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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
23/05/2017
Estimates
INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

[15:51]

CHAIR: Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Carmody : Thank you for the opportunity to make a short opening statement. I am well aware of the committee's concerns regarding the safety of remotely piloted aircraft systems, RPAS operations. As you know, we issued the first set of regulations on RPAS back in 2002. Since then, we have endeavoured to keep pace with what is a rapidly expanding and changing industry. Every aviation regulator worldwide is facing the same challenges.

The amendments to the civil aviation and safety regulation part 101 that commenced in September 2016 included initiatives to reduce the regulatory burden of low-risk unmanned aircraft operations and facilitate the growth and innovation in the sector whilst managing safety risks and standards. After an assessment of the safety implications, in consultation with industry, we decided to lighten the regulatory load for RPAS under two kilograms being used for commercial purposes, requiring only a simple notification system to CASA prior to use.

Since September 2016, CASA has received 5,428 notifications from very small commercial operators intending to undertake RPA operations. This has been achieved without any safety impact. All operators of remotely piloted aircraft systems must comply with a set of operating conditions including: operating only by day, in visual line of sight, below 400 feet, at least 30 metres from people not involved in the operation, not over populous areas and not within 5.5 kilometres of controlled aerodromes.

The set standard operating conditions for RPA operators certificate holders above two kilograms are the same as the sub-two-kilogram operations but their licence or certificate allows certificate holders to apply for exemptions to certain parts of the regulations, which are to be accompanied by a safety case. This is facilitating the growth of commercial operations in the RPA sector. In 2016, there were 832 RPA approved operators. We now have 1,036. In 2014, there were 220. As at 15 May 2017, there were 5,232 remote pilot licence holders compared to 3,200 just one year ago. Given the 5,428 small commercial notifications, direct savings to affected individual businesses as a result of the amended regulations are estimated to be in excess of $4,000 to $5,000 per business, a saving of around $20 million to $25 million to industry since September last year.

We continue to focus strongly our efforts on education and communication about the rules to RPA users and our drone safety awareness campaign is estimated to have reached over five million people across our social media channels. It also includes targeted advertising, discussing the rules for recreational and sub-two-kilogram users through other media channels including photography, airline and real estate magazines. This week CASA will be releasing a drone app—'Can I fly there?'—targeting the sub-two-kilogram commercial and recreational drone flyers to raise awareness of the simple rules in areas where drones cannot fly. We look forward to discussing this further today.

I am also aware of the committee's continued interest in Airservices Accelerate Program, and I want to advise the committee that we have undertaken 78 surveillance events at Airservices since May 2016—around six per month. This includes 35 of aerodrome rescue and firefighting services, four of the aerodrome rescue and firefighting services training colleges, seven of the aviation and rescue firefighters engineering, 11 of the air traffic control engineering and 21 of air traffic control services. While the number of noncompliances and observations have been recorded, no findings have been attributed to the Accelerate Program. But we will continue to monitor Airservices's application of the Accelerate Program and will act if we have safety concerns. Of course, anyone with safety concerns about Accelerate can provide them directly to CASA or the ATSB's REPCON service or through Airservices systems, as we heard earlier. Thank you, Mr Chairman. I am looking forward to taking questions from the committee.

Senator STERLE: Chair, can I just fire off a question before my muscle relaxant wears off! We have three minutes until smoko, Mr Carmody. Where is the new CEO?

Mr Carmody : That is a matter for the board and the government.

Senator STERLE: I know it is a matter for them, but where is he or she?

Mr Carmody : He or she has not been selected, as far as I know.

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps if I—

Senator STERLE: Yes—help me out, because Mr Skidmore went in August 2016, and I just want to know what is going on.

Mr Mrdak : The selection panel, which was established by the board, has completed its interviews and has provided a report to the board, and the board has made a recommendation to the minister. The minister is now considering that recommendation and following the normal cabinet processes.

Senator STERLE: Great. He or she? Give us some initials. I will tell no-one, Mr Mrdak! So hopefully we will hear very soon, will we? Have they just made the decision, or has it been sitting there for a few weeks, months?

Mr Mrdak : The advice went to the minister very recently—in the last week.

Senator STERLE: Cool. So I can shut off the backbenchers and the crossbenchers before we go to smoko, what about your Townsville office? Is there any thought about closing that down?

Mr Carmody : We are closing the Townsville office.

Senator STERLE: Thank you for telling me that. Have you worked out if you are going to relocate the staff that currently work there, or are they going to be made redundant?

Mr Carmody : We have offered relocation to the staff. We are still working through the process with them. It is a decision for them. If they do not wish to relocate, we will offer them redundancy.

Senator STERLE: How many of them are there?

Mr Carmody : Someone might help me out. I thought it was eight, but I am just not certain.

Senator STERLE: I just saw hand go up at the back. I do not think it was giving me the Aussie wave!

Mr Carmody : Five.

Senator STERLE: Where are those jobs to be relocated to? Is it in Queensland or all around Australia?

Mr Carmody : We would run it from Brisbane—sorry, from Cairns.

Senator STERLE: Okey-dokey. I note that CASA has rejected recommendation 22 of the Aviation Safety Regulation Review, which stated that CASA should consider establishing 'small offices at specific industry centres to improve monitoring, service quality, communications and collaborative relationships.' Is that correct?

Mr Carmody : We are still working through that recommendation, but the inclination is to approach the matter in another way. What we have discovered is that paying for an office in isolated locations and having that real estate sit there for months at a time before we send someone up to go and conduct surveillance—say, at the end of a mustering season or the beginning of a tourist season—is a lot of sunk cost. When we send inspectors up there I have to fly them up there, I have to put them in a motel for a couple of weeks and I have to give them a car. So we determined that what we will do in these spaces is that we will fly them there, book them into a motel, give them a car and use the facilities of the local motel to conduct all of our training. We will operate out of that location for the couple of weeks, as we would have, and I do not have to invest in the fixed costs of having an office and a computer system sitting there unused for 90 per cent of the year.

Senator STERLE: So it is in the best interests of the taxpayer as well as the efficiency of CASA. Is that correct?

Mr Carmody : That is correct.

Senator STERLE: How does that go with the government's decentralisation policy? Is it hand in hand? I like what you are saying.

Mr Carmody : But it was never a permanent office location. These are locations that we go to for two weeks at a time and then leave, and we might not come back for eight months.

Senator STERLE: Your little shack in Kununurra?

Mr Carmody : Correct. There is one on Horn Island, which we think we will retain, but as for the others, we find it is just as efficient to operate the way we were planning to operate.

Senator STERLE: Chair, it is now smoko, and—

CHAIR: It is four o'clock.

CHAIR: Madam Minister, would you like to make a statement?

Senator Nash: I want to add some comment further to Senator Sterle's questions earlier.

Senator STERLE: I think she has taken the bait.

Senator Nash: I would like to correct the record on the matter of title, Acting Deputy Prime Minister. I would just like to note that PM&C has corrected the record in the Finance and Administration Committee on the matter, and PM&C has now said that they understand the use of the title was correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Did you get the higher duties for the day? That is what I want to know.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. We will resume at 4:15pm after a smoko break.

Proceedings suspended from 16 : 01 to 16:1 8

CHAIR: We now formally reopen this Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee estimates hearing.

Senator STERLE: I did want to ask just one question. Mr Carmody, I want to take you back a year ago. I am sitting in Kununurra; I am at the Grand Hotel, enjoying the surrounds at 5.30 in the arvo. There is Papa Bear and Baby Bear, and they are playing with a brand-new toy. It is a drone, under two kilos, and it is winging around the swimming pool area. If Baby Bear had Can I Fly There?, do you think he would have gone, 'Oh my God! The Kununurra runway is less than one kilometre away from the hotel grounds, and this thing could probably fly up to 14,000 feet'? Help me out.

Mr Carmody : The rules for operating drones are clear. He should not be operating it in that location, close to the aerodrome, or near people. And there are a range of other rules that apply.

Senator STERLE: So he would not have done it. Magnificent. So the 50,000 drones out there—everyone will read the book, so everything is okay. Sorry, I am digressing.

CHAIR: There is no book. Don't mislead this committee. It is a pamphlet.

Mr Carmody : We direct people to our website. We have instituted rules where that information is placed in the boxes of drones that are delivered. If you get a drone from China now, it has two things: it has an Australian power plug and it has a document that refers you to the drone operating rules that CASA has put in place. We have already prosecuted a number of people. In fact, for the record, our prosecution record is, per capita, higher than the prosecution record in the United States for drone usage.

Senator STERLE: Did you know one smacked into a car windscreen in Adelaide two weeks ago?

CHAIR: A drone did?

Senator STERLE: Yes.

CHAIR: Mr Carmody, we are not supposed to ask hypotheticals, but I am going to do that. If a drone got sucked into the turbine of a passenger jet tomorrow and we had a catastrophic failure resulting in the death of 220 people, say, what do you think CASA would recommend to the government within an hour of that?

Mr Carmody : You have pitched it as a hypothetical. We have a regulatory framework to prohibit that. We have a regulatory framework for operating large passenger-carrying aircraft and we have a regulatory framework for drones, and we work to keep them apart. To be fair, over the last two years, the statistics show that we have actually kept them apart.

CHAIR: Can I express that that is good luck rather than good management. Let me put a couple of questions to you. How many recreational drones are in this country?

Mr Carmody : I do not know.

CHAIR: Do you know what the estimates are?

Mr Carmody : I heard you talking about an estimate of 50,000 this morning.

CHAIR: You are in no position to dispute that?

Mr Carmody : That is correct.

CHAIR: We went to Dalby and took some evidence there. We spoke with a crop duster. We had our displays at that beautiful facility there at Dalby. As far as you could see—and based on my local knowledge—for 100 kilometres in any direction, if you got on your bike and pedalled, you were in crops. There are two crop duster operators there, who operate between ground level and 400 feet, and there are 50 drones. We know that because the retailer of the drones, a woman that specialises in agricultural drones, was there and was able to tell us. She could have told us the names of every one of them.

Can you imagine that environment? We have 50 drones and a plane working between 100 feet and 400 feet sharing the same airspace—early in the day, late in the afternoon, coming from different directions. Do you not imaging that there could be contact between those two vehicles?

