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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 648

Ms MARINO (12:06 PM) —I rise to speak on the Aviation Legislation Amendment (2008 Measures No. 2) Bill 2008, introduced during the last week of parliamentary sittings in December 2008. I have every confidence that Australian aviation safety and security are and should be of the utmost priority for both sides of government and should always be the subject of continual review to implement industry improvements. This was certainly brought fairly and squarely into focus for us all following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The coalition took action to improve aviation security in Australia to protect Australian and international travellers and our Australian skies.

The Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 involved aviation industry participants in maintaining aviation security and required the development of and compliance with a transport security program. This legislation also strengthened the regulatory framework surrounding aviation security and provided the flexibility necessary to respond to a rapidly changing air security environment. Additionally, the coalition introduced the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003, which required incidents related to transport safety to be reported. It also laid out a framework for the lodging of reports on the investigation of transport safety incidents.

As the challenges facing aviation security change, it is important that our response adjusts to this change. Since September 11, aviation security in Australia, by absolute necessity, has gone through drastic changes in a very short time. These changes were necessary in order to manage the terrorist threat and ensure air travel safety, with $1.2 billion spent to improve security, which, of course, included sky marshals. Given Australia’s record in aviation security, we may conclude that the changes we made have been effective because of the diligence and vigilance of those charged with ensuring this secure environment in the skies. Because we cannot take this security for granted, I ask the government to support continued aviation security, including sky marshals.

With this bill the government has identified four amendments that aim to further strengthen aviation transport security and safety by amending the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003. I note that part 2 of schedule 1, relating to the proposed amendment to allow copying and disclosure of aircraft cockpit voice recorder information for maintenance purposes, and part 3, relating to the amendment to the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 to change penalties for offences and allow the gathering of information, are proposed to commence on 1 July 2009.

The proposed amendment widens the scope of information that can be requested by the secretary to the department under the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, allowing the secretary the power to collect other information which currently falls outside the scope of that definition and not limiting the kinds of information that may be prescribed by regulation to be collected. Such information would include the screening of passengers, baggage, cargo or airport zones. This will provide greater transparency in the effectiveness and efficiency of screening and security procedures as the challenges to aviation security change and the sophistication of the threat changes as well.

However, by adding the words ‘and aviation security information’ after the words ‘security compliance information’ it certainly broadens the scope of information able to be collected and disclosed. It would not only be information relating to the screening statistics of passengers and baggage, clearance activities and different security zones but it could also encompass the collection and disclosure of personal information on airline passengers. As the broader collection of information may well allow for personal information and individuals to be reported, I strongly believe the regulation must contain the same set of privacy principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988, which all Commonwealth agencies as well as private industry must comply with when collecting personal information from or about individuals. As stated in the bill, the government intends that the department will consult widely on the scope of aviation security information that may be collected and disclosed before the regulations are finalised. This consultation needs to be thorough and deal with the issue I have raised. However, as regulations are not subject to full parliamentary debate, I will be very interested in the results of the consultative process.

Part 2 of the bill proposes amendments to the Civil Aviation Act 1988 to allow for the copying and disclosure of aircraft cockpit voice recorder information for the purpose of testing its functioning and reliability. And, as the previous member said, we know that is why that is so important. This bill will clear any doubt that the copying of cockpit voice recorder information for maintenance is permissible and enable those kinds of faults to be discovered and dealt with more easily. These amendments were first proposed when the coalition was in government and we certainly support them now. I believe this is a logical amendment, as the current confidentiality requirements could be interpreted as making it unlawful to copy or disclose cockpit voice recorder information for legitimate maintenance purposes and will continue to ensure the availability of voice recorder information in the future for accident investigations. This amendment can only enhance the safety of regular public transport aircraft. As stated in the government’s national aviation policy green paper on page 23:

The aviation industry is a key driver of broader economic prosperity and a strategic approach … is required to secure the industry’s future and promote the best interests of the travelling public and businesses that rely on the aviation sector.

Declining regional populations was identified as a key challenge facing the aviation industry. I note that in an article in the Australian on 30 January the Regional Aviation Association of Australia was quoted as saying:

The RAAA is unhappy that the green paper was ‘virtually silent’ about a strategy for regional Australia.

RAAA chief executive, Paul Tyrrell, is quoted as saying:

There was a ‘fair bit of passion’ among RAAA members about increasing growth from the regional ports to the main cities and re-establishing routes between regional centres.

‘If we look on aviation the same as education, health and telecommunications, these are the services that build regional Australia,’ he said. ‘We’d like the government, state and federal but federal particularly, to see aviation as one of those essential services.’

The article also said:

The RAAA also believes the Government should look more closely at areas such as research and development as well as aircraft and component manufacturing in regional areas.

I would support this view, given the growth and opportunity for aviation in my electorate of Forrest. With the population growth in the south-west of Western Australia, the anticipated increase in demand for air travel to service our fly-in, fly-out workers, tourism and the plans to attract more short, long stay and potentially international visitors and tourists to the region, as well as physically connecting the localities of Bunbury, Collie, Busselton, Augusta, Nannup, Margaret River and Manjimup with Perth and potentially in the future with interstate or overseas airports, has been a strategy that the relevant shire and city councils have been working on.

