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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1187

Senator BISHOP —Does the Minister for Transport and Communications believe that air safety standards have been reduced? Does the Terrell report into air safety justify a concern that standards have fallen? Why did the Civil Aviation Authority chairman, Alan Butcher, only provide the CAA board with a sanitised version of the Terrell report?

Senator Collins —It is Ted, actually.

Senator BISHOP —And why can the full report not be made public as suggested by the author? Yes, it is Ted.

Senator COLLINS —The first thing that needs to be made clear is that the report was prepared by a study group which was led by Mr Terrell. In fact, the report does not contain the conclusions that it is alleged it does contain: that there has been a reduction in safety standards. That assertion is made in a letter which Mr Terrell in his own capacity sent directly to the chairman of the CAA.

Senator Alston —He ought to know.

Senator COLLINS —It is important to make that distinction because Mr Terrell was not the only person involved in the preparation of the report and it does not contain that conclusion. The report does raise issues that are being very seriously considered by the board of the Civil Aviation Authority and me. The CAA set up to investigate the problems raised by the report.

  Another point that needs to be made is that the report came about as a result of it being commissioned by the CAA board. It was a board initiative which caused this evaluation to occur in the first place, which, of course, has been totally overlooked.

  The CAA board established a number of working groups to investigate the concerns raised in the report. Those working group reports are now close to completion, and the CAA board is to receive the preliminary findings of those working groups today. The final draft of the report is scheduled to be completed by the 31st of this month. Consultation with industry by the CAA, including the ALAEA, unions and staff, will occur in the first two weeks of June prior to consideration by the board at its 30 June meeting.

  For Senator Bishop's advice, the working groups include 12 Australian Aviation Industry Association and union representatives who are fully participating in this process and have access to all material available to management, including the annexes to the Terrell report. I have also asked the CAA personally to seek advice from an outside consultant on the effectiveness of the proposed action plans finalised by the working groups, and this has been done. I am proposing to hold a meeting of the major interested parties, which I will chair myself, to discuss the future direction for aviation safety regulation as soon as possible upon completion of the action plans, the consideration by the CAA staff, industry and all other interested parties, including the ALAEA.

  The reason I have laid all that out for Senator Bishop—and this is important—is that all of that information was contained in a letter which I sent to the ALAEA on 18 May. I have had a number of personal meetings with representatives of the LAMEs. I have met with the LAME representatives and with Mr Terrell himself. Following that meeting, I wrote to the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers in the manner that I have just laid out. I proposed in that letter that I would personally chair a meeting of all interested parties, including industry representatives, so that the matter can be brought to a resolution which is satisfactory to everyone.

  I have reiterated all those offers in a letter which I sent to the licensed aircraft engineers yesterday. I am pleased that they elected to remove their industrial action last night. I have been advised that they are now considering my further offer yesterday to chair this meeting. I also provided them with a precise timetable as to when the CAA will complete its investigation of the Terrell report. I think that that is without question a satisfactory manner in which to address these very important issues that are currently being considered by the board of the CAA and by the Government.

Senator BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister has tap-danced his way very nicely around the pay television issues. In the interests of safety, I seek leave of the Senate to table, for its information and that of the general public, the letters from Alan Terrell to the chairman of the CAA, including his statement that in his view safety has been damaged or weakened, a copy of the letters from Qantas and Ansett to Mr Butcher expressing concern about the lessening of safety standards, CAA's response, minutes of meetings between the CAA, Ansett, Qantas and others, various letters from the licensed engineers union and a report of the study group in toto with all appendices attached. I seek leave to table that document in the public interest.

The PRESIDENT —There is no supplementary question. Is leave granted?

Senator Gareth Evans —No, Mr President. The normal courtesies of showing it to us in advance have not been observed.

Senator Bishop —I raise a point of order, Mr President. I could seek leave and could stand here and read this document into the record. I will seek to take note of the answer at the end of Question Time, because it is in the public interest that the documents be on the public record.