Mr Carmody : Again, you are asking me a hypothetical question. The crop duster should be operating over the land of the person for whom he is conducting the service.

Senator Nash: Or she.

Mr Carmody : Or she. There should not be other drones over that area unless that person is flying their own drone. The regulations are clear—you can operate it over your own land. The question is purely hypothetical. There are lots of drones. As I said, there are 800,000 registered drones in the United States, but there have been no cases recorded by the FAA of drones hitting aircraft.

CHAIR: I tell you what, Mr Carmody, I hope the day never comes. But if it does—it will be the longest day out you and some others have had if we have a catastrophic accident with a drone. You know my history. I had 20 years investigating catastrophic accidents of international flights all over the world. I have seen accidents happen because an individual left a screwdriver in a turbine when they went in to do some repairs. You can do all the regulations you like, but it is not going to prevent an event if we get sufficient density up in the air. I asked one of the other witnesses this morning, one of the other officers, about the chicken and the egg. Don't you think it would be better if we stopped this proliferation until your organisation, and indeed our committee and industry, has a chance to collaborate and get a set of circumstances in place that we think can absolutely minimise the potential impact of this?

Mr Carmody : I think, through our regulatory framework that we have in place now, we are endeavouring to do just that. The industry wants the decisions of the regulator to be consistent. It wants them to be evidence based.

CHAIR: Sure.

Mr Carmody : It wants them to be predictable.

CHAIR: We want that too.

Mr Carmody : The evidence that I have over the last two years is, for example, 1,800 bird strikes in 2016, 1,700 bird strikes in 2015 and no reports of a drone striking an aircraft. But birds and other animals are striking aircraft. If I may, that is evidence. I have no evidence at the moment that the regulatory framework that we have in place—

CHAIR: Is that what you need, Mr Carmody? You need evidence? You want a drone to strike an aeroplane before you take some measures here?

Mr Carmody : You need to be able to make evidence based decisions rather than hypothetical decisions. The evidence that I have from the United States is very clear. I have evidence from the United States about the effect of what is happening with drones in the United States.

CHAIR: No, you have evidence from the United States of a lack of events where there has been a catastrophic collision.

Mr Carmody : Where there has been a collision, if I may, and they have a much denser air environment than we have in Australia. I am looking at what other regulators are doing. I share your concern. I understand where you are coming from—I really do.

CHAIR: What harm is there in us going steady, with respect to the proliferation, before you finish your important work, Mr Carmody? No, look, that is a valid question. Do you take into account the retail sector as you make decisions about whether we should leave these things out of the air for the moment until your work is done?

Mr Carmody : No, I do not take into account the retail sector, but the statement of expectations from my minister is very clear:

… focus on aviation safety as the highest priority …

…   …   …

… consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community in the development and finalisation of new—

regulations and regulatory changes.

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Carmody : And take 'a pragmatic, practical and proportionate approach to regulation as it applies' to different industry sectors. I am fulfilling that mandate.

CHAIR: All right.

Senator XENOPHON: I have a supplementary question. You mentioned the United States as a point of comparison. In the US, do purchasers of drones have to provide any ID?

Mr Carmody : I do not know the answer. Somebody might. I know that they have an estimated 800,000 registered drones, but I note there has been a recent court decision on whether or not the FAA can mandate registration. But in terms of purchase I am afraid I do not know. I could take it on notice and find out for you.

Senator XENOPHON: But does CASA have a view as to whether there ought to be a requirement in the same way that you buy a mobile phone and you need to provide 100 points of ID before you can get a SIM card for your phone and use the phone? There is no such requirement for purchasing a drone—is that right?

Mr Carmody : No, there is not.

Senator XENOPHON: But it is not terribly onerous. Hundreds of millions of mobile phones are sold each year, and retailers can cope with that registration. The point I am making is that, if something catastrophic does occur, there does not seem to be any chain of responsibility. A drone owner would know that, if they did something stupid with the drone that caused harm, there is a greater likelihood that they will be caught for it if there is some form of identifying that drone back to the person who purchased it.

Mr Carmody : It is a decision that the government could make in terms of requiring something like that.

Senator XENOPHON: You could advise, though, couldn't you?

Mr Carmody : Yes, I could. Let me say, though, that the mere fact of registration might not necessarily change the outcome. Somebody would say, 'That wasn't my drone,' or, 'My drone was stolen,' or, 'I was not using my drone.'

CHAIR: Mr Carmody, seriously!

Mr Carmody : The simple matter of regulation does not resolve the problem.

CHAIR: Do you believe that the registration of motor vehicles where they have got registration plates that are visible does not impact on the behaviour of people robbing banks?

Mr Carmody : It does. I agree with you. I agree that it does, but I am drawing my comparisons from other regulators and, as far as I know, if I use the United States comparison again, with the 800,000 regulated registered drones, the registration of the drone has not been used in any case for prosecution. That is just a point that is evidence.

CHAIR: Let me put it to you another way. I asked this question earlier: when you have two pieces of tin in the air, a drone and an aircraft manned by a human being—a pilot—and they come into contact in particular circumstances, so drone into turbine, it really does not matter that one is this big and one is this big. Correct?

Mr Carmody : Technically it may not matter. The point about drones is that they come in varying size. Some are quite small—

CHAIR: I appreciate that. Just come back to the question.

Mr Carmody : It is a very hypothetical question.

CHAIR: Of course it is. But one has a living human being who is thinking about the conduct of their bit of tin, who has been trained for thousands of hours and who meets all sorts of requirements—you are monitoring them, you have them on a radar, they have to tell you when they take off and when they land and they cannot fly into this, that or the other—and the other one could have a 13-year-old on the ground operating it. To me they are equivalent in the event of a catastrophic contact. Yet, it seems as though you and others do not seem to be concerned that the person on the ground with piece of tin no. 1 could be of any age, could be intoxicated and could have a complete disregard for the operating pamphlet that comes from China.

I have been in the presence of two drone operators in the last month, who were not aware of my involvement with this, who took their drones out of sight across any number of properties—it was a semi-residential area at a beach. I am telling you that in my own experience with it, people are ignoring your piece of paper from China. So I am asking you why you make pilots spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases, tens of thousands in most, have their hearts checked every 20 minutes and have regulations around the operator of that piece of tin, yet this piece of tin has virtually nothing? That is the real burden of my argument.

Mr Carmody : If I could answer a couple of the parts of the questions you have raised. Firstly, the only reference in the box is a reference to our website, which covers all of the material. The piece of paper does not actually explain what the rules are; it tells them where to go for the rules. The second point I need to make is that we have regulatory regimes for high-capacity passenger transport, charter, aerial agriculture and all other sectors. We have different requirements on pilots and we have a different safety requirement. We have a regulatory regime for unmanned aerial vehicles as well. All I am saying is, at the present time, the regulatory regime is designed to keep them separate. Some people will behave badly—I understand that—and some very highly trained pilots will behave badly as well. That is why we have a regulatory regime and regulatory oversight. That is why we prosecute drone operators when we discover that they have done the wrong thing—and we have prosecuted. But the regulatory regime is designed to keep these remotely piloted vehicles separate from air transport and large aircraft and, at the present time, statistically, it is succeeding.

CHAIR: All right. If we had a training program that brought the operator of a drone up to a higher level of competence—rather than going into your website—in terms of testing their proficiency, their eyesight, their reflex capacity and all the sorts of things that you do with pilots, do you think that would make a positive contribution to increasing air safety with regard to the prospect of drones and aircraft coming into contact with each other?

Mr Carmody : We do that in the above two kilograms space.

CHAIR: We understand that. We are very familiar with the area.

Mr Carmody : That is where we actually do it. Below the two kilogram space where we have commercial and recreational activities, the cost is thousands of dollars. So there is a cost imperative and it would probably close down the industry—

CHAIR: The cost to who?

Mr Carmody : It would be a cost to the drone operator. The point that I made before about our numbers is that we have had 5,400 people come to us since September last year, when we deregulated the two kilogram market, and they have told us how they will operate, where they will operate, that they understand the rules and that they will follow the rules—

CHAIR: That is only the commercial operators. It is not the other 48,000—

Mr Carmody : That is not the recreational operators—no.

CHAIR: That is right. And the point of that is? We have four per cent of the market place who have their drones up there covered but what about the other 96 per cent who, in my view, are less likely to be responsible individuals.

Mr Carmody : They may well be less responsible; they may well be more responsible. I cannot really answer that question. If you were to put in a regime to have them trained and registered, it would cost much more than it would cost to purchase a drone. If that were the outcome, I think that is what it would do to the industry.

CHAIR: I do not get this. We do this with motor vehicles. For an individual who drives a motor vehicle, who only has the capacity to kill themselves and maybe one other passenger, there are all sorts of things they have to do with respect to proficiency and training before they are allowed to go and operate that piece of tin.

Mr Carmody : Correct. I understand that.

CHAIR: With plant and machinery, nobody can get on a tractor, a dozer, a digger or a bobcat without having to be trained up so that they are proficient enough that they do not run over just one other worker in the workplace.

Mr Carmody : But people can get onto a pushbike and not be registered.

CHAIR: Mr Carmody, quite seriously, I find your defence of these matters we are putting to you almost offensive. I have no confidence in your administration.

Senator RICE: Mr Carmody, as you can gather, the view of most of the senators here is that there needs to be further regulation of recreational drone users. What we have found during our inquiry is that, at the very least, registration and some form of online training should be required. What I hear you saying is that you do not think there is enough evidence as yet that that is needed. Is that correct?

Mr Carmody : We have a recreational drone space operating, as you know. We have rules that recreational drone users are supposed to follow.

Senator RICE: Yes, we know that.

Mr Carmody : And we have no incidents of unmanned aerial vehicles coming in contact with aircraft in the last two years. So I have no evidence to suggest that the regulatory framework we have in place at the moment, which was put in place on the basis of a risk assessment and a notice of proposed rulemaking from 2014 to 2016—so we consulted with industry. I have no evidence to suggest that that rule set that was agreed at that time and put into place is not working. That is the point I was making.

Senator RICE: You do not have evidence of drones hitting aircraft. You do have evidence of near misses and you do have many instances of drones entering airspace they should not be in.

