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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 12874


Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (10:36): I rise to support the chair of the committee in the matter of cabin crew ratios. A lot of us travel by aircraft in Australia and progressively more and more Australians are using aircraft. It is not surprising in a country as large as Australia, with the distances between ports and the necessity to carry out business in remote areas like mining areas and so on, that we are very dependent on aviation. It also follows that there are aspects to that aviation. There is timeliness, there is comfort and there is service, but more particularly on an aircraft there is safety and security. That is what we were asked to look at in respect of cabin crew ratios.

We took 17 submissions and four supplementary submissions for this inquiry. We had three hearings and we came up with seven recommendations. Amongst those was that we want CASA's mandate for safety extended so that there is no doubt that it includes security. We asked that CASA publish in future their internal inquiries and that, when they are calling for submissions outside the parliamentary process, they publish their submissions on the internet. We also want the travelling public to be aware of these inquiries; we want the inquiries to be advertised in things like flight magazines. We want CASA, as part of this, to also look into flight and duty times when looking at safety and security—in particular with reference to fatigue. We want CASA to cease providing exemptions under order 20.16.3, which is what has been happening, and we want the current ratios to stay in place until it can be demonstrated that there are no safety or security reductions as a result of that.

I find a couple of things in this inquiry disturbing. The first thing was that CASA, despite inquiries in the parliament over the last decade, has continued to grant exemptions. It is the opinion of most of the committee that CASA has allowed the one-in-36 rule to be moved to a one-in-50 rule virtually by stealth, so that nearly every airline in every circumstance has now been able to get away with that. Quite frankly, I do not find that acceptable. We were also given the story by some of the witnesses who wanted this ratio increased to one in 50 that it is world's best practice. We were not convinced of that. It might be world's most accepted practice but not necessarily world's best practice. The other thing I personally found disturbing was that there were supposed to be drills to demonstrate the safety aspects on aircraft but some of these were done under fairly limited conditions—not with elderly people, young people and people who might be disturbed at a particular time. They were just going through the motions, so to speak, of what might happen in a drill. In fact, people do not jump down the slides today in a drill exercise because they might hurt their legs and ankles—but maybe that is fair enough.

So there are quite a few aspects of this thing that need to be considered. I for one, coming from a country area, would not like to see a circumstance like what occurred in May 2003 on a flight from Melbourne to Launceston, where there was an attempted hijacking. I asked myself how, on a Dash 8 300 with 50 seats, one attendant could handle that in some sort of emergency—in fact, how they would handle their work generally with one in 50 in that circumstance. So on that basis I support the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Does the member for Cunningham wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?

Ms BIRD: I move:

That the House take note of the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 39(d), the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.