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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
24/02/2015
Estimates
INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

[17:32]

Senator FAWCETT: Mr Skidmore, congratulations and welcome to the role of Director of Aviation Safety. I want to follow up on some things that this committee has asked of CASA in the past, particularly the transition of part 61 into the industry and the availability of testing officers. Some industry stakeholders have contacted the committee with some concerns about changes that have occurred when part 61 was first put forward. Low flying and aerial mustering was proposed to be an initial qualification, with a flight review every two years. It has now been changed to a flight review every 12 months. I am wondering if you could explain what consultation occurred with industry before that change took place, and, given the impact it has on industry, whether there was any revisit of the regulatory impact statement before that change was made.

Mr Skidmore : We are doing a lot of work in regard to part 61. I will just make a statement right now that I have actually established a tiger team inside CASA to look at all the issues in relation to part 61, with the intent being to understand those and analyse them better, working with the aviation community, and then get back to the community in regard to some of those issues. But I will get Mr Crosthwaite to answer those specifically. He is my expert on part 61.

Senator FAWCETT: While we are waiting for him to come to the table, I have a further question on consultation. The last time we raised this we put some questions on notice about the consultation process. What transpired was that despite Mr Farquharson saying that extensive consultation was necessary the answers on notice indicated that CASA had invited industry to make contributions and nobody from the mustering industry appeared to had the time or inclination to do so. CASA therefore proceeded without consulting anyone. I am just wondering, is that acceptable to you? Or do you think that—given that it is going to impact on industry—if people are too busy, or not informed, or not motivated—whatever the rationale—CASA has a role to lean forward and engage with them? This is as opposed to making regulatory changes with no consultation, on the basis that the proposed changes were put on a website but nobody came forward.

Mr Skidmore : I think in response to that I would say: we do have a requirement to consult with industry; with the aviation community. We put that out there, with regard to the information, to try and initiate that discussion and get that consultation. If those people are not forthcoming, I am not sure that I can drag them to the table but we certainly need to look at ways and means so that we can engage, and maybe improve our consultation process. And I will look into that.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you.

Mr Crosthwaite : There are a couple of questions, so perhaps if I can deal with the mustering one first. In mid-December, we met with a group of helicopter operators in Caboolture to talk about a range of topics that are affecting the helicopter sector in particular. It was a very productive meeting, and we will be going back and meeting with them again, probably later in March, to deal with things including low-level ratings and the mustering issue. It is not particularly easy to get in contact with the mustering group, because of their location and the kind of work that they do. But we are certainly in touch with them now in a more effective way, I believe.

We are also bringing forward to the Flight Crew Licensing Standards Consultative Sub-committee some of those issues that were raised at a forum—which you may be aware of—that we had in December, where industry groups came together and we talked about a number of things. So there are a number of issues on the table that we will work through that consultation process, including the mustering issue. The low-level flight review requirement that we have got in the regulations—which you quite rightly say, Senator, is an annual thing—will also be on the table for consideration.

Senator FAWCETT: Which leads to—and again, at the last estimates we talked a bit about this—the number of ATOs or flight examiners who are in the industry in this particular area. Do you have a figure for how many people are qualified to do those flight reviews? And how many of them operate in the areas—such as Victoria River Downs, and other places—where the mustering industry is centred?

Mr Crosthwaite : I do not have a feel for the exact number of those people. The number in the industry for the aerial application sector, as well as the mustering sector, has always been low. It is difficult to get people into that testing role. We released an instrument—I think it was in December—that allowed those people who were approved pilots for mustering, under the old order that covered mustering, to allow them to continue to do those functions, which are training and testing, while we resolve how we get more people into that testing function. So that—

Senator FAWCETT: Is that grandfathering open-ended? Is there a time frame on that?

Mr Crosthwaite : I cannot recall, Senator, whether that instrument goes to the end of the transition period or whether it was a shorter period. I cannot recall. I will take that on notice if you like. But it will certainly provide us with some time to deal with how we manage those flight reviews, and who can conduct them.

Mr Skidmore : Would you like us to get back to you with the actual numbers of ATOs, Senator?

Senator FAWCETT: Yes, that would be useful. I am particularly interested in the geographic distribution. It has been suggested that people from the mustering industry will often come to the city in the off period anyway, and that there might be more people available, for example, at Bankstown. But I do question whether the Bankstown Airport Limited would welcome cattle running freely on the airfield while you did a mustering endorsement! I think that might cause some problems. So yes, I would be interested in that information.

Mr Crosthwaite : Can I just add something which I think might be helpful, and that is the change that we made to the Robinson R22 and R44 type ratings. We made them class ratings. That has provided a significant amount of relief also to those pilots who are generally in the mustering sector. That is another side improvement to be made.

Senator FAWCETT: I think the Forsyth review has been widely regarded as a very positive step by the aviation industry. The government is committed to the bulk of the recommendations. Could you step the committee briefly through where you are up to—as you have come into this new role—in terms of progressing the plan that you want to take forward to government mid this year.