Mr Carmody : ATSB may be better able to answer the question, but, while we have reports of drones being sighted from aircraft, how many of those have been validated—with information on how close they were? That is a matter I do not have information on. All I am focusing on is unmanned aerial vehicles striking aircraft, which is the risk that—

Senator RICE: That is a lot of significant evidence that you are going to require. You said that there are bird strikes. Can you tell me how the impact of having a drone—say it is close to the two-kilogram limit—striking an aircraft compares with the bird strikes you talked about?

Mr Carmody : We have not had any drones striking aircraft, so I cannot. But I would say that some birds—eagles, for example—may be between three and five kilograms, or even more. There are a lot of birds that fly. Birds fly in flocks.

Senator STERLE: There is not much metal in them, though.

Mr Carmody : But they can be pretty solid. There is not too much metal in most of the small drones either. It is only the battery pack. The rest of it is composite.

Senator RICE: Can you take this on notice? I assume there have been some comparisons in other jurisdictions around the world on what the relative impact of drone strikes versus bird strikes would be. Have you analysed that data yourself?

Mr Carmody : We continue to look at material all the time on those sorts of matters, but, as I said—

Senator RICE: Could you take it on notice to provide for the committee some of your rationale about the difference between bird strikes and drone strikes, and your basis for deciding that drone strikes are, it sounds like, no more of an issue than bird strikes?

Mr Carmody : I would be happy to. I think that the need to know more about the issue is the point we are endeavouring to make. We have a lot of bird strikes and a lot of animal strikes.

CHAIR: There are a hell of a lot more birds than drones out there at the moment.

Senator RICE: But regarding the issue of what impacts a drone strike would have—particularly the recreational drones; the under two-kilogram drones that are being used for recreational purposes that we know are flying where they should not be in controlled airspace, out of sight and far higher than they are meant to—

Mr Carmody : We can certainly take it on notice.

Mr Crawford : Just on gas turbines and bird strikes: when you have single bird strikes or relatively small bird strikes—I am talking two kilograms to three kilograms—the mass of the bird, typically, will go down in the bypass of the engine. Seldom is it a catastrophic event. It is often when you have multiple bird strikes and both engines are impacted that you have catastrophic events in twin-engine aircraft. That is an important fact. Drones are typically on their own; birds, sometimes, are not on their own. I have seen engines that have actually had vultures hit them and they have not had a catastrophic failure.

Senator RICE: If you provide the comparison to the committee, that would be very useful for us. Another bit of information that I would like to know is: you have been talking about your communications program to inform recreational users—how much assessment and what knowledge do you have about the level of knowledge amongst those recreational users of what the rules are and whether they can play with them?

Mr Carmody : We are communicating constantly—

Senator RICE: That is not my question. My question was: how much knowledge in the community is there?

Mr Carmody : I would prefer to take it on notice. I think that I can probably find the answer for you.

Senator RICE: Have you done any analysis of the level of understanding amongst recreational drone users of what the rules are?

Mr Carmody : I am not aware, so I will take it on notice.

Senator RICE: It sounds like you would know about it if you have done that sort of activity, wouldn't you?

Mr Carmody : One of my colleagues will come forward if we have some information, because we are constantly updating our information in that space. If one of my colleagues has the information, I would be happy to put it on the table.

Senator RICE: Have you got a colleague here who knows more details about your communications program?

Mr Carmody : They are all watching.

CHAIR: You talked before about consultation with industry when you reduced the regulatory burden—

Mr Carmody : It was during the development of the—

CHAIR: I am familiar with when it was. You referenced that. You would, no doubt, have information about who you consulted and what the breadth of the consultation was. Could you take that on notice and provide us with who you consulted and if there are any documents where they made a submission to you, you exchanged or a file note—could you also produce that for us?

Mr Carmody : I am happy to. We have a pretty standardised process for consultation. We are very happy to take it on notice.

Senator RICE: Perhaps you would talk me through what the communications program is and what analysis of the effectiveness of that communications program you have undertaken.

Mr Walker : I head up the unit that has responsibility for safety promotion and education across the full breadth of CASA's regulatory responsibility and, obviously, the drones are something that we deal with within the Stakeholder Engagement Group. The education program that we have embarked on and have been running for quite a few years now is multifaceted. To your question specifically, one of the biggest challenges that we face is around the fact that we are dealing with a non-traditional aviation audience.

Senator RICE: Absolutely.

Mr Walker : Correct.

Senator RICE: Your ordinary person in the street.

Mr Walker : Exactly. In actually looking at that profile, we have tried to customise a range of programs in the education space to pick up and target some of those groups.

Senator RICE: What are those programs that you are undertaking?

Mr Walker : Breaking it down, we specifically target drone users and known drone users. Our programs—

Senator RICE: How do you identify them?

Mr Walker : We have done that through connecting with the drone user groups and the various associations that look after them.

Senator RICE: Do you know what proportion of drone users are associated with drone user groups?

Mr Walker : I am sorry, I missed the question.

Senator RICE: In terms of targeting, what proportion of drone users are associated with those drone user groups? I would hazard a guess that it is only a very small proportion of drone users.

Mr Walker : At the risk of oversimplifying it, there are the sub-two-kilo users, which tend to be mums and dads, and, obviously, we are doing some public education—

Senator RICE: And 13-year-olds and—

Mr Walker : Correct. We look at how they gain their information. It would be quite simplistic to say that we would take out some advertising, et cetera, which we do in drone publications and, obviously, IT magazines. But where we have been targeting is very much in the social media space. An example is our Facebook site—CASA now has a Facebook site. We started that a couple of years ago; we have seen an exponential growth in the number of people looking at that site. We now have 30,000 followers, and the vast majority of those and a vast amount of the traffic we are seeing is around drones and people wanting to know more information around drones. We have used social media specifically—including Twitter—around targeting the mums and the dads and the 13-year-old kids. And then the next area we have looked at is very much, I suppose, the hobbyist and enthusiast who is not necessarily interested in buying a commercial off-the-shelf drone; they actually buy their components via the internet and they build their own. That has been another key target area.

Senator RICE: What has been the cost of your communications campaign so far?

Mr Walker : In terms of total spend, I would have to take that on notice. In terms of social media, we manage that in-house—that is, the staff, relying on the expertise we have with our own subject-matter experts, and the content is all generated and delivered in-house as part of our normal communications packages.

Senator RICE: Getting to my other question, it is all very well to be putting that communication out there. And with the drones, you have also got the information in the yellow leaflets—is that what you were referring to? Is it the leaflet that we saw at our drones inquiry?

Mr Carmody : It is a leaflet; I have seen multiple ones, but yes—

Senator RICE: It is a DL-size yellow leaflet. But I think for your average 15-year-old, once they get their drone out of the package from Harvey Norman, the leaflet would end up with the wrapping paper and it would not even be looked at. I want to know what sort of analysis you are doing of the effectiveness of your communications program. How are you evaluating whether you are indeed reaching your target audience?

Mr Walker : In answer to that, we intend to go out to market and actually test that via survey.

Senator RICE: You intend to go out to market—so you have not tested it as yet.

Mr Walker : Not as yet, but we do monitor a number of things on a weekly and a monthly basis, specifically around our website and around the internet traffic. In a couple of the other forums that we attend, we also do a high degree of exit polling of those attendees. If I could give you an example of that, recently at the Avalon air show, we happily participated in and were very supportive of what was called the 'Drone Zone'. On the public days at the Avalon air show, they specifically targeted mums and dads and kids that were turning up, to provide education around drones. We had members of our staff there to answer questions and provide information, and we also then asked people on the way out whether or not that information had been useful, as we do in all our forums.

Senator RICE: How many people would you have reached at that show, for example?

Mr Walker : Over the three days, I would have to take it on notice to give you precise numbers; obviously, it tends to be a little bit anecdotal. I know I had three staff on the stand and they were literally hammered for the three days.

Senator RICE: So it would be in the order of probably hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand?

Mr Walker : I would guess easily a couple of thousand people over that three days, just at the Avalon air show.

Senator RICE: But we are talking about—was it 50,000 recreational drone users?

CHAIR: On that number of a couple of thousand people at the air show, how many of them do you think owned a drone, and how many of them do you think were intending to buy a drone if they did not own a drone? And is it possible that none of them owned a drone but they came up to talk to you because they were attracted to the idea?

Mr Walker : Quite possibly, Senator. My understanding and the feedback I had from my staff on the ground down there was that people were drone users—on two things—who wanted to learn more about using the drone but also wanted to do it safely. So there is an appetite and an awareness—

Senator RICE: They are likely to be the self-selected end of the audience who are interested enough and engaged enough to go to the Avalon air show—rather than a person who has just got a drone for Christmas and says: 'Let's just see how it works.'

Mr Walker : Certainly. Just so senators are clear, I gave that as an example of one of the many things that we do. We are trying to increase the level of awareness and education, through the campaigns and programs we supply. Some of the things we have on the table at the moment are actually looking in the curriculum development space, in terms of what packages we could deliver to high schools and colleges around drone awareness and drone safety. So we are not resting, by any measure; we are constantly looking for ways to increase promotion and education.

Senator RICE: I would like to go back to what you said before—that you intended to go to market to do some evaluation of your effectiveness. Can you tell me more about the time lines and about what you are proposing to take to market in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of your communications?

Mr Walker : The intent is that later this year we will be going to market to do a further sample of our stakeholder engagement relationship with industry. As part of that, we are in early discussions with the service provider that does that for us as to whether we can include a component around drones and drone awareness and also drone safety. It is early days, but I would like to think that we will be going out before the end of this year to do that.

Senator RICE: Will that be targeted at the group that we are concerned about, the recreational drone users?

Mr Walker : Yes, this would be targeted at the general public—targeted at, I suppose, mums and dads and kids—to try and understand what their level of awareness is and, based on that, what our level of effectiveness has been in delivering the communication packages that we have.

Senator RICE: So you are hoping to have determined the program by the end of the year or be out in the field by the end of the year?

Mr Walker : I would like to think we will be out in the field by the end of the year in a position to have some data on the back end of that early in the new year.

Senator RICE: If you could provide on notice some details of what you have planned in that field, that would be appreciated.

Mr Walker : Certainly, happy to.

Senator GALLACHER: A constituent of mine rang the police because there was a drone in their backyard and they were concerned about untoward photography. The police advised them that, provided they knocked it out of the sky over their own land, they were within their rights. How does CASA feel about that?

