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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6776

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (6:52 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is a statutory authority within the Transport and Regional Services portfolio. It was established in 1995 under the Civil Aviation Act to regulate aviation safety in Australia and the safety of Australian aircraft overseas. It is a large organisation: it has 727 staff around Australia and a budget of just over $104 million. Frequently people wonder what CASA does. It has a role in maintaining, enhancing and promoting civil aviation safety in this country. It sets aviation standards; certifies aircraft maintenance organisations and operators; licenses pilots and engineers; very importantly, carries out safety surveillance; enforces safety standards; and manages and administers carriers' liability insurance requirements. Those are some of the things it does. It is a very important organisation, especially to those of us in the Senate who travel a lot. It has had a particularly busy year because of the Ansett collapse and the result and impact that September 11 had on the aviation industries worldwide and in Australia in safety requirements and the checking of passengers. It has also had to deal with new entrants and new opportunities for existing operators that have flowed from the Ansett collapse and other changes to the aviation industry in the last 12 months.

Yesterday the government announced further far-reaching reforms to CASA. These will strengthen its accountability, improve consultation with the industry and temper its ability to act as judge, jury and executioner at the same time, but it maintains its powers to take appropriate safety action. The Minister for Transport and Regional Services and Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, announced yesterday that aviation safety and compliance will be improved in the capital cities and regional areas under the reforms. As I said, the reforms announced yesterday and proposed to come into effect on 1 July include that the CASA board be abolished and the director of aviation safety be designated the chief executive officer. The minister will be given powers to set policy directions and performance standards for CASA but will remain at arm's length from the day-to-day safety regulatory decisions. The minister will also be given powers to establish consultation mechanisms for industry and stakeholders. Measures will be introduced to reform CASA's enforcement processes, including the granting of a stay of suspension and the cancellation of decisions not involving an immediate risk to air safety, the introduction of a demerit points system for minor breaches of the regulations and the formal establishment of an air standards advisory body to complete the reform of the aviation safety regulations.

The review of the structure and reporting arrangements for CASA was a key element of the aviation reform agenda that was announced I think in February this year. The government has agreed to a series of bold measures to ensure that CASA remains a robust, independent safety regulator, but at the same time its accountability to government and its standing with the industry will be strengthened. Under the new enforcement regime, CASA will retain the power to ground an operator where there is imminent risk to safety, but it will be required to have its decision confirmed by the Federal Court within five days. Where a decision is taken to vary, suspend or cancel an aviation approval and a review is sought, an automatic stay of the decision will be granted. This will mean that no operator will be put out of business as it waits for a court or tribunal to determine whether CASA acted appropriately. These changes improve the capacity of CASA to operate as a regulatory authority. It has had some troubles over the years and it is working through those problems. The changes announced yesterday will certainly improve CASA's performance. I would certainly like to extend my thanks to the CASA board for completing the CASA review, and I look forward to it continuing its good work. (Time expired)