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Monday, 10 September 2012
Page: 9925


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (13:10): The Aviation Legislation Amendment (Liability and Insurance Bill) 2012, which I also support, will modernise Australia's arrangements for our air carriers' liability under the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959 and the Damage by Aircraft Act 1999. It implements a number of measures committed to in Flight path to the future, the federal government's 2009 national aviation policy white paper. The 2009 national aviation policy white paper is a comprehensive piece of work and I commend Minister Albanese for it. It brought together all the strands of aviation policy into a single forward-looking document and provided planning, regulatory and investment certainty for the aviation industry out to 2020 and beyond.

I have had a longstanding interest in the aviation industry, particularly with Avalon, down in my part of the world, providing a second tier airport option to Victorians and to those travelling to Victoria. The white paper set out a number of government commitments to Australia's excellent aviation industry, an industry with a very proud and praiseworthy safety record. It builds on current aviation industry security systems to ensure that Australians can continue to enjoy a very safe aviation industry. Australia's aviation sector is, if not the safest, certainly one of the safest in the world. It has a long history of providing safe travel for Australians and for those who come to our shores. I think it is a testament to all Australians that we have such a strong aviation history. The aviation industry is also a strong contributor to the Australian economy. Its annual contribution to our country has been estimated to be some $5.2 billion.

Having a safe, secure and strong aviation sector is very important. Australia is a very large country and many of us have to travel by air to visit family or friends in different parts of the country, to enjoy a holiday or even to get to other parts of the country to earn our incomes. The aviation sector is critical for domestic and international tourism. In my part of the world, the Corangamite electorate, we are very fortunate to have some very iconic locations—the Great Ocean Road, the Surf Coast and the like. We certainly welcome people travelling to our region to enjoy these beautiful, fantastic tourist locations. But, in order for that to happen, we need a strong aviation industry. We need one which has a first-class safety record, as the Australian aviation industry does have. I think that is very important.

This bill will increase the domestic passenger liability cap from $500,000 to $725,000. This does represent a significant increase on the current arrangements, which have been in place for some time. The cap has not been increased since 1994, and I think it is an appropriate time to lift the liability cap. I paid attention to the previous speaker, the member for Page, who in some detail spelt out what that means. She made the very salient point that, for those travelling on Qantas or Virgin, for instance, that would mean a 13c increase in the price of a ticket and, for those travelling on a smaller regional airline, it might mean 64c, I think was the figure she used. As someone who travels a lot, as all parliamentarians do, and of course the many Australians who travel for work or leisure, I am sure none of them would dispute having a small, modest increase in the price of a ticket to cover off the insurance arrangements if indeed an aircraft should get into trouble for whatever reason, resulting in death or injury.

This bill also achieves a number of other matters in line and consistent with the aviation white paper that Minister Albanese had carriage of back in 2009. The bill will ensure consistency with the 1999 Montreal convention concerning international flight by removing references to 'personal injury' and replacing them with another definition. The Montreal convention has been implemented across some 100 nations worldwide, and I think it is appropriate that in an industry such as this, which operates not only in a domestic environment but obviously also in an international environment, we do align ourselves with best practice and aim for consistency with overseas practice.

The bill amends the Damage by Aircraft Act to allow defendants the right to seek contributions from other parties who may have contributed to the damage suffered by a person bringing a claim. The bill will also preclude claims for compensation for mental injuries where the claimant has not suffered additional personal or property damage. As I said, this bill will help implement the government's white paper on aviation, and it will ensure that all of us continue to enjoy the services of a very safe airline industry.

I would like to make some comments on Avalon Airport, an airport in my region. It is a second-tier airport, on land that is currently owned by Defence, and it provides opportunities for tourism in our region. Our region has a long-term ambition to increase the services available out of Avalon as well as, importantly, to harness the potential opportunities that would come from converting it to an international airport, providing a second-tier opportunity for Victorians to travel overseas and for those overseas, potentially, to come directly to our region.

Avalon Airport is a strategic asset in our region. The member for Corio and I have been working diligently with stakeholders locally and with the government to recognise any potential that Avalon has. If you compare our circumstances in Victoria with those in New South Wales, you could say we are blessed; we have, I think, much stronger opportunities not only to grow our main airport, Tullamarine, but also to harness the possibilities that having a second airport provides. I look forward to continuing to work with my government colleagues and with important local stakeholders to take advantage of the strategic opportunities that Avalon Airport presents to our region, and I very much look forward to Avalon providing a second-tier airport option to not only my region but of course all of Victoria. We are very fortunate to have those options, and I look forward to working with the sector in the years to come to secure opportunities for our region.

Australia has a very safe airline industry, and we need to continue to make the necessary changes to ensure that Australia remains a very safe place for people to travel. I will continue to work with the sector to ensure we keep our very safe airline industry so that Australians can continue to travel safely for work and pleasure. As Australians we ought to be very proud of our airline industry. I commend the bill to the House.