Mr Skidmore : I am more than happy to. We have received a draft statement of expectations which lays out the minister's intent with regard to the board and how that will flow down to me. We had a board planning day just over a week ago where we sat down with David Forsyth and went through some of the recommendations to get a better understanding of the intent of the recommendations. We then had a discussion with the board in regard to the recommendations themselves and our response to those. We are preparing those at the moment. I have a task to provide an implementation plan by the end of April, but I intend, after discussion with the board and approval from the board, to incorporate that into our corporate plan so that it will be available for people to see how we are implementing the recommendations.

Senator FAWCETT: So by the next round of estimates you should be in a fairly good position to give us a more detailed brief on the way you are looking at implementing a number of recommendations out of the Forsyth review?

Mr Skidmore : I certainly hope so.

Senator FAWCETT: Fantastic. We do as well. One other current issue that we have raised once before, but I am keen to get an update on, is unmanned aerial systems. There have been a number of reports about near misses with, probably the most serious, the Dash 8 near Perth, but also several EMS helicopters. Where is CASA at with the whole issue of licensing, training, and whether or not people should be able to essentially operate unregulated, if they are in the private hobby-type category, with a large UAS? What plan do you have in place to evaluate the issue and mitigate the risks?

Mr Skidmore : Work on aspects of remotely piloted aircraft is certainly required. We currently have 196 RPA operator certificate holders with another 90 being processed, so there is a significant amount of work in all of that. We are looking at a regulation change to part 101 for RPAs for use with commercial operations. I am aware that, at point of sale in Australia, for the small, remotely piloted aircraft, people do get a form that explains the reasons or the intent behind CASA's regulations and what we are trying to achieve with regard to safety, and it identifies certain aspects for the small operators—for example, staying 30 metres away from personnel, not above 400 feet and within line-of-sight. It is probably best if we get standards. I will get Peter Boyd, Executive Manager, Standards, who might give a better answer on the regulation changes.

Mr Boyd : We are going through an initial amendment to CASR part 101, which is the initial part of the next policy development. The regulation has been in place for quite some time. It was the first in the world, and other countries are just catching up to where we were with that 10 years ago. This first amendment clears up some nomenclature issues to do with modernising words, but also looks at risk-basing some of the categories of RPA. That is due to be made very shortly within the next quarter. After that we will be looking, with the subcommittee of the SCC—the Standards Consultative Committee—at the next policy development stage, taking into account large RPA, the certification aspects for the vehicles, and all of the other innovations that are coming through in that unmanned sector.

Senator FAWCETT: The director mentioned that people, when they buy directly—whether through eBay or from a shop—at point of sale have a piece of cardboard that explains the rationale behind CASA's regulation, and yet you have only to go to YouTube to see multiple examples of where that is flagrantly breached, in addition to the high-profile, near-miss type examples. I am particularly keen to understand what concrete steps CASA is taking—whether as part of formal regulatory reform or as interim steps—to protect both the travelling public and professional aviators who are flying air work, EMS and other operations such as firefighting and who are impacted by the operation of these unmanned systems, often by amateurs.

Mr Boyd : Yes. It is very difficult for us, obviously, to police any regulations, particularly to do with unmanned vehicles that might be more the model aircraft type or designed-for-leisure flights. And I would say the vast majority of those incidents that you see occasionally in the press are not commercial operators. It is more, as you mentioned, that you get the package for Christmas and you go flying with it. In our redevelopment of the regulations, we will be looking at those sorts of operators, if you like, or people using remotely controlled vehicles for leisure and what we can do to protect people on the ground and other airspace users.

Senator FAWCETT: Yes. But my question, Mr Boyd, is: have you actually done a risk assessment based on the proliferation of these devices, on the near misses, on the evidence on YouTube about the rising probability of an incident? What steps have you taken outside of your normal regulatory reform process to perhaps advise government? Whether it is through restricting sales, whether it is through changing import requirements for people who want to import these devices, are there other steps that you have taken to try and understand and quantify the risk and suggest ways forward? Because the regulatory reform process, as you well know, is a long and drawn-out process in an environment that is changing very dynamically.

Mr Boyd : Yes. What we have done is the risk analysis around the various sizes of remote vehicles, mainly on the commercial side of RPA. But those sorts of analyses obviously apply across the board, whether they are for commercial use or not. So it is to do with the collision risk and it is to do with the harm to people on the ground, depending on weight, inertia and the energy of the vehicles that are operating. So we have done that particular work. That will then underpin where we go with our next set of arrangements, if you like, for both sectors, whether it is commercial or for leisure.

Senator FAWCETT: Okay. This is the last question that I have in this area. It appears that the commercial sector have self-regulated and under 101 have done quite a good job of their training and licensing. There appear to be a number of people who are running businesses using UAS as a platform, particularly around photography. Where there is commercial activity by someone who is not a licensed commercial operator, are you taking any enforcement action in those spaces?

