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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 83

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (2:40 PM) —My question is again to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. It follows on from my previous question, where he acknowledged the overrepresentation of North Queensland in aviation fatalities. Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that air operating certificates held by UZU Air and Whyalla Airlines were suspended following accidents involving multiple aviation fatalities? Can the Deputy Prime Minister also confirm that, in contrast to the suspension actions taken against those operators, the air operating certificate held by TransAir was not suspended following the multiple fatalities at Lockhart River last month? If, as the Prime Minister asserts, he has been paying particular attention to fatalities in North Queensland, can the Deputy Prime Minister explain the rationale for this change in approach in relation to the Lockhart River tragedy?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I again thank the honourable member for Perth for his question. Let me note at the outset that he is attempting to put words in my mouth. I indicated and acknowledged that there is something of an overrepresentation of aviation safety incidents. That can mean reportage of inadequate maintenance or whatever. That is a far different thing to conceding any point in relation to an overrepresentation with regard to actual fatalities. The other point I would make is that the member just a few moments ago was implying that I should not directly involve myself in operational safety. I do not. He apparently now wants me to.

CASA, I believe, has been doing a very competent job in this regard. I have confidence in CASA. I make the point that we inherited a very unsatisfactory mess from the Labor Party some years ago. CASA was on the front pages of the newspapers every other day. I think its performance has been lifted very considerably indeed. I think Australians, broadly speaking, have confidence in CASA, as I have confidence in CASA, and I think that is a significant improvement over the situation that pertained some years ago. Mr Speaker, I am happy to have CASA explain, in any forum that you so choose—and you often do over in the Senate—its rationale for decisions that it has made in these matters. I will seek any further information that might be required and provide it to you.