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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4590

Mr Berinson (PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:

(1)   When were cockpit audio recorders first installed in Australian airline aircraft.

(2)   Is it a fact that the Australian Federation of Air Pilots insisted and the Department of Civil Aviation agreed that the information they contained should not be used in the investigation of air safety incidents or of any accident where the flight crew survived (Department of Civil Aviation Special Investigation Report, Page 12).

(3)   If so. would this restriction apply when the flight crew survived but one or more passengers did nol.

(4)   Can he say which countries require cockpit audio recorders to be installed in passenger aircraft and of these, which permit the restriction on use referred to in the Special Investigation Report.

(5)   Has consideration been given to legislative action to remove this limitation. If so, what is the Government's attitude in the matter.

Mr Swartz - The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   Australia was the first country to specify a requirement for cockpit audio recorders and recorders were firs; installed in 1964.

(2)   An agreement was made with the Federation so that the early introduction of this valuable safety aid would not be delayed. The agreement provided that in the event of an accident, the recording would be available to the investigation if: .

(a)   any flight crew member is killed or is injured to the extent that his recollection of events might be impaired;

(b)   it is indicated that there is an intention to convene a Board of Accident Inquiry;

(c)   a crew member requests an analysis of the record lo resolve an apparent connection of other evidence;

(d)   the Air Safety Investigation Branch requests and the flight crew and Federation agree that analysis of the record should be made in circumstances other than the foregoing.

(3)   Yes, except under the circumstances described in (b), (c) or (d) of the the answer to question 2.

(4)   The United States of America and Canada are the only other countries known to have published requirements for the carriage of audio recorders but similiar legislation is under consideration in the United Kingdom. In the United States the recording is available to the investigating authority in the circumstances of any notifiable accident or incident but the range of notifiable incidents is less than under Australian legislation, lt is understood that, in Canada, the recording is available to the investigating authority in the circumstances of a notifiable accident and the operator is required to provide the investigating authority with pertinent evidence from the recording in the circumstances of some incidents. The United Kingdom intentions are not known at this time. The United States legislation also specifically precludes use of the audio recording in any civil penalty or certificate proceedings initiated by the Federal Aviation Administration against a crew member and limits publication of recorded data to that determined 'to be pertinent and relevant to the accident.' It was indicated to the Australian Federation that similar principles would be observed in Australia in the event of access to recordings being otherwise unrestricted.

(5)   lt can be argued that cockpit audio recorders involve, in some measure, considerations such as invasion of privacy and, for these reasons, the Federation was concerned that, in matters such as litigation, their members were exposed beyond the extent of exposure of other members of the community. The Department had some sympathy for the Federation's views but it was hoped that time would demonstrate that the safety advantage of the equipment far outweighed any other considerations. lt is believed that experience, particularly in the United Stales of America, has provided this demonstration and has also shown that far more often than not, the audio recording works to the advantage of flight crew. In the light of this experience it is the intention of the Government to re-open this subject with a view to development of appropriate legislation to remove the present limitations while including some provisions which would give recognition to the unusual nature of this equipment.

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