Mr Boyd : That is probably not a question for me; but I am sure that, when we find out, we do and we have. But that is probably more—

Senator FAWCETT: Can I ask you to take that on notice, then? I would be interested to know what positive steps you have taken if it is within your remit or, if you do not believe you have the head of power to take action, what advice you have provided to government so that, collectively, government can take an appropriate response.

Mr Skidmore : We will take that on notice, if I understand the question correctly, Senator, and we will work on getting you an answer to that. I think it comes down to the fact that we can only enforce what we have become aware of in regards to violations. We are not out everywhere, we cannot be policing everything, so we do rely on the information being provided to us.

Senator FAWCETT: Sure, I understand that. I will ask you to take this on notice as well. Since the committee last met with you in estimates, the AAT has handed down its decision in the case of Mr John O'Brien, with regard to colour vision deficiency. CASA lost that case. Mr O'Brien has been given the privileges of exercising the airline transport pilot licence on the basis that he has a safe flying history as a co-pilot and they do not anticipate any increase in risk to the travelling public or others with him exercising the privileges of being a captain. I would be interested in your answer, on notice, about how you plan to move forward with this issue, in that this is twice now that the AAT has found against the CASA position. The AAT's judgement recognises, during the very long period under Liddell and Brock and other principal medical officers within CASA, the very proactive and positive approach to enabling people to fly with appropriate individual assessments. I guess I would like you to, on notice, explain to the committee how you plan to respond to not just this judgement about Mr O'Brien as an individual but also the very clear statements that came out of the AAT around their concerns about the broad application of the CAD Test and the fact that, essentially, each individual should be given the opportunity to demonstrate their competence and safety, regardless of the clinical diagnosis of CVD that may be identified through various forms of testing.

Mr Skidmore : You quite correctly identified that we have only just received the response in regard to Mr O'Brien from the AAT. There is still time for us to appeal that response, and we will provide the information you requested in regard to that. But I would state that the AAT response was in regard to Mr O'Brien, and they did say it was in regard to Mr O'Brien only.

Senator FAWCETT: I recognise that, but it does prove the point that each individual should be given the opportunity to demonstrate their competence and safety, as opposed to having a blanket restriction, which is what the CAD test and the other two levels of testing have done to date.

CHAIR: Are you able to take questions on the Bankstown airport?

Mr Skidmore : In regard to what?

CHAIR: The dilemma that is faced with their financial situation, but also some of the activity up there. Are you conscious of—

Mr Mrdak : This is probably one for aviation and airports, with the department.

CHAIR: Are you concerned—is CASA concerned—it appears to me that the build-up of the flood plain should interest CASA, but it does not.

Mr Mrdak : If I may a comment, I think that issue is more around the land management. I do not think at this stage, to my knowledge, that issue has—

CHAIR: It has a lot to do with the operation of the airport.

Mr Mrdak : I do not think it impinges on the flying or the flight services.

CHAIR: It is on the land of the airport, even though that has now been leased and they have gone broke and all the rest. What authority did people have, without any environmental clearance, to shift thousands of cubic metres of dirt to build up the flood plain?

Mr Mrdak : I think that is probably one which we will handle when we get to aviation and airports. It deals with environmental and land use planning, which is one for the department.

CHAIR: We might have to bring them forward, because we are not going to do this and run out of time at 11 o'clock tonight.

Mr Mrdak : We are happy to do that whenever you are ready, but I think it is not one for CASA.

CHAIR: We might deal with all this aviation stuff in one block.

Senator BACK: I just want to draw your attention to the Yass Valley Wind Farm—Final Report of a Peer Review of Aviation Impact Assessments and Consultation, prepared for the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment by The Airport Group in consideration of an application for the Yass Valley Wind Farm. Is that a report with which you are familiar, by any chance?

Mr Skidmore : I am not familiar with the report.

Senator BACK: But certainly you and the organisation would be well and truly across technical aviation reports generally?

Mr Skidmore : I suspect there is someone in my organisation who is.

Senator BACK: On notice, having had a chance to consider the report, could you provide this committee with some advice on your comments on it? Could I take you to a couple of points and ask for your response? In the executive summary of their report to the department, they raise the question as to whether CASA needs additional powers. If I can quote:

Current legislation in Australia does not allow CASA to satisfy this ICAO requirement… the current Australian aviation legislative framework does not satisfy ICAO requirements with respect to the identification and management of man-made obstacles that are located away from the vicinity of aerodromes.

Before I ask you to comment, the report and recommendations of this particular group, The Airport Group, was that this particular wind farm should not proceed, based on a number of what they saw as obstacles, I think, associated with safe aviation.

Mr Skidmore : I have Mr Peter Cromarty, my executive manager of airspace and aerodrome regulation, who might be able to assist in that area.

Mr Cromarty : We have very limited powers with regard to obstacles away from aerodromes. In fact, we have very limited powers where obstacles are near aerodromes as well. However, as far as the case that you are talking about goes, I am not familiar with that report.