Mr Carmody : Actually, we have the head of our legal services organisation here, so I will bring him to the table, but actually—

Senator GALLACHER: Were the police advising the constituent correctly that they could—

Mr Carmody : but, actually, a drone is an aircraft under the act.

Senator GALLACHER: So they cannot bring it down over their own land?

Mr Carmody : That is my understanding. I will ask Dr Aleck to come forward.

Senator GALLACHER: Can you tell the coppers to get on the page, then? The complaint was that the householder was concerned that there was untoward photography going on of his house from this drone, and the direct advice from the police was, 'Bring it down over your own yard; don't knock it down over the fence.'

Mr Carmody : Before I ask Dr Aleck to respond, the challenge with the drone space, as you know, is that it crosses the safety remit, which is my remit, and the privacy remit, which is not, and the security remit, which is not either. Because of that, it is a very complicated debate. I do not actually have a role in privacy, but I do have a role in safety.

Dr Aleck : The short answer to your question, Senator, is: no, that probably was not sound advice—surprising as that may seem. As Mr Carmody said, a drone is an aircraft and interfering with or jeopardising the safety of an aircraft is an offence.

Senator GALLACHER: I knew the answer to the question, but it just highlights the chair's the point that, whilst you regulate in a protective way, you are not controlling the use of it, except when you have evidence that it destroys things.

Dr Aleck : I do not think anyone would disagree with or challenge the concerns that are being expressed here. We share them. Without oversimplifying the matter, to some extent the genie is out of the bottle, and I would feel worse about that if it were not the case—and I have confirmed this with my colleagues overseas—that virtually every other jurisdiction is facing very similar issues. The need to act in a precautionary manner, as Senator O'Sullivan will know because we have dealt with this in other contexts, is very important. You should not wait until a catastrophe occurs before you take steps that might minimise that. What you do is try and anticipate what untoward safety results may occur, and we are attempting to do that, based on modelling and analysis and the kind of information that informs those decisions, so that we can take reasonable, appropriate, proportionate actions to mitigate those possible consequences, without shutting down the industry.

I might add that, as a precautionary measure—and this analogy has come up in many circumstances—you could largely eliminate the risks that are posed by untrained, unqualified drone operators by outlawing their use entirely. But what you would then get is a huge number of people who are prepared to operate them in spite of the fact that there is a restriction. In the United States, where they have at this point—

CHAIR: What restriction?

Dr Aleck : Sorry?

CHAIR: What restriction, the one on the little pamphlet?

Dr Aleck : No. The rules that govern the lawful operation of a sub-two-kilogram drone, if they are followed, should minimise or eliminate the likelihood of the kinds of conflicts you described. What I think you are concerned about are the situations in which people do not adhere to those things because they are not aware of them or because they do not care about them—whatever the reason may be. This is true with a range of laws. If people obeyed the law, the consequences of disobeying the law would occur far less frequently.

CHAIR: Well, you are a lawyer, Dr Aleck.

Dr Aleck : I am.

CHAIR: Is it foreseeable that a father would let his 14-year-old son operate a drone?

Dr Aleck : Is it foreseeable?

CHAIR: Is it foreseeable?

Dr Aleck : Absolutely. It is absolutely foreseeable.

CHAIR: Do you think that dad will take the child in to a computer screen and pull up the rules and regulations? We are out at the picnic. Do you think that they are going to bring the child up to speed before they get to operate the drone?

Dr Aleck : I think some will and some will not. I could not say, but I take your point that the likelihood of people doing something that takes time and energy and effort, rather than going and doing something that is fun, is not going to be a great incentive.

CHAIR: So we have got unmanned motor vehicles being developed in the world. Again as a lawyer, are you okay if we start selling them tomorrow and then we sell one, two, ten, 12, 15, 50, 100 or 500 remotely controlled vehicles, controlled by someone sitting in a house 40 kilometres away, bringing a pizza home to their house on the road? Are you okay to do that while we work through the rules and regulations and the training and the competency testing that should occur on those unmanned vehicles on the road?

Dr Aleck : I am not entirely sure what restrictions there are today on the sale of vehicles that operate without drivers, but—

CHAIR: But that is not the burden of my question. I mean, please.

Dr Aleck : You are saying if they are available—

CHAIR: I have got to tell you, I do not know about my colleagues, but I am happy to go ahead till 11 o'clock and come back tomorrow. I am starting to get tired of responses that do not respond properly to the burden of the question. And the burden of the question is this: Dr Aleck, as a lawyer, what advice would you give government if unmanned motor cars on the road become available at a car yard somewhere near you tomorrow? Would you say to government, 'Don't let these things on the road until we get some proficiency and testing and we know who owns it and where it comes from, and we need to have competent operators of it,' or would you say, 'Why don't you let 50,000 of them come out tomorrow, and we'll work through the issue over the coming months'? It is a simple question, it is a fair question, and I would like to get your opinion on it.

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps if I, as an opinion—

CHAIR: No, let Dr Aleck go, please.

Dr Aleck : I think that offering an opinion on that is something that I will not do, but what I will do is respond to your question by saying that I think there are probably laws right now that prevent that, that make it an offence to do that. I do not think that you can legally—

CHAIR: Why? Why in God's name would there be a law to prevent that happening?

Dr Aleck : Why would there be a law?

CHAIR: What would be the genesis of making a law to stop unmanned cars going out on the road controlled by a 13-year-old sitting in a house 40 kilometres away? Why would we do that?

Dr Aleck : I understand that.

CHAIR: The point is made.

Dr Aleck : Yes, but the point is it is unlawful and, if people could do it as easily as they could operate a drone, I suspect there would be those who did. There are a number of things that militate against that—first of all the number of people around and the likelihood of being seen. One of the things that make it difficult to deter people from using these things unlawfully—and I hope we do get a chance to talk about the things we are doing in that space—is that the likelihood of being detected and having action taken against you is very slight, particularly in remote areas and suburban areas. One of the things we are looking at is: what are the things we can do to make it easier to identify these people and take the action that is necessary when they do that? We are looking at what is happening elsewhere and, as Mr Carmody said, in a country that has 800,000 registered drones and who knows how many unregistered drones, there have been only 48 actions mounted by the regulatory authority. One of the questions we have asked—and we are looking forward to a response to this particular question—is: to what extent has the registration regime informed the process by which those 48 actions have been taken? I am not aware, as Mr Carmody said, of any indication that that is the case. So these are the kinds of questions we are looking at, as they are looking at them everywhere. If the government—

CHAIR: So would you support tomorrow if we removed the identification plates on motor cars and we take the registration numbers off firearms? What purpose do those things serve, do you think? Why do you think a criminal takes a file to their sawn-off shotgun and takes the serial number off it before they go and rob the bank if these things do not act as a disincentive for people to behave badly?

Dr Aleck : I believe that the mechanisms that allow for registration of motor vehicles and firearms to link users and owners of those devices are far more sophisticated and operate far more effectively than I think any evidence suggests today would occur with something you could buy online. If you could buy a firearm online without any difficulty, I suspect there would not be much concern about registration. When it comes to the question of the best way to deal with this—and I am not going to answer this question because it is a question for government, not for me—until some of these questions are answered, the best way is simply to prohibit them, and governments have the power to do that. CASA does not.

CHAIR: Do you think that if CASA weighed into this and expressed an opinion like that, that it would not have some influence on government and the minister?

Dr Aleck : I think CASA is weighing in and will weigh in even more noticeably in the context of the areas that we are looking at these things right now. We will have our views.

Mr Carmody : I would like to make a reference to a point raised by Senator Gallacher. I have recently written to the police commissioners in every state and territory to see whether we can establish a dialogue on how jurisdictions are dealing with remotely piloted aircraft in their respective jurisdictions. We have a regulatory framework and there is a range of other things that we know are going on, and we need to see whether we can have a meeting of the minds. That is something we have done in answer to your question. It may not flow down to the instructions in the backyard, but it is a start.

Senator STERLE: We have a saying in the trucking industry about taking the mickey, and I feel that somebody is taking the mickey out of me. Back on 10 October 2016 the minister announced that Civil Aviation Safety Authority would oversee a review of aviation safety regulation in relation to the operation of drones. Is that correct?

Mr Carmody : That is correct.

Senator STERLE: We heard earlier from Mr Wolfe that you are still doing the review.

Mr Carmody : We have not started the review.

Senator STERLE: So if anybody wanted to contribute to it, how the heck do they contribute? There is nothing on your website.

Mr Carmody : I beg your pardon—I missed your question.

Senator STERLE: If anybody wanted to contribute to this review with submissions or thoughts, how do they do it? There is nothing on your website. Who is driving this?

Mr Carmody : When we agree the terms of reference, which are being developed now, there will be that opportunity. Let me put this into context, if I may. That was the first day I started in CASA, and I remember it well—10 October. The minister made that announcement, and a few weeks after that this committee determined that it was going to undertake its own inquiry, which was going to be completed, I think, by April of this year.

Senator STERLE: No chance—we have so much more to do.

Mr Carmody : But then early in the new year, if I recall, this committee determined that it was going to defer its findings until December.

Senator STERLE: At this stage it could be longer.

Mr Carmody : As a consequence, the longer we have to gather evidence on what is occurring in that drone space since the change in regulations in September, the better position we will be in to evaluate the evidence and the safety case and provide advice to government and, hopefully, advice back into this committee process as well. I acknowledge completely that we have not commenced this work, but we are working on the terms of reference now and it will commence shortly. It was a conscious decision not to do so.

Senator STERLE: Why will it commence shortly? You have just said you are not doing it because we are doing ours. We might be going longer.

Mr Carmody : Your inquiry, if I may, has been deferred until December, I understand.

Senator STERLE: At this stage.

Mr Carmody : We are moving into the second half of the year and we need to establish the terms of reference. It will take us a couple of months to do that—to do the review and converge with the end of your inquiry. I have a 100 per cent commitment—the minister told us to undertake an inquiry—and that is exactly what we will do.

