, actively encouraged by the federal government, passed legislation to extend the protection to passengers on intrastate travel.
This amendment is relatively minor in nature but it will make the administration of this national initiative simpler and therefore it will ensure its full effect and compliance. It expands the initiative by providing uniform national insurance coverage for all aircraft passengers which requires all commercial airlines in Australia to insure passengers travelling by air in Australia for the total amount of $500,000. These new amendments will authorise the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to directly administer the act on behalf of the Commonwealth and state ministers rather than under delegated authority from the Commonwealth and state transport ministers.
The legislation requires that all airline operators subject to the act must have a certificate of compliance from CASA testifying that the insurance requirements of the act have been fully and totally observed. In addition, offences under the state legislation will be dealt with as Commonwealth offences and will be investigated and prosecuted by the Commonwealth government.
The bill reflects the fulfilment of the government's concern and commitment to ensuring the fullest possible protection of the entitlement of adequate compensation, in the event of an aircraft accident, for the travelling public of Australia and their families. This means international, interstate, and now intrastate, travel. I commend the bill to the House.