There is an organisation, a body, that has been formed by the department called the Airspace Protection Taskforce, which is looking at gaining powers to cover obstacles around aerodromes, but we have no other authority other than to suggest to developers that they should consider and consult with various bodies such as the low-flying fraternity, the EMS, that we talked about earlier, the agricultural industry and local aerodromes that may or may not have circuit directions which are affected by the obstacles. We leave it to the proponent of the development to talk to these people and to decide what appropriate measures are taken to mitigate the risks.

Senator BACK: So in the context of meteorological monitoring, masts and wind turbines, CASA does not actually have a position as such. Is that what I understand you to be saying—that you simply rely on the local appraisal of a proponent and then you assess that?

Mr Cromarty : That is correct. The department produced some guidance material for planning authorities called the National Aerodrome Safeguarding Framework. They are guidelines for planning authorities to deal with obstacles around aerodromes and away from aerodromes. CASA does not have any specific power to deal with these things.

Senator BACK: The point that is made in the documentation given to me is that a wind turbine is a different structure to a tree or powerline, or whatever, simply because, obviously, it has the capacity to generate turbulence. Again, that is not something that, of itself, CASA would have any position on generically.

Mr Cromarty : CASA's position on that is that there is no scientific evidence that the wake vortices generated by wind turbines exist long enough after they have been generated by the turbine to create sufficient hazard that they would affect aircraft flight. However, we do provide guidance on that. In fact, the department's guidance provides guidance on that.

Senator BACK: Mr Mrdak, this might go a little bit wider than just CASA. There are three recommendations, and perhaps rather than ask for your comments on them, I will read them out from the report from that particular group—first of all, the recommendation that the review include the possible impact of a turbine upon the signal of a navigation aid; secondly, the recommendation of an assessment surface of 5.24 per cent—three degrees—which is extrapolated from ICAO and CASA criteria, if that is the case; and, thirdly, that CASA and/or the department undertake a full review om wind turbines and their impacts on aviation safety and aviation activities.

Obviously, there are a number of issues—firefighting aircraft come to mind, crop dusting aircraft and, naturally enough, recreational aircraft in the vicinity. If it is the case that you or CASA do not have more information now, I will not take more time of the committee, but I would be very keen to get a response once you have had a chance to consider the report and recommendations of that group. Indeed, their recommendation, which was accepted by the New South Wales department, was that that particular industrial wind turbine facility should not proceed.

Mr Mrdak : Certainly, Senator. The issues raised there are, as Mr Cromarty has indicated, matters of grave concern. Over the last three or four years the department has been leading work to try and have state regulatory agencies—land planning agencies—look at these types of aviation issues much more seriously in their planning consideration. The reality is that the Commonwealth has limited powers in relation to such facilities. Our powers are largely concerned with making sure that planning authorities require them to be properly marked. But you are right. For low-flight operations, particularly agriculture aircraft, recreational aircraft and the like, we are seeing an increasing number of hazards coming into our aviation operations. I am happy to look at that report and come back with a full response to you in relation to it. We have the next meeting of Commonwealth state group, the NASAG group, coming up. We will ensure that we come back to you with a full report on how that is traversing.

Senator BACK: Thank you very much. I am greatly appreciative.

Senator STERLE: Hello, Mr Skidmore, welcome to the rat cave.

Mr Skidmore : Thank you.

Senator STERLE: I am on my best behaviour, because I got yelled at by the minister. As a West Australian—as are my good friends Senator Back, Minister Cash and Senator Bullock, who has just left—AirAsia is an integral part of our aviation culture in Western Australia, particularly for those who like to flit between Bali and Perth on regular occasions. I want to ask you—and I want to be up-front, without creating hysteria—does CASA have concerns over AirAsia safety since that unfortunate incident out of Surabaya?

Mr Skidmore : Are you talking about AirAsia.com or AirAsia Extra or Indonesia AirAsia Extra or Malaysian—

Senator STERLE: Why don't we just talk about all AirAsia that fly out of any port in Australia to overseas? Does that make it easier?

Mr Skidmore : To a certain degree it does.

Senator STERLE: It might be your first one, but you learnt pretty quickly.

Mr Mrdak : It is an important distinction, because we have AirAsia, which has a significantly longer operational history than the company that was involved in the accident, as opposed to AirAsia Indonesia.

Senator STERLE: Sure. Yes.

Mr Mrdak : The company has various stages of maturity and operations, so it is hard for us to give you a generic answer on AirAsia because there are multiple operators. AirAsia is a Malaysian company. There are various subsidiaries which are—

Senator STERLE: I am aware. The Philippines and Indonesia—

Mr Mrdak : at different stages of operation and have different business patterns to AirAsia's. That is why I cannot give you a—

Senator STERLE: Mr Mrdak, in all fairness to AirAsia, I asked the question and we should answer the whole lot. Mr Skidmore should tell us what CASA are thinking. Because out there in travel land people see AirAsia and go 'ooh'—let me tell you. Ask my mate here. In Perth there was a lot of conversation around that time. A lot of people use AirAsia out of Perth, as I said, to Bali. So you can put our minds at rest without starting an absolute fear campaign.