Senator STERLE: Let me help you out, Mr Carmody. This is my take on it: CASA was going to water down the regulations to make it easier. If it had not been for this committee, it would have just sailed through nice and quietly. I reckon this is just a yank on the chain—oh, my goodness me, the minister has come to you guys. CASA has an incredible power over ministers. You must have some fairy dust that you sprinkle on them, because they all believe every word that you say. The minister was put under the pump and so you say, 'Okay, minister, will do an inquiry. She'll be right. Go and announce it.' You have not even done the terms of reference and you are trying to tell us that it is going to be done in a couple of months. I have no faith in you.

Mr Carmody : The inquiry will be undertaken. We said it would be undertaken, and it will be undertaken.

Senator STERLE: You said that on 10 October, too.

Mr Carmody : I did not say that then.

Senator STERLE: No, you didn't, but CASA did. You got the minister to say it.

Mr Carmody : The minister announced the inquiry on the 10th.

Senator STERLE: The fairy dust was working well; it is still working well. Let me put this to you very quickly. I have got an article here from the New Zealand Herald from 23 May—fancy that, today. This is a good segue because Senator Fawcett would know this mob, I assume. The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association are really concerned. They said:

Our current methods—the CAA and Airshare websites and brochures which come with RPAS bought at New Zealand retail outlets—are not reaching enough RPAS users.

They are obviously in front of us. They have done this. I do not know how long they have been doing it. It goes on to say:

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association says urgent action is needed.

That is the pilots, not shiny-bums sitting in committee hearings being senators or bureaucrats. But then it goes down here to a paragraph. This is what the pilots' association said:

Currently they

Meaning the bureaucrats or the government or the regulations.

offer little or no protection to either other RPAS users o r the public. As in Australia, they are woefully inadequate. They neither accurately identify current or emerging risks, nor offer a sound framework for the safe operation of these devices.

What do the Kiwis know that we do not?

Mr Carmody : I could not answer that question other than to say that is their opinion. They are entitled to an opinion.

CHAIR: The gentleman that gave evidence before about the engines, could you come back to the table, please. Were you involved or consulted in the regulations when the decision was made last year?

Mr Crawford : I was involved once the regulation had been revised. I was not specifically involved in the design of the regulation.

CHAIR: You would be familiar with the study by Monash University with the potential damage assessment of a mid-air collision with a small UAV?

Mr Crawford : Yes. I know that Monash did an assessment.

CHAIR: So you are familiar with it. Have you read it?

Mr Crawford : No, I have not read the whole article. I know that they did some review on the impact of windscreens of aircraft et cetera.

CHAIR: They have done more than that. They have contradicted you on the engine thing, which I will come to in a moment. So you did not read that?

Mr Crawford : I have not read the whole article.

CHAIR: Do you realise that you commissioned it, that CASA commissioned it?

Mr Crawford : Yes. As I said before, when the regulation was revised, I was not in my role.

CHAIR: Let me recreate it. You were involved in discussions about the regulations, you have commissioned research work and your evidence here today is you have not read it.

Mr Crawford : What I did was quantify the fact that there was a suggestion that if a drone hits an engine, there will be catastrophic failure. That is what was suggested.

CHAIR: Let me help you. Let me read their findings. It said:

3 out of 4 collisions are expected to result in ingestion of the UAV into one of the engines. … The loss of the engine should be assumed …

That is their findings.

UAV ingestion is very unlikely to result in a catastrophic outcome.

So the ingestion of the UAV into the engine, what are you saying happens then? Are you saying that it somehow gets distributed?

Mr Crawford : If it is ingested in the engine, it would go down to bypass and back out.

CHAIR: So there is no prospect of a catastrophic event if it goes into an aircraft?

Mr Crawford : You just said the report said the same: it is unlikely there would be a catastrophic failure. Modern gas turbines and modern aircraft are designed obviously so that twin-engine, four-engine aircraft are able to land with one engine shut down.

CHAIR: That is not what they said. They said, 'The loss of the engine should be assumed …' That is what they said.

Mr Crawford : Yes, but that is not a catastrophic failure. All I am trying to suggest to you is that modern gas turbines have a redundancy feature, right? Aeroplane engines do have failures that are typically contained. It is not a catastrophic failure because they can shut down the engine and they are able to land the aircraft. What I am suggesting to you is that, if a sub-two-kilogram drone goes into a large gas turbine engine, it is likely to go down the bypass. The engine would most likely have to be shut down then, I agree, because it will be treated similar to a bird strike. But it is not a catastrophic failure.

Senator XENOPHON: Like me, Mr Carmody, you are old enough to remember the change from imperial to metric measurements?

Mr Carmody : Just.

Senator XENOPHON: Just? Your grey hair must be from the job. How many grams do you reckon 0.55 pounds is?

Mr Carmody : I have no idea.

Senator XENOPHON: If I told you it was 249.476 grams, would you believe me?

Mr Carmody : I would take that at face value.

Senator XENOPHON: So it is about 250 grams. In the United States, the FAA requires all unmanned aircraft systems—including drones, in other words—to be registered and marked with a registration number if they are between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds. That is between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. They need to be registered online or to use a legacy paper based registration process. The weight limit includes everything that is on board and otherwise attached to the aircraft at the time of the take-off. Are you familiar with that?

Mr Carmody : Yes, I am.

Senator XENOPHON: That means that any drone that is more than 250 grams has a rego number on it—if it lands in someone's backyard. One of my staff was just telling me that he was looking at buying a drone and the shop owner, the person who was selling the drone, said, 'The police have just been to visit because there was a case of someone using a drone for peeping Tom purposes, and the drone crashed, and the police were trying to work out where the drone came from.' So it took a lot of police time to work out where it was from. That would not happen in the US because you would be able to work out who the owner was very quickly.

But, from what you have said—and I understand your points about the regulatory approach, the risk and inconvenience versus the safety benefits—it seems that the US system, where there have been so few incidents, does have a regulatory framework of registration that is different from ours.

Mr Carmody : Yes, it does. If I told you I understand the US is considering increasing above 250 grams and going to two kilograms—that is from our discussions with them—that they are considering changing their regime, I assume you would take that on face value as well. That is our understanding from our discussions with the FAA.

Senator XENOPHON: I can only refer to the current registration requirements.

Mr Carmody : Their current rules are very clear. I think Dr Aleck was saying before that, despite the number of registered unmanned aerial vehicles, the linkage of registered unmanned aerial vehicles to prosecutions is extremely low, if not zero.

Senator XENOPHON: But, at the moment, if someone wants to buy a sub-two-kilogram drone and they have a long criminal record—or say they have a record of mental illness or they have expressed a desire to cause harm to others or to aircraft or they have been involved in drug running or sexual offences like being a peeping Tom—there is nothing to stop that person going into a shop, handing over some cash and getting a sub-two-kilogram drone. Is that correct?

Mr Carmody : In Australia?

Senator XENOPHON: In Australia.

Mr Carmody : Yes, correct.

Senator XENOPHON: From a regulatory point of view that does not give you any cause for concern?

Mr Carmody : My particular regulatory focus is aviation safety. My regulatory focus is not privacy. My regulatory focus is not security. It is safety. That is the area I focus on. I understand the safety aspects of the point you are making—

Senator XENOPHON: You understand the community safety aspects.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Gallacher ): Do you get anything out of flying a drone other than photography or carrying a parcel? Do you get amusement or satisfaction out of just whizzing it around?

Mr Carmody : In a lot of cases, I understand, it is just fun. It is people participating in aviation who otherwise would not have been able to do so. They do get to photograph. They get to see what the ground looks like from the sky, I suppose, but people do it for amusement and for recreation.

ACTING CHAIR: Most of the stuff I see has cameras in it. That suggests to me they are trying to do something different from a model aircraft owner.

Mr Carmody : From my personal perspective, a model aircraft owner flies a model aircraft—flies it around and lands it—but does not see what the aircraft sees. The owner just watches the aircraft flying. The drone is an evolution of that, in that the operator can actually see what the drone sees, so they actually get the experience of flying without flying because they actually see from the air. That is the difference, and that is why I think people are engaged in the industry. It is a different experience than model aircraft.

Senator XENOPHON: But drones now can fly in formation with software programs. You could have a number of drones flying in formation.

Mr Carmody : I am sure you could.

Senator XENOPHON: That is what I have been told by people who are involved in the commercial space.

Mr Carmody : And I am sure you could do it in a crop-dusting sense, or you could do it in a range of senses.

Senator XENOPHON: Or in a firefighting sense, as some people have put to me; it has got the potential. Large drones can carry an 800 kilo payload. But you do not see having a simple online registration, similar to that the United States has had for drones of over 250 grams, would have a fairly low regulatory impact but could deliver some real community safety and perhaps aviation safety benefits?

Mr Carmody : I understand your point on the benefits. I am not convinced that it would deliver significant aviation safety benefits by having it registered. But when we review the regulations this year, as the committee is, we will have a look at that. Because it is a question of whether mandatory registration would make a difference. And would the costs and benefits pay out?

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. I want to traverse the issue of public safety areas because I have had some correspondence on that that I am obliged to raise.

Mr Carmody : On public safety zones?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes, on public safety zones. But before I do that, it has been noted overseas that drones have been used for terrorist purposes. We are talking about the 2 kilo drones. There have been reports of that in the Middle East. They can be used for criminal purposes quite easily.

Mr Carmody : That is correct. You are absolutely correct; they could be used for criminal purposes. And whether or not they were registered, criminals would probably find a way not to have them registered. It is a hypothetical question in the sense that terrorists or other criminals do not follow the law, by definition, because they are criminals. So the question of what the regulatory framework would do in that space, I think, is an open one.

Senator XENOPHON: But you acknowledge that the FAA does have a very different regime?

Mr Carmody : I certainly do acknowledge that they have a different regime.

Senator XENOPHON: And that may explain why they have had relatively few incidents, because anything over 250 grams is registered. It has a registration number on it. And there is a whole range of rules about it.

Mr Carmody : There is a whole range of rules about it but it is a denser aviation environment. As I said, they are looking at their rules base, as I understand it, as well.

Senator XENOPHON: It is a denser aviation environment, but there are penalties for failing to register civil and criminal penalties, up to three years imprisonment. There are rules in terms of incident reporting—five miles in the US for near aerodromes—

Mr Carmody : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: and a whole range of other measures are in place, so it is a pretty clear regime. If we just go to the issue of the public safety zones around airports.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Tiede, I asked a question on notice. I know you have been engaged in correspondence with Dr Gates—that is, Dr Richard Gates, the President of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee, incorporated, at Evans Head in New South Wales—and he has sent me his, I thought, quite articulate letters in his correspondence with CASA and he has given me permission to disclose that he has been talking to my office.

