Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Shadow minister criticises CASA after ATSB report finds it partially at fault in TransAir plane crash.

Download WordDownload Word



This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.





T hursday 5 April 2007

Shadow minister criticises CASA after ATSB report finds it partially at fault in TransAir plane crash


MARK COLVIN: Australia's air safety regulator is under increasing pressure over its response to a report into Australia's worst aviation disaster in 40 years. 


The final report into the crash of a TransAir metroliner in Far North Queensland was released yesterday. 


Today the father of one of the victims joined calls for the head of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to resign. 


He said he was appalled by the organisation's attempts to shirk responsibility. 


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's report on the disaster blamed the pilots and the airline's poor safety culture, but it also pointed the finger at CASA, for inadequate monitoring of the airline. 


The coronial inquiry into the crash started in Brisbane this afternoon. 


In Brisbane, Queensland, Kathryn Roberts. 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: It's been almost two years since the TransAir metroliner crashed into a mountain, killing all 13 passengers and two crew onboard. 


For the victims' families, the final leg of their journey to find answers began today, with the start of a coronial inquiry into the Lockhart River crash. 


Shane Urquhart lost his daughter Sally in the crash. 


Outside the Coroner's Court this afternoon he expressed disbelief at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's response to the final report into the disaster. 


SHANE URQUHART: I find the comments made by CASA CEO Mr Bruce Byron totally reprehensible and appalling. He is fooling no one who has any knowledge of this issue. 


I also call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Vaile to do something about CASA immediately, not the least being the removal of Mr Byron from his position.  


And let me say that at the moment, CASA is a bit like the Titanic and the deck chairs are being quickly rearranged.  


KATHRYN ROBERTS: CASA's chief, Bruce Byron, declined requests for an interview today. But yesterday he was defending his organisation. 


While he admitted CASA's surveillance of the industry hadn't been good enough at the time, he wouldn't accept that CASA's actions were a contributing factor in the crash. 


Instead he emphasised one of the report's findings, that the pilot had been flying too fast and descending too quickly. 


The Federal Opposition's Transport spokesman, Martin Ferguson, says CASA shouldn't be allowed to shirk responsibility. 


He says the regulator needs a major overhaul, and he's raised concern about its readiness to take responsibility for the management of Australian airspace. 


MARTIN FERGUSON: CASA's got huge challenges. I don't think they're in a position to take over some responsibility for air space, nor do I think they're in a position to actually do the job that they're required to do now, which is not only set policy and determine regulatory reform, but also ensure compliance and enforcement. 


CASA is a dysfunctional organisation, it needs root and branch reform, the CEO - as reflected by his failure to admit any blame yesterday - should be removed, we should put in place a rigorous board with high standards and understanding of the industry.  


KATHRYN ROBERTS: But the Federal Transport Minister, Mark Vaile, is continuing to support Bruce Byron. 


MARK VAILE: I support keeping Bruce Byron there. I've been working closely with Bruce since I came into this portfolio in September of last year. We've agreed on this structure of moving forward in terms of implementing the review of the regulations, air safety regulations. 


Since the accident, Lockhart River in May of 2005, CASA has, under Bruce Byron's direction, implemented a number of initiatives that do improve the safety of air services of this kind. 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: Some industry insiders have questioned whether CASA has been too focussed on paperwork, at the expense of industry surveillance, and the former head of CASA, Dick Smith, has warned that safety could be compromised if the Government doesn't help reduce costs for smaller airlines, to enable them to spend more on safety. 


Aviation safety expert and writer Macarthur Jobe blames policy, not people, for the current state of CASA. He says there've also been too many administrative changes to the regulator. 


MACARTHUR JOBE: Within the last 30 years there's been no less than six changes of identity and name and the structure. And that does nothing to make for a coordinated effort on people's behalf, and it considerably destroys whatever corporate memory and culture is developed within the organisation. 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: So would it be fair to say then that the organisation that we see today is not as effective in terms of safety and regulation than 30 years ago? 


MACARTHUR JOBE: I would say so, but again I would say that it's not the fault of the personnel, it's been the fault of the continual change of government policy. 


KATHRYN ROBERTS: So looking forward, what needs to change within CASA or within government policy? 


MACARTHUR JOBE: I think we need a good aviation organisation, an aviation authority of some sort, run by aviation people. 


Another problem with the things that have happened in the past, we've had non-aviation people at its heads, we've also had boards made up of non-aviation people, who were often political appointees, and there's been no coordinated effort to focus attention on the real problems. 


MARK COLVIN: Aviation safety expert Macarthur Jobe, speaking to Kathryn Roberts.