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps if we start with the business entity which is seeking regulatory approval to commence operations.

Senator STERLE: Spot on. Mr Mrdak, I am sorry to interrupt—while I am being nice and on my best behaviour—but as Senator Back did just say to me, that particular plane had been in service between Perth and Bali. So I think it is a fair question for us to put on the table. Let us have a go.

Mr Mrdak : All I was trying to do was assist you by saying that perhaps if Mr Skidmore starts with the progress on the application for new operations, which are AirAsia Indonesia, we can then talk from there about broader surveillance. But perhaps we could start from where the media focus has been, which is new start-up carriers. Does that assist, Mark?

Mr Skidmore : That will help, thank you. Indonesia AirAsia Extra is the operator who was asking for a Foreign Aircraft Air Operator's Certificate to operate from Melbourne to Denpasar.

Senator STERLE: Oh, have they?

Mr Skidmore : That was the one that we were assessing. We were going through the application process at the time that it was advised to us that they were put onto the European black list, which was on 11 December 2014. The black list only gives an identification for us; there is additional information that we might want to seek. We did that, and we have been working with Indonesia AirAsia Extra to get that additional information to be able to make an assessment on their application.

Senator STERLE: Sorry, Mr Skidmore. Currently they are on the European black list while you are seeking more information. They are not flying out of Melbourne to Denpasar at this stage?

Mr Skidmore : They do not have a Foreign Aircraft Air Operator's Certificate from Australia to allow them to do that.

Senator STERLE: Okay. Did you want to add anything else?

Mr Skidmore : The processing of the application is underway at the moment. We have conducted a route surveillance on one of their flights from Denpasar to Taipei. It was 6 to 7 February. We continued further on-site audits of Jakarta and Denpasar during the week of 9 February, and we have held meetings with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in Indonesia as well. There is still more information that we have requested from them but we have not received as yet.

Senator STERLE: Have you recommended or considered a suspension of AirAsia Indonesia flying in and out of Australia? Do AirAsia Indonesia fly between Perth and Bali, or any other port in Bali?

Mr Skidmore : No. We conduct surveillance of all airlines operating with regard to the air operator's certificate. If they have a foreign aircraft air operator's certificate or Australian air operator's certificate, we will take in whatever information is available in regard to identifying potential risks involved in that and then be able to focus our surveillance activity.

Senator STERLE: Just so I do not start a massive scare campaign, Indonesia AirAsia has currently on a European black list, and they were the ones that applied for the Melbourne—

Mr Skidmore : It is Indonesia AirAsia Extra. There are a number of airlines on the European black list. It is a significant list, and they just happen to be one of the airlines on there.

Senator STERLE: I am not trying to be cute, and I have written down 'Indonesia AirAsia X'.

Mr Skidmore : That is correct.

Senator STERLE: Are they flying between Australia and anywhere else?

Mr Skidmore : Indonesia AirAsia Extra does not have a foreign aircraft air operator's certificate from Australia at this stage, but they have an application in.

Senator STERLE: Sure, but they are on the European black list.

CHAIR: Just for comfort, is there anyone that is on the black list in Europe that flies into Australia?

Senator STERLE: That is a good question.

Mr Skidmore : Yes, there is.

CHAIR: Holy hell!

Senator STERLE: Well, you may as well tell us. The chair has raised it.

Mr Skidmore : PT Indonesia AirAsia.

Senator STERLE: Are these red and white planes too?

Mr Skidmore : Garuda Indonesia.

Senator STERLE: PT Indonesia AirAsia. Is that different to Indonesia AirAsia X?

Mr Skidmore : Yes.

Senator STERLE: Far out! This is like a scene from a Danny Kaye film.

CHAIR: Are they the only two?

Mr Skidmore : Dr Jonathan Aleck, my Associate Director of Aviation Safety, might be able to assist in that area.

Dr Aleck : There are five Indonesian airlines on the black list. Two of those would have operations into Australia. Indonesia AirAsia X is on the black list.

CHAIR: Can you table these?

Dr Aleck : There are five, and, of the five, not all of them have asked to fly into Australia.

Senator STERLE: There is no chance he is going to be on the other three, so you may as well keep going.

Dr Aleck : I do not have a list of all five, but I can tell you the Indonesian ones. Indonesia AirAsia X is on the list, Indonesia AirAsia is on the list, and Garuda Indonesia is on the list. The other two do not fly to Australia. I think it was PT City Link or—

Mr Skidmore : PT City Link and PT Travel Express.

Dr Aleck : The significant thing about that is that the Europeans will put a state on the black list and all of the operators from that state will be banned from operating in the European Union unless the individual carrier makes a submission to the Air Safety Committee of the European Commission and substantiates that, despite the fact that the Europeans have concerns about the state of operation, it is safe for them to operate. Some of those airlines have made submissions to the European Union and succeeded. Indonesia AirAsia X did not make a submission, so they did not have the opportunity to be assessed by that.