Who has got responsibility for these zones? It seems that no-one has responsibility for having buildings in proximity to airports, and the potential risks that could pose to aviation safety and to those on the ground. We had that terrible accident at Essendon DFO on 21 February. I might seek permission through you, Chair, to table in due course the correspondence between Dr Richard Gates and Mr Carmody dated 20 March 2017, the response to Dr Gates from the authority of 8 May 2017, and I think there was a subsequent letter from Dr Gates to Mr Carmody on 20 April 2017. I do not think you have any issues with those. There is nothing particularly sensitive in them.

Mr Carmody : No.

Senator XENOPHON: Once I finish with these documents, could I have them tabled.

CHAIR: Is he agreeing with that?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes, I do not think CASA has any issues with it. Dr Gates is quite frustrated in the sense that he said that he would be interested to hear how Mr Tiede drew the conclusion in the case of this accident that Essendon, a public safety zone protected area, would not have played a part in the role of this accident. He asks what policy and what empirical material he drew on to reach this conclusion: 'Please provide an explanation of the processes to reach this conclusion.' I do not think Dr Gates asks an unreasonable question there.

Mr Tiede : I am familiar with the information that Senator Xenophon has been offering. The response letter brought to Dr Gates's attention the lack of a federal description or definition of a public safety zone and the lack of a Victorian state definition or description; therefore, the hypothetical use of—

Senator XENOPHON: Dr Gates is from New South Wales.

Mr Tiede : In the Essendon sense, there was no Victorian definition of a public safety zone. I applied the Queensland parameters, as a hypothetical, to the Essendon runway and concluded, as I expressed to the Senate last time.

Senator XENOPHON: The question that he asked you—what empirical material you drew on to reach that conclusion that having a public safety zone protected area would not have played a part in the role of the accident at Essendon on February 21—I do not think you have answered that, or have I missed something?

Mr Tiede : Just to be clear, the Queensland legislation specifies a set of parameters for the dimensions of a public safety zone. Those dimensions were applied at the end of the Essendon runway—

Senator XENOPHON: I am sorry, we are at cross purposes. I understand, but I am asking: what is CASA's view? I am not so interested in the Queensland legislation. I want to know what CASA, as the peak air safety regulator in this country, says about public safety zones. Should there be a public safety zone? What distance from the end or an approach to a runway between buildings, and what size of buildings, should there be in the context of ensuring maximum public safety?

Mr Carmody : We were at cross purposes. I think Mr Tiede was responding to the questions in the letter. My colleagues from the department might have a view on public safety zones, but—

Senator XENOPHON: I am asking you as the peak regulatory body.

Mr Carmody : We are involved in the National Airports Safeguarding Framework, which is developing public safety zone discussions and that is chaired by the department.

Senator XENOPHON: How far away are we from that?

Mr Mrdak : The Commonwealth's position is that we believe there should be runway end public safety zones established. We are seeking to do that. At the March meeting of the National Airports Safeguarding Group, jurisdictions agreed to proceed with public safety zones. We are hoping to conclude that work by the next meeting of that in August this year.

Senator XENOPHON: What is the deadline? I would have thought CASA's views on this would be quite pivotal.

Mr Mrdak : They are, and we—

Senator XENOPHON: Who else's views would be pivotal? I would have thought CASA's would have had a lot of weight in this.

Mr Mrdak : CASA's do and, clearly, as you will appreciate, the state planning authorities', ultimately. We are making it clear to them that there need to be public safety zones put in place.

Senator XENOPHON: If CASA said tomorrow that there ought to be these rules for building heights near a runway, are you saying that you cannot enforce that?

Mr Mrdak : There are limitations to the Commonwealth's powers in relation to these matters.

Senator XENOPHON: Are there?

Mr Mrdak : There are.

Senator XENOPHON: Not even the corporations power or any treaties powers?

Mr Mrdak : We have looked to utilise the civil aviation powers available. There are limitations that we are trying to work through with the jurisdictions.

Senator XENOPHON: I will ask this of you, Mr Carmody. I do not understand this. Has CASA actually got a view as to what buildings, and what height of buildings or structures, should be near an airport?

Mr Carmody : We certainly do. If I may, we are at cross-purposes here in terms of public safety zones at the end of runways versus buildings on and around airports. We have a very specific view on buildings and on penetrations through the obstacle limitation surface of buildings around airports. We have a very clear view and we are involved in that process. But with the debate on the public safety zone, which is routinely at the end of the runway, I think we are actually talking at cross-purposes in terms of the debate at the moment. We are actively involved if you use Essendon as an example, and the buildings that are onsite at Essendon—or any other airport; Canberra airport, for that matter.

Senator XENOPHON: So you do not have a view?

Mr Carmody : We always have a view.

Senator XENOPHON: So do you think that building, the DFO at Essendon, with its proximity to the end of the runway, would meet your criteria for fulfilling CASA's views as to the safety criteria for a building of that size, of that height, in that proximity to the runway?

Mr Carmody : Currently, my understanding is that it would. There was a building there prior to the DFO building. Prior to the DFO building process in, I think, 2004 or thereabouts there were buildings that preceded that on the same location.

Senator XENOPHON: You are quite comfortable, if there were going to be another airport plan, that you would not have an issue with a building with that proximity to the runway?

Mr Carmody : On that runway, in that location, I understand it fits within the template. Mr Tiede would be able to correct me if I am incorrect.

Senator XENOPHON: And you set the template? Is that your template?

Mr Tiede : CASA's interest is in the safety-of-air-navigation piece of this. There are obstacle limitation surfaces, in very broad description, around an airport, starting from the runway out to 15 kilometres, like an upside-down wedding cake. The take-off climb surface extends off the runway in a straight ahead thing for 15 kilometres, climbing at a slope that is dependent on the specification of the runway. So this, in significant part, overlies the public safety zone, third-party protection apparatus that is talked about. The DFO complex fits under the obstacle limitation surfaces, and so it meets the regulatory—

Senator XENOPHON: Do those obstacle limitation surfaces need to be reviewed in light of the DFO accident?

Mr Tiede : The obstacle limitation surfaces are drawn from some quite detailed ICAO specifications—International Civil Aviation Organization specifications—that are very detailed and very longstanding. We model our regulations on that information. ICAO is in a process of reviewing the OLS. The issue with that, of course, is that any outcomes are some time downstream. CASA participates in that work of ICAO as a member of the working group that is looking at this.

Senator XENOPHON: But you are not bound by ICAO? Or are you saying you are bound by ICAO in terms of recommendations for buildings in proximity to airports?

Mr Tiede : These are standards of ICAO that, yes, we have incorporated into our laws. We follow the ICAO specifications in their Annex 14, their aerodromes annex. We transfer.

Mr Carmody : We routinely follow their standards and recommended practices, unless we notify a difference. In this particular case, too, with Essendon, I might add that part of this discussion would depend upon the results of the investigation, at the end of the day.

Senator XENOPHON: So if the ATSB says, 'We need to review public safety zones—

Mr Carmody : I would be very interested if they came out with something like that. At the moment, the investigation is afoot, I understand. I do not know what the cause of the accident was. I know what the consequences were. But I think that that is part of the picture.

Senator XENOPHON: There is always the cause, but would the outcome have been different if that building were not in the way?

Mr Carmody : And that is correct.

Senator XENOPHON: And it also is those on the ground, in that building. Just to finalise that, Mr Mrdak, could you please, on notice, provide me with details of what the department says are the legal and constitutional limitations of the Commonwealth overriding state planning laws in relation to these issues.

Mr Mrdak : Certainly.

Senator XENOPHON: I am surprised that not even the corporations power, or various powers, could be used in respect—

Mr Mrdak : We will provide you an update on where the work on public safety zones is up to and the legal position.

Senator XENOPHON: Dr Richard Gates asked a question of you, Mr Carmody, on 20 March 2017: 'Why has little headway been made in the last seven years with regard to public safety zones?' It is not a bad question, is it?

Mr Carmody : It is a very good question. I do not know the answer. All I can answer—

Senator XENOPHON: If you do not know the answer, who does?

Mr Carmody : is to say that headway has been made now in—

Senator XENOPHON: After Essendon?

Mr Carmody : My understanding is that work was underway, but—

Mr Mrdak : Perhaps I can ask Ms Spence to give you an update on some of the issues over the last few years.

Ms Spence : We have been progressing this through the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group. It is a matter where we have had to get agreement from all the states and territories. As Mr Mrdak mentioned, on 14 March members reconfirmed their commitment to developing and implementing the public safety zone guidance for airports. The next meeting of NASAG is on 2 August, and before that NASAG members are going to brief their respective ministers on the draft public safety zone guidelines that have been developed by the Commonwealth and the Queensland governments in consultation with NASAG members. Subject to the minister's agreement, NASAG will conduct targeted stakeholder consultation with selected airports in the second half of 2017, and then the draft guidelines will be released for wider consultation.

Senator XENOPHON: Are these minutes made public?

Ms Spence : I do not think the minutes of NASAG are made public.

Mr Mrdak : No.

Senator XENOPHON: Is there any reason why they cannot be made public?

Mr Mrdak : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator XENOPHON: Maybe it is a question for the committee as to whether or not they are made public as well. But can you take it on notice, and if you do not wish to make them public then it could be a question of an order for the production of documents. I will put some questions on notice.

Senator FAWCETT: Mr Mrdak, as you are aware, we have spoken before about manual of standards part 139, which goes to airport design. Over the years we have seen what have essentially been open spaces for airports, with standards put in place. But as commercial pressures have built up that real estate and that airspace have been encroached upon right up to, and in some cases, I would argue, intruding into, the limits that MOS 139 is supposed to put in place.

What Senator Xenophon was pointing to, I think, is the fact that if you look at a safety system holistically—a bit like James Reason and his accident causation model—what we are finding is that each of those pieces of Swiss cheese has been thinned to the absolute minimum that is permissible by law, which maximises the chance of an accident by minimising the options for a pilot who has a malfunction in an aircraft. I guess the request here is that we sit back and look at this holistically, as opposed to saying, 'Yes, they have met this requirement or that requirement,' and look at the aggregation of the loss of margin and, therefore, options for an aircrew member who has an issue with an aircraft. Public safety zones are but one element of that whole system.

