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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2452

Question No. 547

Mr Spender asked the Minister for Aviation, upon notice, on 20 September 1983:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to allegations that (a) on 21 August 1983, at Brisbane Air Traffic Control Centre an air traffic controller trainee undergoing training, assaulted his Training Officer who was dealing with active aircraft, and rendered him unconscious, and (b) the regional control supervisor, when contacted by the person in control of the shift, advised that person not to enter the details of the assault in the log as an unusual occurrence, but simply to record that the injured officer had left early for home.

(2) Will he (a) investigate these allegations, and (b) examine the need for establishing proper procedures for (i) the reporting of occurrences of the kind described, and (ii) assessing the psychological fitness of a person to act as an air traffic controller whose conduct is such as to give rise to doubts as to psychological fitness for rigorous and important work.

Mr Beazley —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) Yes, I have been advised that on 21 August 1983, in the Brisbane Area Approach Control Centre, an air traffic controller undergoing training assaulted his training officer. A senior air traffic controller who was standing adjacent to the approach position immediately assumed control over the position. The incident was investigated by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation which reported that air safety had not been jeopardised. My Department is investigating the matter of the assault under the disciplinary provisions of the Public Service Act.

(b) No, such allegations have not been drawn to my attention. The journal or log is considered to be an operational document in which operational matters only are recorded. Whilst this alleged incident was regarded as unusual, it was not considered to be of operational significance since it was quickly ascertained that aircraft safety had not been jeopardised, and that the operational status of the facility was not affected. However, the occurrence was later recorded in the log as an incident involving the trainee and his training officer.

(2) (a) As previously stated, the matter is under investigation.

(b) (i) Proper procedures are established for the reporting of such occurrences and for (ii) assessing the psychological fitness of a person to act as an air traffic controller. Air traffic controllers are subject to regular medical examinations and must achieve prescribed standards of physical and mental health . In the case in question it would be normal practice for the controller to undergo a medical examination by an approved aviation medical practitioner.