CHAIR: Two black listed airlines that fly into Australia do not fly into Europe.

Dr Aleck : Some of them do. Indonesia AirAsia flies into Europe.

CHAIR: But there are only two, you say, that fly into Australia.

Dr Aleck : Of those five Indonesian ones, yes.

CHAIR: Do they fly into Europe? Are they still banned?

Dr Aleck : Garuda did, or they thought to do, and if they did not operate regularly scheduled flights, the expectation was that they would.

CHAIR: So this is a fine call for a person who wants to spend money on a tourist trip somewhere. Is it generally known that these planes are of that status for the Australian people that tour themselves by plane to elsewhere?

Dr Aleck : I am not sure how generally known it is, but the Europeans publish their list.

CHAIR: It will be after this.

Dr Aleck : It is a publicly published list.

CHAIR: I am pleased I asked that question. Going to the point of why they have black listed, are we able to see the black list document of those airlines that are flying into Australia to see the technical reasons why they are black listed.

Dr Aleck : Much of the information giving rise to the decision is published in European legislation.

CHAIR: Yes, but it is probably in another language.

Dr Aleck : No, it is in English.

CHAIR: Could you table to this committee the documents that backed up the black listing of those places that fly into Australia that are black listed in Europe?

Dr Aleck : I can provide you with the information that the Europeans have published on that. The actual detailed analysis is not available—

CHAIR: How did we allow them? Did they apply, or we have not bothered to inspect? How come they are banned in flying in Europe, but we say, 'She'll be right here'?

Mr Mrdak : Can I just jump in. I think we should clarify. Firstly, Garuda does operate to Europe and operates to here. Australia does look at issues like the European black list, but the European black list is not a black list as you might imagine. As Dr Aleck has indicated, the European authorities take certain presumptions in relation to carriers from certain states—

Senator STERLE: Ban the whole lot.

Mr Mrdak : and carriers then can apply to operate. With Garuda international there were some issues a few years ago. They have been satisfied. They are now regarded as a—

Mr Skidmore : Very safe.

Mr Mrdak : very safe and very credible airline. I would not want to leave the committee with the impression, on the evidence that has been given today, that there are any suggestions around Garuda Indonesia. In relation to those matters, we do look at issuing international airline licences and foreign AOCs. As to the status of those carriers on the European listing, they are taken into account. Australia does—and I am sure CASA will outline it for you—its own checks in relation to foreign AOCs and also undertakes its own ramp assessments and—

CHAIR: But there are still two airlines flying into Australia, as I understand it, that do not have the rights to fly into Europe?

Mr Mrdak : Before we are definitive, let me go and check that and give you an accurate piece of information on that evidence so far. Let us take that on notice and come back to you.

Mr Skidmore : We can take it on notice and confirm to you exactly the numbers there, but Australia still conducts its own assessment in regards to the application put forward to it.

CHAIR: That would be a very interesting difference—why Europe would ban one and Australia would not ban one. I have got no idea why—

Mr Skidmore : I think you need to look at the reasons behind it—

CHAIR: but I think by the time we finish this exercise, we will know.

Senator STERLE: I just want to finish one more. Just put my mind at ease, if you can, bearing in mind that Indonesia AirAsia X is on the—

Mr Skidmore : European—

Senator STERLE: Yes, on the European—

CHAIR: black list.

Senator STERLE: They wanted to fly from Melbourne to Denpasar but you guys are not letting them at this stage. But we have got AirAsia X that are transgressing between our ports and Indonesia or wherever at the moment. Who is the AirAsia we have out of Perth—help me out?

Mr Mrdak : AirAsia X is a Malaysian carrier.

Senator STERLE: The Malaysian carrier. I have got to go back to what Senator Back reminded me of. The plane that went missing had been into Perth on a number of occasions—

Dr Aleck : That is Indonesia AirAsia.

Senator STERLE: It does not matter. The plane that went down—

Dr Aleck : I recognise what you are saying. That airline was on the black list at the time they operated into Australia. It is no longer on the black list.

Senator STERLE: With great respect, I get that. We are all so clever that we could substitute racehorses and it took a bit of rain before we found out someone was cheating. How can we be comfortable that you guys are really on top of AirAsia's planes coming in and out of this country—whether there is 'Indonesian' on the front, an 'X' on the black, 'Malaysian' or 'Philippines' or whatever. Put the travelling public's mind at ease, please.

Mr Skidmore : I think you want to know and understand our surveillance process and how we actually go through and review applications. Is that where you are trying to go?

Senator STERLE: I want you to make the travelling public comfortable. My mate Stan Quinlivan living in Perth hasn't got a lot of good things to say about you, but we will leave that aside—and you are all over him like a cheap suit. And that is true; that is fair dinkum. I did not make that up. I want to know that you are all over the foreign carriers too that are coming in and out, which planes, that you are checking on them.