There are many private charter aircraft and aviation enthusiasts operating within the region. Of course any expansion of aviation legislation and improvement to security and safety will only benefit the forward planning that shires or the Bunbury City Council have in place for the development of their own regional airports, aerodromes and airstrips. Currently, checked baggage and passenger screening is only required for jet aircraft but not for turboprop driven aircraft providing regular public transport services. Requirements for hardened cockpit doors only apply to 30-seat and above aircraft used for regular public transport and not to cargo aircraft.

Security at regional airports and local airstrips has expanded over recent years to implement parking restrictions on aprons, tie-down areas and yoke yards. However, funding for the development, expansion and construction of regional airport infrastructure in my electorate of Forrest cannot go ahead without assistance from the Australian government as well as state and local governments, in much the same way as the Australian and state governments collaboratively assist with funding for regional roads, rail and ports. Future increased security measures at expanded regional airports in Forrest will require government funding as the costs would be spread over a lower regional passenger base compared with Perth and other city airports.

The Australian government’s confirmation to continue with flexible support for local governments through untied financial assistance grants and through the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program is required for the upgrading and expansion of airports in the south-west. Investment from federal, state and local governments will ensure a coordinated approach to improving airport safety, and I anticipate that this will extend to regional airports and not just remote airstrips. The WA government has its own Regional Airports Development Scheme that has played a significant role in helping develop airport infrastructure in regional Western Australia. WA was the first state to provide funding for airport infrastructure in regional areas and it works in partnership with airport owners to meet access needs and contributes to regional economic growth. Following the 2007-08 funding round allocation, the program has injected approximately $12.3 million to approximately 137 projects since 2001 including recipients in my electorate in Busselton and Manjimup. In addition to this, the funds spent on projects in regional airports in Forrest under the Regional Airports Development Scheme amounted to over $7 million. Augusta, the City of Bunbury, Busselton, Manjimup, Collie, Margaret River and Nannup all received funding.

It is estimated that the average number of aircraft using the Busselton Regional Airport on a daily basis is between seven and 10 aircraft, resulting in between 15 and 20 daily aircraft movements—often charter flights for fly-in, fly-out mining operational staff but also tourism flights. Currently the shires of Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River, in association with the department of tourism, are conducting a feasibility study on the possible benefits of establishing a regular passenger service to the south-west cape region. The population of the Shire of Busselton increased by over 7,000 people from 17,419 in 1996 to 25,000 in 2006—an increase of 43 per cent. Over the same period the state population grew by 15 per cent. That highlights the rapid population growth the Shire of Busselton has experienced over the past decade. Its urban growth strategy has prepared a growth plan to cater for an additional 11,000 to 12,000 people over the next 15 to 20 years. Therefore the need to consider expanding airport operations and services is a relatively urgent one for the area, and all matters of security; safety; noise abatement; airport services such as hangers, refuelling, firefighting, air traffic control; as well as bird hazards, access roads, water and power supply, sewerage and terminal facilities are diligently being investigated and plans developed to expand airport facilities to cater for that expected growth.

Margaret River, the wine region that I am sure members all know about, has terminal facilities of a transfer station available to the essential Flying Doctor service patients only. There is no aircraft refuelling service and no air traffic control. The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River put together its aerodrome plan in June 2007 to develop the airport infrastructure in preparation for increased demand for regular public transport and charter services driven by population and business growth. The Bunbury City Council has also undertaken an analysis study on its airport to ascertain best use of the current location with upgrades to expand its infrastructure for future growth and in fact investigated the possibility of relocating the airport to an alternative site. I applaud the foresight of the shires and city councils in Forrest in recognising the need to upgrade infrastructure to cater for the demands that future growth in the region will bring.

My other concern with the government’s green paper in relation to domestic aviation and the carbon pollution reduction scheme is that the government intends to achieve set targets through this economy-wide scheme for capping and trading emissions to be implemented in 2010. The aviation sector will be included with the whole-of-government approach to climate change. With the expanding capacity at regional airports, this may make it harder for new competition to enter the industry to establish regular public transport domestic air services if the scheme is being capped and the cost and availability of permits are beyond the reach of these new, emerging regional airport operations. Other amendments proposed in this bill will amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 to enable the secretary of the department to delegate his authority under the Aviation Transport Security Act to other agencies. The secretary would still retain overall authority and could set restrictions on the kinds of actions the delegate could take or withdraw the delegation, as the situation warranted. This change will ensure that the government could act in preplanned or prolonged situations where time is critical and resources are limited, or the secretary is unavailable.

Finally, the bill amends the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 to strengthen the powers of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to require further information after a report on an aviation incident, to increase penalties and to allow the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to prosecute for failure to report an aviation incident up to six years after the commission of the offence. This would replace the current 12-month limit on prosecutions, as it can sometimes take years for such an offence to be discovered. This legislation will build on the existing legislation, enabling us to maintain solid aviation security in an efficient and effective way. Overall, the legislation seeks to strengthen the security regime created by the coalition to make Australia’s skies safer. I support the bill, but I assure the House and the aviation industry that I will scrutinise the supporting regulations.