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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22705

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (2:11 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. I refer to the urgent industry summit held in Melbourne this week to discuss concerns with the new National Airspace System. Can the minister confirm that he called his own crisis meeting last Friday but failed to invite air traffic control representatives, professional pilot groups, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators and the Australian Airports Association, because he thought they were being too public in expressing their concerns about an increased risk of mid-air collisions, death and injuries as a result of the new system?

Mr Ross Cameron —This is a speech! What is the question?

The SPEAKER —The member for Batman will come to his question.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Instead of shutting out the experts, why won't the minister delay his plans, bring the experts together and design a safer system for Australians who use our airlines?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I did not call a crisis meeting—

Mr Martin Ferguson —Why?

Mr ANDERSON —Because there has been no need to call a crisis meeting. There has been a regular period of extensive consultation across the industry. I believe that all players have had their say and they will continue to have their say. This is not being introduced overnight. An earlier question went to a narrow extract from an email that was sent from the then acting head air traffic controller, Phillip Faulkner, to some colleagues in the industry. That is purported to have this officer saying that this system is not safe. The officer himself has directly confirmed that NAS stage 2b, which begins on the 27th of this month, is safe.

So much for the scare campaign from the Leader of the Opposition and the opposition spokesman for transport, who seek to politicise a process which they know full well has involved a full safety check-off from the body which is responsible for aviation safety in Australia—CASA—and which they know full well has been, if you like, broadly directed by a group known as the Aviation Reform Group and headed by the head of my department. It has involved the RAAF, Airservices and CASA and there have been endless discussions, precisely because we wanted to avoid the politicisation of this needed reform in the way that we saw five years ago and precisely so that we could ensure that there was wide based consultation.

It is interesting to note that we brought out a couple of American experts to travel the length and breadth of the country and explain to people in aviation what was involved and let them ask the hard questions—and these reforms are based on the North American system; I think that international harmonisation would of itself suggest to people that this is a sensible safety direction to take—and it was only after those experts left that the members opposite seek to try and join in this process of politicisation of aviation safety.

Mr Martin Ferguson —I seek leave to table a letter of 28 October from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators to the minister, in which they clearly say that the system is flawed and unsafe.

Leave granted.