Mr Mrdak : I think probably the best way is if we—

Senator STERLE: What are you laughing at, Mr Farquharson? Did I tickle your sense of humour? Are you picking on my mate Mr Quinlivan?

Mr Farquharson : I used to be the regional manager in Perth and I know Mr Quinlivan quite well.

Senator STERLE: Don't worry; I know he knows you. Anyway keep going. You look a bit like him from here.

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps if we come back to the committee with some advice in relation to, firstly, foreign air operators certificate requirements and then our safety surveillance program in relation to foreign carriers. If necessary, we can happily provide a briefing to the committee on those matters.

CHAIR: I was just going to suggest that it may be appropriate to prepare a set of documents to brief this committee.

Mr Mrdak : I think that would be the best way forward, so we do not mislead the committee or the general community about the status of airlines or the way in which this safety surveillance takes place. It is probably better if we do it that way.

Senator STERLE: I agree.

Dr Aleck : Can I just add quickly that, in 2009, we amended our legislation specifically to enable us to look at these issues more closely. We exercised those powers in connection with any operator who draws our attention to their activities, and an accident would be a flag.

CHAIR: It is a long time since I learned to fly. You may be captured by an area that has been black listed, but generally what goes wrong when an airline gets black listed in Europe?

Mr Mrdak : Generally, it starts with a concern about the safety regulator in that country in which the airline is based.

CHAIR: The skill of the pilot, the servicing of the plane?

Mr Mrdak : Generally, it starts with concerns about the quality of the safety assurance process in the country in which the airline is based, and the safety regulatory record of the jurisdiction before it gets to the individual aircraft operator. It is much more complex than simply the operator itself.

CHAIR: Anyhow, you will organise a briefing?

Mr Mrdak : I think that is the best way to handle it.

CHAIR: I agree.

Senator STERLE: In that case, I am finished.

CHAIR: I am pleased they asked the question. Senator Xenophon?

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Skidmore, in response to question No. 254, which I placed on notice last estimates and which related to the government's Aviation Safety Regulation Review, CASA replied—and I appreciate you were not the Director of CASA at the time—that any response to the review was a matter for the government. Given that the review made very specific and concerning statements in relation to CASA and its relationship with industry, is it still your position that it is not appropriate to respond in respect of that, or is that something that you, as the new Director, may be taking a different view of in terms of responding to the government's Aviation Safety Regulation Review?

Mr Skidmore : I am sorry, I did not understand the actual question.

Senator XENOPHON: Let me break it down. The government's Aviation Safety Regulation Review contained a number of specific and concerning statements in relation to the relationship between CASA and industry. CASA felt at the time, in answer to my question on notice No. 254, that it was not appropriate to respond in respect of those specific concerns. Is it your view—I do not mind if you take this on notice—that CASA may reconsider that position of not commenting about issues of the relationship between CASA and industry which were described in the government Aviation Safety Regulation Review, which I think objectively would be described as concerning in terms of a breakdown in parts of the relationship between CASA and parts of industry?

Mr Skidmore : I think it is fair to say we have only just received the draft statement of expectations. We are reviewing and looking at and working with the board in regard to the ASRR responses, and we will be putting that forward as an implementation plan—I will have that by the end of April—but, in regard to any concerns with industry, I am trying to break down the barriers and get communication flying; that is why I am in this job.

Senator XENOPHON: So you do concede that there have been, in the past, barriers between industry and CASA?

Mr Skidmore : I am aware the ASRR put that forward as a view.

Senator XENOPHON: So you are attempting to redress that view?

Mr Skidmore : I will attempt to redress a view of that perception. I cannot say, because I was not involved in that discussion, whether it was actually occurring or not. I have four principles that I have been outlining to my people; communication is the first one.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. Can I go to the issue of this committee's report into aviation accident investigations which focused on the Pel-Air ditching off Norfolk Island in 2009. Have you had an opportunity to read that report?

Mr Skidmore : I must admit that I was given a number of reviews and reports as I walked into the door and took up the position. I skimmed through it, but I could not give you an exact answer with regard to any recommendations that were in there.

Senator XENOPHON: Let me put something to you in relation to that report, in which Senator Fawcett played a pivotal role—I want to acknowledge his role in that very comprehensive report, and the role of the secretariat. That report raised some serious concerns about CASA's interactions with the ATSB in terms of information sharing. I do not think it is unfair to say that there was broad concern that CASA may have withheld information from the ATSB, contrary to the MoU, that revealed deficiencies in CASA's oversight of Pel-Air. My question to you is: how has the culture in CASA changed, or how will it change, to ensure that those concerns and findings in the Senate report will not be repeated?

Mr Skidmore : With regard to ensuring that we have good lines of communication between the ATSB and CASA, that is part of the memorandum of understanding that we are in the process of reviewing with the ATSB right now, so I will ensure that that is picked up in that review.

