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Shadow Minister questions the integrity of the CAA following Seaview Air disaster

ELLEN FANNING: The Federal Opposition is again questioning the integrity of the Civil Aviation Authority following the grounding of Seaview Air more than one week after one of its planes crashed claiming nine lives. The decision to pull the plug on Seaview was announced yesterday by the Transport Minister, Laurie Brereton, who revealed in Parliament that new allegations had been raised about the safety standards of the airline.

Since then, Mr Brereton has been censured by the Senate over his handling of the disaster, and Federal Cabinet has gone on to approve a series of measures designed to improve air safety. These include the fast-tracking of a new aviation safety authority and the spending of an extra $6 million on safety checks.

But the Federal Opposition's aviation spokesmen, John Sharp, is not satisfied. He's told Ben Wilson the decision to ground Seaview reveals that the public has been misled.

JOHN SHARP: Well, it certainly is too late to do anything of meaningful benefit for anybody that's been involved in the crash of Seaview aviation, and what this reveals to us is the fact that what the CAA was telling us publicly last week, that Seaview aviation was in good order, that it was flying safely and that it warranted an upgrading of a licence, was completely and utterly untrue. It's quite clear, now, that all that we were being told last week was wrong and that Seaview was not operating in a proper fashion, and it confirms what I was saying to the Parliament back in May of this year, that Seaview aviation was another accident waiting to happen, and it raises questions about the integrity of the CAA.

And all of those statements that were made last week are now, quite obviously, wrong and it raises the whole status of the CAA. I don't think anybody can have faith in the integrity of the CAA when you see these sorts of U-turn-type statements being made in the course of a week. In the period of time that I've been looking into it, the CAA, first and foremost, does its best to cover its own backside. It will do and say things that are specifically designed to protect the CAA at the expense of the truth and at the expense of the travelling public.

BEN WILSON: But isn't it a possibility that these latest allegations that have come to light may have only surfaced after the inspections for the upgraded licence went through without a hitch?

JOHN SHARP: It certainly is possible that they have only surfaced in recent times and they were not available to the CAA people prior to the upgraded licence being issued, so there were sufficiently serious enough allegations and concerns about Seaview aviation prior to last week's crash to warrant not giving them an upgraded licence, and so whether it was before or after the crash, I think the fact is that CAA should not have given Seaview aviation an upgraded licence and, indeed, they probably should have been grounding the airline by the accusations that were being levelled against it before the crash, and certainly, in the last few days with fresh allegations about its operations that would also warrant grounding the airline.

ELLEN FANNING: The Shadow Aviation Minister, John Sharp, with Ben Wilson.