I guess I am seeking assurance from you, Mr Carmody, that CASA's approach to this, as we have discussed here on multiple occasions, will move beyond the, 'It can be made safe by limiting the operations' to, 'This is what an airport is designed to do in terms of the Commonwealth lease'—which says it must maintain its existing capacity and have the option to grow capacity—so that CASA will put its hand up and say, 'If these changes are made for existing or future operations, it will be unsafe,' as opposed to saying, 'It can be made safe by limiting operations,' which has been the practice in the past. I am seeking that assurance from you that the organisation will change the way it views its role in assessing that aggregation of safety implications.

Mr Carmody : I will certainly look at that.

Senator FAWCETT: Thank you.

Mr Carmody : I understand the logic of the statement you have made. I would like to go back and review how it is actually done, but I understand the point you are making.

Senator FAWCETT: I have raised on multiple occasions the example in Archerfield and the realignment and shortening of runways and the fact that CASA has ticked off on that. Yet, as pointed out by the operators there, for them to comply with CASA's requirements, in terms of planning for wet runways, climb gradients, factoring that they have to put in, they cannot comply. Therefore, yes, it can be made safe by having reduced payloads, but that then affects the commercial viability of the operation and flies in the face of the terms of the lease for the airport.

Mr Carmody : Understood.

CHAIR: Mr Carmody, are you familiar with some of the reports that have been put out by the ATSB in relation to drones?

Mr Carmody : Yes; I am familiar with their reports.

CHAIR: They published the number of proximity encounters, as they are called, in 2016 here in Australia. Do know how many there were?

Mr Carmody : No; I do not, off the top of my head.

CHAIR: Have you ever known the figure? Is this information that would be told to you?

Mr Carmody : I do read the ATSB reports as they come out. I just cannot remember the number of proximity events reported. But I think there is a difference between the number reported and the number confirmed.

CHAIR: Not in this release. How many reports of close proximity between drones and aircraft would there need to be for you to be concerned? What is an acceptable number in your mind?

Mr Carmody : I cannot answer that at the moment. It is a pretty hypothetical question.

CHAIR: I am told we are entitled to ask a hypothetical question as long as it goes to the operation of your agency. Hypothetically, how many near encounters with drones would you need to have before you thought that this was becoming an increasing problem?

Mr Carmody : I suppose my statement would be: confirmed, not just reports. I would want them confirmed.

CHAIR: They have the RPS encounters—108 occurrences.

Mr Carmody : So 108 were reported over a period of—?

CHAIR: One year.

Mr Carmody : But, again, it is a question of how many of those were confirmed. Without the context—

CHAIR: Oh, Mr Carmody!

Senator STERLE: Help me out. My nephew is at 11,000 feet south of Perth. Zappo! One goes flying in front of him. He straightaway puts in a complaint to the ATSB. I am not blaming the ATSB. There is no registration plate. What do you mean confirmation? My nephew is not bullshitting.

Mr Carmody : I mean confirmation that what the pilot saw was a drone, or a glider or a bird. Obviously if it zips past the windscreen, as you say, then the pilot has seen what he has seen.

Senator STERLE: So is that a confirmation?

Mr Carmody : If it was some distance away, is my point. How far away was it?

Senator STERLE: You are starting to annoy me now, Mr Carmody. You are really starting to annoy me now. What a load of crap!

Mr Carmody : Was it two kilometres away? Was it—

CHAIR: That does not matter. They have reported occurrences from 2012 to 2016. They have referred to them as an 'occurrence', not a report—occurrences which involved proximity encounters with manned aircraft. There were 108 of them last year, in the year 2016. Since then their same report says that the number of drones will double by the end of 2017. We can assume that 108 occurrences could go to 216. That is an acceptable level? Let's assume that for a minute. Is that an acceptable level, Mr Carmody?

Mr Carmody : I do not believe it is an acceptable level. I do not know what an acceptable level is. But I said that this is a question of people reporting that they have seen something versus something being close enough to cause damage or cause a problem to an aircraft.

CHAIR: Senator Fawcett. I do not want to hear from you anymore, Mr Carmody.

Senator FAWCETT: To follow up briefly, before Senator Back starts a different line of questioning: we have talked before, when discussing RPAS, the fact that this should be a whole-of-government solution—not just the safety regulation, but also import restrictions. I raised the question at the time: have you engaged with other departments? That includes you as well, Mr Mrdak. At the time you had no answer for me. Can I ask the question again: have you engaged with other departments specifically to look at import prohibitions for drones that do not meet a requirement that we may choose to lay down, in terms of shaping the safety environment for drones, to ensure compliance, given that, to date, voluntary education in the form of things on your website or pieces of paper in a box have not proven to curtail or restrict the way that some people choose to use these devices?

Mr Mrdak : The department has been scoping the issue of import controls. That is part of the work that will feed into the government's position on these matters.

Senator FAWCETT: Can I just clarify: when you say 'scoping', are you talking internally, or have you engaged with other government departments?

Mr Carmody : My understanding is we have engaged with other government departments, but, if Ms Spence cannot help, I will confirm that on notice.

Ms Spence : We have had some high-level discussions, but I will take on notice any more details that I can provide.

Senator FAWCETT: 'High-level discussions' is a very vague term, Ms Spence, so some more detail would be good.

Senator BACK: I just want to go to something unrelated to the previous questions, and that is the distinction between RPT and charter. I am not speaking now about major airports or city airports. I am speaking about small, regional airports where an RPT service does not come into the regional town or whatever. I understand the regulatory policy is CEO-PN007-2009. My question relates to the capacity or otherwise of a charter company being able to sell individual seats on a charter aircraft where the original seven-seater charterer has four people on board and there are another three saleable seats. Under what circumstances, if at all, can that charter operator sell any one or two or three of those seats to an unrelated party in the event that there is a demand and an opportunity to service it?

Mr Carmody : That is an excellent question. I will defer to one of my colleagues.

Dr Aleck : As you know, that is a vexed question, and it is one that has been around for quite a while. The answer is that the sale of individual seats to anyone who wants to purchase them for an operation which is classified as a charter operation is inconsistent with the charter classification. That was the determination of the Federal Court a couple of years ago. The reason for that is not to be arbitrary or preclude the opportunity of people to travel to where they want to go. The reason for that is simply that a charter operation is one that is based on the assumption that the people who get on the aircraft have made a choice in the circumstances to take a flight on an operation that is conducted to a standard of operation different to that of an RPT operation. Where the seats are available to virtually anybody, the assumption and the expectation will be that this is a service that is at the same level and the same standard as a regular public transport operation. But it is not, and that is why there are different levels. That is one of the reasons we are working very hard to identify the sorts of standards that should apply, irrespective of the classification, having regard to the type of aircraft and the airport where it is operating—not creating distinctions based on the state of mind of the person who is getting onto the aircraft but basing it on real safety considerations.

As I said, obviously the details in any individual case will vary. But, by and large, the situation where individual seats are sold by a charterer to anyone who wishes to take them up constitutes a regular public transport operation, and it would not be consistent with the classification—for sound safety-related reasons.

Senator BACK: I can see that that would apply in a city circumstance. Let me give you a situation. In the Abrolhos Islands, on West Wallabi, there is an airport—an airstrip, I suppose you would call it. There are seven people there. Four fishermen have charted the aircraft to go off Abrolhos back to Geraldton. There are three other people very anxious to get on that aircraft. There is no vessel. I do not know if you have been to the Abrolhos Islands or not, but, unless you have big fishing boat, you do not have an opportunity to get back.

They might have come over for whatever reason with a fishermen and, for whatever reason—it might be an illness in the family, or someone is having a baby—they need to get on that aircraft to come back to Geraldton. There is no question of competition from an RPT. There is no RPT service in the Abrolhos, or for that matter most other islands, certainly on the west coast. So, in those circumstances—I can understand what you are telling me, in what appears to me to be a very urban based judgement—what if a charter operator said, 'Yeah, I will take you without a fee'? In your situation, you have explained to me very kindly about the mental state of the person getting on the plane. There is no Qantas and there is no Virgin aircraft; you either get on that plane, you stay on the island or you start swimming. What is the situation?

Dr Aleck : There are three circumstances in which that would be—I will not say so much 'permissible'—but conceivable. Firstly, if there were a genuine emergency in which someone's health or safety were at risk and they chose to violate the rule in order to prevent harm or injury, that is actually exempted under the legislation, and has been for many years. Secondly, without trying to open a door here, the way in which we apply and enforce our rules is based—increasingly so in recent years and in coming years—on a discretionary notion. So even though there may well be a technical contravention of the legislation, we will, as we always do, take into account all the circumstances and determine what sort of responsive action should occur. Finally, I should say that recognising this very real problem, some time ago, we invited all charter operators to take advantage of a situation in which they could do this: recognising that they may need or want, for very legitimate social reasons, to conduct operations that would be RPT, they could apply for an RPT AOC.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Back ): AOC?

Dr Aleck : Air operators certificate, to authorise them to conduct irregular public transport operation. Where there are requirements that apply to that level of operation that they could not meet, they could seek exemptions from CASA based on the fact that they will take appropriate, safety-related alternative means of compliance, which may, in fact—we suggested at the time—be based on the kinds of things that were reflected in the still-draft CASR part 135 that deals with those operations, and we would consider very seriously extending that. I might end by saying that many, many years ago—long before my time—there was a provision in the Air Navigation Regulations that said that, in a situation in which it is considered to be desirable, for a variety of reasons, for what would normally be a regular public transport operation to be lawfully conducted by an operator who is licensed, as they called them in those days, as a charter operator, it would be permissible if the minister felt it was necessary.

ACTING CHAIR: In a not-unrelated scenario, one party is approved by the owner of an airport and pays some sort of a fee to operate charter flights—joy flights. Others come along, without authorisation, and just decide on the spur of the moment that they might as well charge. They could be a charter operator. They may have come in for a different purpose—their aircraft is sitting on the runway for five or six hours while their charter party goes and has a bite of lunch at the hotel. What, if anything, limits that second party from, in a sense, cannibalising the other person's trade by putting up their shingle and saying, 'I'll run you on a trip around the pinnacles or whatever?'

