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Tuesday, 30 March 1999
Page: 4705


Mr NEVILLE (6:02 PM) —In July 1996 the government announced that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, CASA, would conduct a complete review of civil aviation legislation in Australia, with the objectives of harmonising it with international standards of safety regulation and making it shorter, simpler and easier to use and understand. This was also an election commitment of the government's under Soaring Into Tomorrow, the aviation policy statement.

My predecessor on the Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform, the Hon. Peter Morris, in his report Plane safe as well as the Seaview inquiry report, supported the need for a review of Australian regulations and standards. The purpose of this bill is to facilitate the findings of the review and provide for the introduction of a new set of regulations which are harmonised with international civil aviation laws. In recognition of the fact that the safety regulations of aviation activities should not be based on the commercial nature of its activity, it is proposed that the term `commercial' be removed from the act and that `domestic commercial flight' be replaced with `regulated domestic flight'.

Amendments also provide for new powers in relation to the retention and destruction of goods seized by CASA during an investigation of breaches of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and its regulations. The power to retain seized goods for longer than 60 days and the power to destroy seized goods are vested in the courts. CASA must apply to the courts for orders to retain or destroy goods as the case may be. Clarification of CASA's ability to classify the fees charged by CASA under the Civil Aviation (Fees) Regulations as debts due to CASA is also included in this bill. Where regulations made under the act require the payment of a fee, and the fee is not paid by the due date, then the regulations should be able to prescribe a late payment penalty to be added to the fee. Consequently, a provision which enables the making of regulations which prescribe limited late payment penalties to be imposed is also included in the bill. The regulatory changes which the bill facilitates streamline many of CASA's requirements in relation to the industry and will assist the manufacturers of aircraft in Australia. This is my main concern with the bill.

The bill has no direct budgetary impact. It is envisaged, however, that the regulatory changes which will follow from the bill will reduce the costs borne by CASA in administering the civil aviation regulatory regime.

Let me return to what I see as the main provisions of the bill and its most important aspects. The amendments proposed in this bill will facilitate the long awaited introduction of a regulatory regime for the Australian aviation industry which is not only harmonised with international practice but also clear, concise and outcome focused. The government's commitment has to be realised. I reiterate: the new civil aviation regulations have been designed to be clear, concise and internationally harmonised. For example, these harmonised regulations will reflect the USA's FAA regulations and European regulations and, as such, will make Australian aircraft more saleable in the international market. This harmonisation will also have a strong influence on the insurability of these aircraft in international markets. As a result, they have the full support of the Aircraft Manufacturers and Export Group of Australia, AMEGA.

These new regulations will benefit the entire aviation industry, from the major airlines through to the light aircraft designers and builders and, of course, to the pride of Bundaberg's skies—Jabiru Aircraft Pty Ltd, who fittingly operate a factory at Hinkler airport. The Jabiru aircraft was the first Australian built and designed aircraft of its kind—- manufactured from composite materials; that is, fibreglass type materials—to make a serious impact on the international market. It is a two-seater aircraft suitable for training, recreational flying, medium distance commuting and aerial property surveillance—for example, it can be quite useful on a cattle property or something like that. It has become very popular with several aero clubs. I believe that they have done their company proud, the Bundaberg community proud and—in the spirit of Bert Hinkler—Jabiru have marked Bundaberg clearly as the centre for light aviation expertise in Australia.

These new regulations will assist Jabiru in overcoming a range of technical barriers that they have currently been encountering in seeking to manufacture and sell their products overseas. This is the biggest breakthrough in safety regulations for over 30 years. For the first time in a generation, the Australian aviation industry and consumers will benefit from clear, concise and—as I said before—internationally harmonised safety and design regulations. In the past, the excellent efforts of Jabiru have been stymied by inconsistent and ramshackle regulations which the previous government put in the too hard basket.

I am sorry the member for the Northern Territory is not here. He made the comment that this government does not understand or care. But when it comes to this particular area of concern, I have been very close to these people for some time and they have told me for years that they have been trying to get this changed. So I think the member for the Northern Territory should be a little more circumspect in his criticism—bearing in mind that his own government had 13 years to do something about this and did nothing. I might mirror his own words: `They didn't understand or care.'

However, this government sponsored an industry led initiative to review the regulatory framework, and that took two years of hard work. In fact, I well remember the owners of Jabiru—Phil Ainsworth and Rod Stiff—making a presentation to the then minister Mark Vaile with their views on the matter. The result shows that the Howard-Fischer government has a strong commitment to promoting the development of the light aircraft manufacturing sector—most of whom are located in regional Australia.

Let me give you an example of how this levelling of the playing field for Australian light aircraft and component manufacturers will lead to job creation in regional Australia. Jabiru's operation currently provides work for 45 people in Bundaberg. They have manufactured more than 200 aircraft and are currently exporting 50 per cent of the production of their aeroplanes to 25 countries and 80 per cent of their motors to 40 countries.

If I could just divert for a minute, there is a very interesting history. When they started building these Jabiru aircraft, they were obtaining the engines from Italy. A new company bought out the Italian company and said they would only sell the engines in blocks of 1,000. These two guys went around Bundaberg to workshops—people who could do turning and so on—and they have de signed a four-stroke aviation engine which, as I said, is being exported to 40 countries overseas. It is a remarkable effort. That is why these new regulations are going to be so important for the industry. Phil Ainsworth and Rod Stiff tell me that these amendments alone to the civil aviation legislation could see their business grow five times its present size.

Another implication of harmonising these regulations and the saleability of Jabiru aircraft will be the opportunity for Jabiru to be considered as the serious replacement for the ageing Cessna trainers. Those of you who have been in aviation will know that the Cessna trainers—great and all as they have been, and there are many good and well maintained ones still in Australia—will need to be replaced. This is the first serious Australian built product, and it is being taken up by a lot of aero clubs around Australia.

Of course, they are not just sitting back and waiting for this `five-times export circumstance' to occur; they have already been active with the export market development grants and are very grateful for the help the government has given them in that field. They are also going to sell more of their aircraft to various aero clubs and training institutions.

They already have their plane certified in Europe and the US. When this legislation goes through, they will be able to manufacture the complete aircraft in Bundaberg for export whereas previously—because of these regulations—they had to send the aircraft over as kits and have them assembled in the United States or Europe. That means more value adding for regional Australia. They are also working on a new model—a light trainer—due for release mid-year. They also launched a new engine at major air shows in the US and the UK, and Phil Ainsworth just told me today that he is on his way to the States again. They always attend the major air shows in the United States. As well as helping our manufacturers sell aircraft overseas, this legislation opens the gate for them to jump into the US market for componentry for aircraft other than their own, and that is another area at which Jabiru is currently looking.

So take the positive effects of this legislation on Jabiru and apply them also to Spitfire Aircraft Pty Ltd—also in Bundaberg—Seabird Aviation Pty Ltd in Hervey Bay, Skyfox Aviation at Caloundra, Ausflight Aviation at Boonah, Gippsland Aviation in Victoria, Howard Hughes Engineering in Ballina and aeronautical engineers like Kerr's Aircraft Design in Bundaberg and Southdown Engineering at Pilton.

That is what the government is all about: levelling the playing field in favour of our exporters—and, in this particular instance, in favour of exporters in regional areas. That Jabiru and the rest of the local industry have done so well in export markets is a testament to their pioneering spirit and their entrepreneurial skills. I am sure they will be able to grow stronger under this government's patronage, now that they are no longer hamstrung by the red tape the previous government imposed upon them.