Senator XENOPHON: I am happy to ask you further questions on this, because it was quite a seminal report about aviation safety investigations and interrelationship between the agencies. Further, in respect of that report, you may be aware of the significant regulatory failures found within Pel-Air by CASA after the ditching, both in that special audit and in the Chambers report. Does the former chief pilot of Pel-Air, who was with the company when these breaches occurred, now hold, or has he held recently, a regulatory compliance position within CASA?

Mr Skidmore : I cannot answer that with my estimation—

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Farquharson may know.

Mr Farquharson : I am aware that he did.

Senator XENOPHON: This is something that Senator Heffernan was particularly interested in, in terms of the former chief pilot of Pel-Air working with CASA.

Mr Farquharson : I am aware that he did join CASA. I am not sure whether he is still with us.

Senator XENOPHON: Could you take that on notice, please, and if he did leave, on what date did he leave?

CHAIR: That was with regard to the downgrading of the incident judgement call.

Senator XENOPHON: Yes. What due diligence did CASA undertake to ensure this individual was not responsible for the many and significant breaches found within Pel-Air and was arguably unsuitable to hold such a role within CASA? I am happy if you take it on notice, but it is a key—

Mr Skidmore : I think we will have to take it on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. Further, the report raised concerns about the regulatory oversight of aeromedical flights and whether they were appropriately classed as aerial work for the purpose of regulation. Does CASA have any review or further consideration of the aerial work category plan?

Mr Skidmore : I will get Mr Peter Boyd, Executive Manager of Standards, to answer that. We are undertaking some work in that area.

Mr Boyd : Senator, your question is about whether or not the aeromedical flights have been reviewed in terms of the regulatory approach, and I can say—

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry, I did not hear you?

Mr Boyd : Your question is about whether the aeromedical flights' regulatory status has been reviewed. I can say yes, it has. There have been a number of CASA and industry meetings around the positioning of those particular flights within the regulatory suite. There has been consultation on their inclusion within the Air Transport Regulatory Rules, CASA parts 121, 135 and 133. At the moment, we are preparing a regulatory package to include them in those regulations.

Senator XENOPHON: Further to that, can CASA provide an update on the progress of its discussion paper into community service flights. For instance, have any particular oversight concerns been raised?

Mr Boyd : Oversight concerns around the—

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of the issue of community service flights.

Mr Skidmore : Do you mean with regard to the discussion paper itself?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Mr Skidmore : The discussion paper came out last year. We had a significant amount of input with regard to the discussion paper. It was a discussion paper to raise a number of areas that CASA wanted to explore and see if there were other options available with regard to the community service flights. I myself had discussions with Angel Flight last year and again earlier this year. We have come to the conclusion that there is no requirement to change anything at this stage, but that does not mean that we are not going to continue to review community service flights.

Senator XENOPHON: I do have some technical questions that I will put on notice. I am just concerned about the time constraints, Senator.

CHAIR: We are going to do champagne and biscuits at half past six.

Senator XENOPHON: Okay. Mr Skidmore, you indicated that there are—

Senator WONG: He is joking. Can we put in Hansard he is joking, just in case. I am on FebFast, so there is no champagne, no matter what.

Senator XENOPHON: I thought it was a given that the chair would be taken to be joking.

Senator WONG: You never know.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Skidmore, in terms of the four principles that you referred to, I think you said communications. The other three principles are?

Mr Skidmore : Communication, cost, complexity and consistency.

Senator XENOPHON: They are all very clear, concise and laudable goals. How do you propose to carry them out?

Mr Skidmore : I am starting from the top with regard to getting out there and talking to my people and talking to the aviation community as well; that is the communication part of that. I am looking to cut out and review the cost implications for CASA with regard to regulation change in everything we do. I will also be working with the community to understand what the cost of regulation change is for them. With regard to complexity, I want to drive complexity out of my processes, procedures and regulations, as best we can, through a continuous improvement process. In terms of consistency, I need to ensure that everything we do with regard to the approach we take, our education process, our understanding of the regulation and how we conduct audits and surveillance has got to be consistent.

CHAIR: Bloody hell, you would have been good outside Jimmy Sharman's boxing tent!

Senator XENOPHON: I want to put on the record that I am grateful for the time that you spent with the Australia Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association the other day in terms of the genuine concerns they have in respect of some new regulations. I was there for about an hour and a quarter and you were there for all of two hours. The issues have not yet been resolved. Is that right? We are still at loggerheads on that one.

Mr Skidmore : Unfortunately, we did not come to a common agreement.

Senator XENOPHON: I still live in hope that we might be able to. But I am grateful for the time that you have spent in relation to that. At least there was an effort, and I will get back to the LAMEs—the licensing aircraft maintenance engineers—in relation to that. Chair, I will put some questions on notice. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Does that conclude your interest in CASA?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes, it does.

CHAIR: We are going to Airservices Australia after the dinner break.

Proceedings suspended from 18:27 to 19:31