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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 393

(Question No. 1287)

Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 March 1994:

  In response to questions raised during an Estimates Committee A hearing held on 25 February 1994 (Senate Hansard, Estimates Committee A, 25 February 1994, page 113), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advised that it was currently a party to nine separate cases currently before the courts:

  (1) Please provide details of each case insofar as it involves the CAA, including the current state of each action.

  (2) With reference to the case involving Monarch Airlines Limited, please provide more detailed information.

Senator Collins —The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Michael James Austen

  An appeal by Mr Austen against the decision of Burchett J. of the Federal Court, in which His Honour rejected various claims made by Mr Austen in respect of defamation, breach of privacy, breach of Public Service Act provisions, misfeasance of office and a Beaudesert-type claim. The claims arose in respect of the release of Mr Austen's medical record file, pursuant to a written consent to a prospective employer. The appeal has been heard, and the decision has been reserved.

  (1) Dr John William Byrne

  This is a claim by Dr Byrne for damages as a result of injuries sustained in an aircraft accident. Dr Byrne alleges that the CAA was negligent, in that it failed to keep a proper lookout for the aircraft he was flying; failed to warn him of his position relative to the runway; failed to monitor the position of the aircraft; failed to communicate with the aircraft; and advised Dr Byrne incorrectly as to his approach. These proceedings were commenced in 1993. The CAA was served with the Statement of Claim on 6 April 1994. The FAC is also a defendant.

  Terrence Richard Worrell

  This case is a District Court action commenced by Mr Worrell in Sydney. It relates to a claim by him against several parties, for damages arising out of the purchase of an aircraft. Insofar as the CAA is concerned, it is alleged that the CAA negligently issued a Certificate of Airworthiness when (it is alleged) the aircraft was not airworthy. The plaintiff, relying upon that Certificate of Airworthiness at the time of purchase, has, as a result of the aircraft being unairworthy, suffered loss and damage. This action is well advanced into the interlocutory stages. No date has yet been set down for trial.

  Robert Houston

  This is a claim for damages arising out of injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff as a result of three accidents. These accidents occurred during the course of his employment with both the former Department and the CAA. Amongst the allegations are that the CAA failed to provide a safe system of work. The CAA was served with the Writ in July 1993. The action is at the interlocutory stages.

  (1) Ross Kerridge

  This is a claim for damages for injuries arising out of an accident which occurred on 14 October 1990, whilst the plaintiff, Ross Kerridge, was employed by Careflight Ltd (also a defendant in these proceedings) as a medical practitioner. The CAA is one of four defendants in the action. So far as the claim relates to the CAA, the allegations are that the CAA was negligent, in that it approved the use of cable-cutting devices in helicopters. The device in this instance failed, and Mr Kerridge was injured. This action is at the interlocutory stage. Defences have been filed by the CAA and Careflight Ltd only.

  Louise Hardy

  The plaintiff, Mrs Louise Hardy, is the widow of a CAA examiner of airmen, who was killed when Beechcraft Baron VH-CAG crashed after colliding with a Blanik Glider on 2 November 1990. The deceased was a co-pilot of VH-CAG. The plaintiff seeks damages pursuant to the Compensation to Relatives Act (NSW) 1897. The plaintiff alleges that it was Mr Lord's (the pilot's) negligence that caused the crash of VH-CAG, and as Mr Lord was an employee of the CAA, the CAA is vicariously liable for his negligence. The plaintiff also alleges negligence/breach of statutory duty against the CAA. This action has only just been commenced. No significant steps have been taken.

  Stephen James Doggett

  The CAA is one of 7 defendants in these proceedings. The plaintiff is claiming damages for injuries suffered as a result of an accident which occurred on 22 December 1990. The plaintiff was a passenger on Cessna VH-PLD. That aircraft had been deployed in a search and rescue operation which was being conducted at Camden. There are allegations of negligence against the CAA in relation to the way it conducted the search. The proceedings are on hold at the moment, at the request of the plaintiff, who is awaiting the outcome of other proceedings which were commenced in the United States. The CAA is not a party to those latter proceedings.

  (1) and (2) Monarch Airlines Limited (Applicant), Polaris Holding Company (Applicant) and Canadian Airlines International Ltd (Applicant)

  (NB: These three have been grouped together, as they are all concerning exactly the same factual situation.)

  Compass Airlines went into liquidation on 20 December 1991. At that time, it owed the CAA approximately $12.5 million for aviation charges. The charges were incurred in respect of each of the five aircraft that Compass had been operating during 1991. Those aircraft were leased to Compass by the above three parties (all Canadian companies). As the charges remained unpaid, the CAA imposed statutory liens upon the craft. In order for the above parties ("the lessors") to remove the aircraft from Australia, the lessors were obliged to pay the charges.

  In May 1992, the lessors commenced actions in the High Court, seeking recovery of the amounts paid on a number of bases. The allegations were essentially that the charges were not related to expenses incurred by the CAA; that the charges amounted to taxation, and therefore, the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act were invalid by reason of Section 55 of the Constitution; that the operation of the Statutory Lien provisions of the Act were contrary to Section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution. The actions were formally remitted to the Federal Court by Justice Deane on 28 April 1993. The proceedings are at the interlocutory stage.