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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3232

(Question No. 639)

Senator Sanders asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation, upon notice, on 5 November 1985:

(1) Is over $2m currently owed to the Commonwealth in overdue air navigation fees.

(2) Have Department of Aviation staff responsible for collection of these moneys failed to act over a period of years.

(3) Do the aircraft concerned continue to fly and use all airways and aerodrome facilities; if so, why.

Senator Gietzelt —The Minister for Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) At 30 September 1985 overdue air navigationcharges amounted to just under $5m or 3.5 per cent of estimated revenue from Air Navigation Charges in 1985-86.

(2) The Department of Aviation vigorously pursues all outstanding debts, taking debt recovery action including court action where appropriate. I would draw the honourable senator's attention to the Second Reading Speech for the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1984 (Hansard of 8 October 1984) in which the Government drew attention to the need to strengthen the Commonwealth's ability to collect air navigation charges. It had become obvious that normal avenues for recovering moneys owed were inadequate, particularly since the Commonwealth for safety reasons is unable to effectively deny access to aviation facilities and services. The Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Act provides the discretionary power to create the statutory lien over an aircraft where other means of recovery have proven unsuccessful. The creation of the lien provides the Commonwealth with a secured claim on such aircraft and the ultimate ability to sell the aircraft to recover the outstanding amounts. This measure is very much a last resort. The liens arrangement provides for a balanced approach which provides the capacity to accommodate general difficulties faced by individual operators within an effective debt recovery procedure. These measures came into effect on 1 July 1985 and preliminary indications suggest that they are being effective.

(3) Aircraft on which air navigation charges are outstanding and perhaps also subject to a statutory lien can continue to use avaition facilities and services. To prevent aircraft using facilities would effectively require the aircraft to be deregistered. Under the Air Navigation Regulations aircraft registration is concerned with the question of safety. However, where aircraft have been subject to the statutory lien for at least 6 months the Air Navigation (Charges) Act provides the discretionary power to deregister the aircraft concerned. This is a measure which would need to be carefully considered when that stage is reached.