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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1873


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (12:40): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australian aviation is an essential part of our economy—it links our regions to our cities—and our cities to the world.

The increased diversity of the Australian aviation industry requires continuous improvement in the aviation safety regulatory system. While Australia has an enviable record in aviation safety, built on a strong regulatory system—any regulator must keep pace with the industry it regulates.

Australia's aviation safety governance structures and processes have continued to evolve since the initial establishment of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 covering the operations of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)—Australia's aviation safety regulator.

CASA was established in July 1995, under an updated Civil Aviation Act 1988, as the independent aviation safety regulator—a Commonwealth statutory authority with responsibility for the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia and Australian aircraft operating outside Australian territory.

The CASA board, in its current form, was established in July 2009 to decide the objectives, strategies and policies to be adopted by CASA. The board is also responsible for ensuring that CASA performs its functions in a proper, efficient and effective manner, complying with directions given by the minister.

The CASA board currently consists of the Director of Aviation Safety (who is also the Chief Executive Officer of CASA), as an ex-officio member, and up to four board members (including the chair and deputy chair).

The Coalition's Policy for Aviation, released in August 2013, outlined a number of commitments to enhance and strengthen aviation.

The government has since established an external aviation safety regulation review, which is being undertaken by a panel of leading aviation experts.

The review is well underway, with the review panel examining the suitability of Australia's aviation safety related regulations and the outcomes and direction of CASA's regulatory reform process.

The panel is also examining the structures, effectiveness and processes of CASA with a view to ensuring that best practice in aviation safety is maintained. The panel has received around 250 submissions from interested parties across the aviation industry. The review panel is expected to report to the government by the end of May 2014.

The Coalition's Policy for Aviation also outlined our commitment to improve CASA's structure and governance arrangements to enhance the organisation's abilities to function as Australia's aviation safety regulator.

To deliver on this commitment the government intends to appoint two additional members to the CASA board.

At least two of the board members will be required to have technical and/or operational aviation experience to strengthen the board's aviation knowledge, skills and practical experience. The expanded board will be well-placed to oversee CASA's new strategic direction—which the government will issue, as allowed for under Section 12A of the Civil Aviation Act, after the government has considered the review panel's final report.

Establishing a firm strategic direction for the organisation will enhance CASA's capability to respond as Australia's aviation safety regulator. Through the introduction of a new strategic direction, the government plans to reinforce safety as CASA's primary responsibility, but will also set out the leadership role of the board in implementing the strategic direction of CASA.

Today I introduce into the parliament a bill that implements this commitment to take decisive action to strengthen the nation's aviation safety agency and their oversight of the aviation industry. The Civil Aviation Amendment (CASA Board) Bill will allow the government to fulfil undertakings, made in the coalition's policy for aviation, to have important enhancements to safety governance in place from 1 July 2014.

The bill will maintain the CASA board structure, but will expand the size of the board by two members. The appointment of two additional members will increase the breadth of aviation knowledge and experience on the CASA board, which will better equip it to set and implement the strategic direction of the organisation.

The bill improves the capacity and effectiveness of CASA to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex and diverse aviation industry. CASA must have the right structure, resources and legal framework to regulate the civil aviation industry to enhance the safety of the travelling public, industry participants and the wider community.

The provisions of the bill will provide for the CASA board to be comprised of six members appointed by the minister, plus the Director of Aviation Safety as an ex-officio member, that is, seven members in total.

The board will play an important role monitoring CASA's effectiveness and accountability across the authority's range of functions and will facilitate stronger links between CASA and other government agencies, allowing for meaningful and constructive input from industry and other relevant stakeholders.

Importantly, the enhanced board will be in place to implement CASA's new strategic direction.

Enhancing the CASA board is one important step in ensuring we continue to foster an aviation industry that is dynamic and sustainable, with a regulatory system that is proportionate to risks and delivers the highest level of safety—a level of regulation that does not unreasonably restrict innovation and growth in the industry.

It is vital that government and industry share the responsibility for addressing these challenges.

The Civil Aviation Amendment (CASA Board) Bill demonstrates this government's ongoing commitment to aviation safety—we are taking decisive action now to strengthen the nation's safety regulator and its oversight of the aviation industry.

Debate adjourned.