Dr Aleck : Morally, there are a number of obstacles. Legally, there are the same constraints that would apply to any operation. If you put a shingle out and hold yourself out as conducting an operation, the legislation actually expressly calls that up, because you are holding yourself out as doing something which you are not lawfully entitled to do.

ACTING CHAIR: What would happen in that case? Would the other party contact CASA and lay a complaint, and CASA would investigate?

Dr Aleck : In theory, yes. But whether the complaint gets laid or whether the investigation would result in sufficient evidence to action the matter would all depend upon the circumstances. But there is actually a distinction between operations that involve taking someone from point a to point b in a charter arrangement, and someone who is going for a joy flight. There are regimes, where they are contemplated in our own regulatory intentions, to differentiate between those operations, because they are different and should not be governed the same way.

ACTING CHAIR: So my constituent—I am asking on behalf of a constituent—can communicate with CASA and get further information?

Dr Aleck : Absolutely. We routinely get questions about these issues, because they are complicated. I must confess that the law—not because of CASA, but because of the way the regulations have been in place for many years and the way the court has interpreted them—makes it a complicated area. But we are happy to provide as much advice as we can.

Senator RICE: I just had one follow-up question about Essendon, following on from your responses to Senator Xenophon and Senator Fawcett. For Senator Xenophon's questions, you were basically saying that, under what is currently permitted, a building like the DFO at Essendon would still be approved.

Mr Carmody : That is correct.

Senator RICE: Yes. In fact, there is currently a new building, the Hilton Hotel, that is being built there at Essendon as well, taking up yet more of the space in the airport. That presumably meets your current guidelines?

Mr Carmody : If it met the guidelines. The current DFO building meets the guidelines. It is within or below the obstacle limitation surface. With the Hilton, it would depend on where it was and how big it was.

Senator RICE: Well, it has been built, so I presume it does.

Mr Carmody : I presume it does, then. If that is the case, my colleagues might know.

Senator RICE: And I understand, with the ATSB investigation into Essendon Airport, they are not actually looking at the groundside issues, are they?

Mr Carmody : My point in making reference to that investigation was that the investigation is underway. What caused the accident and, I presume, whether it was recoverable, if you like—whether it would matter whether there was a building there or not—might come out in the investigation. My real point was to wait until the investigation was complete. It was not to imply that ATSB is looking at the location of the building.

Mr Mrdak : ATSB is probably best placed to answer your question.

Senator RICE: Well, I have just been looking at the ATSB website, with what they are saying:

The investigation is continuing and will include—

and these are the only terms of reference that would be remotely relevant—

review of the approval process for the building that was struck by the aircraft

And that is, again, only going to relate to current guidelines. If it was ticked off according to current guidelines, they would say, 'Yes, well, it was approved appropriately.'

Mr Mrdak : I think that that is probably a question you can pose to the commission shortly.

ACTING CHAIR: Yes, you can.

Senator RICE: But basically what I am saying is that that is a fairly narrow terms of reference in terms of the groundside issues that Senator Fawcett has been referring to.

Mr Carmody : I agree with you, and I did not mean to imply that it was any broader than that. That was not my implication. My implication was simply one of what happened in that particular event at the time, and the short duration of the flight, what caused the accident and whether or not ATSB might not make a view that, regardless of what was there, it would have made no difference. Now, I do not know the answer to that; that is a question that might come out in the investigation. That was my only point. That was the point I was trying to make.

Senator RICE: Right. So what I want to clarify with you—and in fact I will ask the question of ATSB—following up from Senator Fawcett's questioning, is your willingness to undertake a holistic review of the issues of the groundside environments around airports so that we are not skating so close to the wind and so that in fact there is an element of redundancy in the surrounding airports like Essendon.

Mr Carmody : I was not looking at necessarily a wholesale review. I understood Senator Fawcett's view to be one of approaching the part 139 type decisions in a different way—in other words, not looking at how people could comply. So it is not quite clear.

Senator FAWCETT: The point I was trying to make there was that, with the Essendon incident, we would assume under normal circumstances something like a King Air would fly away, even having lost a critical engine—under most circumstances.

Mr Carmody : Correct.

Senator FAWCETT: But a Partenavia, for example, losing an engine on a hot day with a heavy load, you would not expect to fly away. But somebody might, in the absence of other options, attempt to turn back or to do a high power on the remaining engine's circuit to try and come back and land, putting themselves in a low-speed loss of control situation, and hit the DFO building, whereas, if you had a public safety zone ahead of you, the pilot would probably take the option to put it back down on the runway, overshoot the runway, go through a boundary fence and accept the fact that he or she was going to have an incident but probably walk away from it. So what I was getting at was that you cannot isolate those two issues, part 139 and public safety zones, from the whole situational awareness of options that a pilot with a malfunctioning aircraft considers that they have.

Mr Carmody : I absolutely agree.

Senator RICE: I would like then, given that, for CASA to take on reviewing the issues associated with that; otherwise we are going to be in a similar situation. It is inevitable that another five years down the track, in similarly constrained airports, we will have similar situations that potentially could have been avoided if we had more redundancy in the system.

Mr Carmody : I think I will wait until the public safety zone decision is over. Until we have the public safety zone paper that is being discussed and the agreement on that, I think the appropriate time to consider that would be afterwards. I am not in a position to commit to reviewing every airport at this stage.

Senator RICE: Can you remind me what is the process for that public safety zone paper?

Ms Spence : That is the one that is going through the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group. The expectation is to have a draft that can be ready for limited circular consultation with key stakeholders post the August NASAG meeting and then for wider distribution ahead of ministerial sign-off through the transport ministers' November meeting.

Senator RICE: So this has been going on for a while?

Ms Spence : It has been going on for a very long time.

Senator RICE: For how long?

Ms Spence : I think NASAG was set up in 2012.

Mr Mrdak : We formed NASAG in 2012, which was a Commonwealth initiative, which Senator Fawcett and I discussed for some years.

Senator RICE: So it has been five years so far that you were hopeful that we would have—

Ms Spence : Confident.

Senator RICE: You were confident that there will be something to base some further work on post November.

Mr Mrdak : The ministerial council in November is combined transport and planning ministers.

Senator FAWCETT: Mr Mrdak and Mr Carmody, speaking of hopeful, this committee was very hopeful after our inquiry into aviation safety reporting and the subsequent Forsyth review. I have seen some substantive changes. It has been a long and involved process of planning and changing of key people in the organisation. Where are we at with the Forsyth review implementation? Can you give us any assurance that the views of industry that the Forsyth review essentially has an RIP after its name are false and that there are significant changes occurring?

Mr Carmody : Of the recommendations of the Forsyth review, a lot of them have already been completed. I met with Mr Forsyth, in fact, two weeks ago. We sat down and went through the recommendations to see whether or not there were any areas of disagreement and there are a few. I undertook to provide him some information to show where in fact things had changed.

Senator FAWCETT: Are you in a position to expand on that?

Mr Carmody : As a result of some of the recommendations, we have updated our surveillance manual, for example, and we have instituted new procedures to be put in place when we undertake surveillance. The manual is in place, people have been told what to do and if they do not do it, we will do something about it. His view was initially that we should wait for a number of years to see whether or not this culture has actually changed. I said I did not think you could actually do that. We have made the procedural changes to allow this to happen and we are following up. Those are the types of discussions we had as we were working away through things like our view on just culture.

We have made great inroads in the just culture space. As I said to Mr Forsyth though, if I make an adverse regulatory decision on somebody, the first thing they will say is 'You are out to get me,' or 'It is the culture of the organisation; it is not that I was doing something wrong.' I said we really have to understand that it is a complex industry and a complex environment.

We are hoping to have the majority of work done about the middle of this year but I still have half a dozen recommendations or so that will not be done—things like all of the applications being delivered online. It is going to take me a number of years to invest in the technology and infrastructure to actually accept all applications online; having all the regulatory development completed by 30 June is not going to happen. I am working on a program to do it. The program at the moment is a number of years, and I am trying to reduce it. I have gone through all of those with Mr Forsyth. We try and work our way through what is achievable by the middle of the year and we are still in a dialogue. But let me assure you, the work is underway and a lot of progress has been made.

Senator FAWCETT: Could I ask you on notice to give the committee a list of recommendations that you believe have been implemented, recommendations that are still open and the actions that you either plan to take or that you have decided, for whatever reason, not to implement.

Mr Carmody : Certainly. As I indicated, we are doing that work now anyway, so by the time the notice period comes through we should have worked through a number of those things with Mr Forsyth. I am hopeful that Mr Forsyth, as the author of the review, and I, as the regulator that is implementing those things, will be agreeing on each one of the recommendations that have been closed out and the ones that remain. That is my aim. So I would be delighted to provide that information. Of course, a number of the recommendations are also departmental and we have been managing the actual list of recommendations through the department. I have worked very closely with the department to conclude that list.

Senator FAWCETT: On a different topic, thank you for the letter you sent back to me some time ago regarding colour vision deficient pilots and the fact that you were monitoring developments in New Zealand. Can you give us an update on where CASA's thinking is at on that issue?

Mr Carmody : My only update is that I have been approached by the Colour Vision Defective Pilots Association since then for another meeting. I said that I am looking closely at what New Zealand is doing. I am going to meet with my colleagues in New Zealand in late June as I work through that particular issue on what they are doing in the regulatory process. All I will say is that I have some sympathy with their view and their approach, but I will leave it at that for the time being. I really need to work through it. It is a different approach to the one we have taken. As I said to you in my letter—I cannot remember the phraseology—I have a very open mind on the topic, and I am trying to find a way to resolve it. It has been around for a long time, and I understand your concern.

Senator FAWCETT: Could I just make the clarification that, despite the fact you have said it is a different approach to the one we have taken, what the New Zealanders are now doing is essentially the approach that we took 25 years ago, very successfully and safely, which was overturned without consultation with industry within the last three or four years. So there is a precedent for what the New Zealanders are doing, and we set it. I think they have taken a sensible approach in terms of saying the medical process identifies that it is a problem, but, in this case, in the absence of other evidence, it is the operational airworthiness side that determines how to deal with it and make it safe. I look forward to your updates.

Mr Carmody : I look forward to providing them.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Abetz ): That concludes CASA. Thank you.