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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
03/07/2008
Administration of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority

CHAIR —Welcome. Would you like to make a brief opening statement.

Mr Tully —Thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you today to present my submission into the administration of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. I was employed by CASA for almost 21 years. My submission discusses four problems that I believe affect CASA: CASA’s HR management standards; CASA’s ability to effectively comply with its obligation under the act to set, and seek compliance with, safety standards; CASA’s relationship with industry organisations and individuals; and CASA’s management of staff concerns. I guess points 3 and 4 are very closely aligned.

I am not sure how the committee wishes to proceed from here. My submission comes from personal experience from my time at CASA as well as from discussions that I have had with current and former CASA staff. My submission could identify current CASA staff and I am just wondering how the committee wishes me proceed. Do you want to hear this in camera or do you want to leave it in the public forum?

ACTING CHAIR (Senator O’Brien) —If you want us to consider that we will. We would prefer as much of your evidence as possible to be given in public if you can address matters without identifying people, if that is a concern. If there are matters that you want to put to us that ought to be in camera we will consider that. We do have limited time.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What would be the driver behind your thinking that you might want to go in camera?

Mr Tully —I am just thinking about repercussions for current staff. There is certainly an environment within CASA of some degree of punishment of staff who bring up issues.

ACTING CHAIR —Okay. Let us do what we can in public.

Senator HEFFERNAN —My view would be that unless you can name people it needs to be very specific, which would be helpful to us, I have to say, but once it goes in camera it is not as useful as it being out where you are now.

Mr Tully —What protections are there for the staff then?

Senator HEFFERNAN —If anyone is intimidated as a consequence of giving evidence here, at the end of the trail the person could end up in jail. We would like to think that if anyone that you know of is being intimidated you would let this committee know.

ACTING CHAIR —I think the difficulty is that, if they are not giving evidence, there is not the same protection. I would encourage you to give what evidence you can in public. As I said, we would prefer as much as possible that that evidence be given in public because, as Senator Heffernan said, there is a limited way that we can use evidence that is given in private.

Mr Tully —Yes, okay.

ACTING CHAIR —So if you are happy to continue—

Mr Tully —Yes, I am happy to continue. Would you like me to present my submission?

ACTING CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Tully —I might start then with the CASA management of the—

ACTING CHAIR —You do not need to read your submission as we already have it. But if you are going to add to it that is fine.

Mr Tully —No, I am not reading the submission. The first issue I would like to raise is CASA’s HR management standards. I saw a significant decline in these standards from about 2003. For an organisation to succeed, it has to put some value in its staff. I believe that the current executive management does not put that value in its staff. It says it does; there is a lot of spin about staff being an important asset to the organisation. But when you see the outcomes from some of the issues over the last three to five years, it certainly is not that way. The lowering of HR standards and an appreciative dip in morale within CASA became more apparent to me around 2005, when Bruce Byron introduced a restructure into CASA. I was the acting policy manager for the General Aviation Operations Group at that time, under Mr Rob Collins, who was the group general manager.

It was quite a turbulent time in CASA, with little or no specific information or support given to staff on the effects of this restructure. There was a significant risk during that time to aviation safety, because a lot of staff were focusing more on their tenure within CASA under the new restructure. I think it was taking their focus off their safety obligations. I spent a considerable part of my time during that period supporting staff and passing on what little information I was getting from executive management. We were getting the high-level glossy brochures on where the restructure was heading but very little specific information. It seemed to me that there was a deliberate strategy in place to keep staff in the dark about the specific restructure issue because of the redundancies that were about to take place.

I then experienced firsthand the nature of the HR area when I came to signing my own AWA with CASA. When I was initially given an AWA, I thought we were going to go through an opening gambit process. I thought we would have negotiated in good faith during this period. However, the salary component within the first AWA I was given was actually their final position. They had given me the wrong AWA. That salary component was less than what I was getting at the time in my substantive position. When I raised this with HR, they said, ‘You’ve got the wrong one,’ so they took that back and gave me another one for a lesser salary. It just turned into that type of situation. It was just duplicitous and devious the way in which they were getting these AWAs agreed to. The outcome of all that was that people’s expectations of benefits were being stripped away by CASA. My AWA stripped back 62 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks. I was told by HR that that was because of a Commonwealth government requirement. I found out later that that was not the case and that I could have actually been negotiating that particular aspect of the AWA.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We are not an IR body. What does ‘52 instead of 62’ mean? Does that mean the term of your contract was 10 weeks shorter than what it might have been?

Mr Tully —Yes. There were a few other issues in the AWA. I do not want to get bogged down on this AWA issue. It should have been handled by the workplace.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We do not want you to either, because we are not an IR mob.

Mr Tully —I understand that. I think the point I am trying to make is that the way CASA HR have behaved in the last three to five years has lowered morale in CASA. There has been a significant dip in morale. From discussing those issues with staff who are currently employed by CASA, I do not think it has changed much.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think you got the bullet?

Mr Tully —Yes, I think I did.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Why do you think you got the bullet?

Mr Tully —I think I got the bullet because of my relationship with the group general manager at the time, Mr Greg Vaughan. It is quite interesting that one of my other submissions today is on staff safety concerns that were raised with CASA. It identified about six managers—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Does this include the two blokes at Moorabbin?

Mr Tully —One bloke at Moorabbin.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you want to tell us anything about that?

ACTING CHAIR —Hang on, can we hear the submission and then we can ask questions. It will be dysfunctional if we do not hear the submission. We have a limited amount of time, so we need you to go through your submission, Mr Tully, and then we will ask you questions.

Mr Tully —Okay, I will just take the point there about the issues that arise between the group general manager of General Aviation Operations Group and some of the staff. It is interesting that the staff that are currently under a cloud—or as you have termed it, Senator, ‘given the bullet’—had run-ins with this particular group general manager. I raised issues about CASA staffing cuts when I was appointed to the position. They were stripping back staff in my particular area from 19 to six, and this was an area that was assessing the major reports that were coming in from the industry at that time. There were issues raised on engineering compliance by one of the staff at Moorabbin with the same group general manager and there were issues on industry delegations. One particular industry delegate’s—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Who went to Europe?

Mr Tully —yes, the one I mentioned who went to Europe—suitability for inclusion was raised by me and another CASA officer, who was part of that team that went to Europe. It was put to the project manager of the EASA group, Mr Hondo Gratton, that this person was unsuitable to go to Europe.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Did you say Hondo Gratton?

Mr Tully —Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —It wasn’t a bad trotter.

Mr Tully —Mr Gratton put these issues to Bruce Byron and our concerns about this guy being included in the group. He came back and nothing changed.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What was the concern? That he was a cowboy? That he did not know what he was doing? He was not qualified? He had two heads? What was the issue?

Mr Tully —He was under a cloud due to an audit that had been carried out on him. There were questions over his ability to operate effectively in carrying out his duties as a delegate.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Technical skill or administrative skill?

Mr Tully —I do not think there is any question about his technical skill. I think it is just the manner in which he carried out his particular authorisation.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What, he was a sort of grumpy old bastard like me, was he?

Mr Tully —He is younger than you, Senator. It was the way he controlled the information. He had a very relaxed method of keeping records. His responsibility of reporting the work he had done to CASA was pretty ordinary.

Senator HEFFERNAN —In terms of a paper trail—

ACTING CHAIR —Can we finish Mr Tully’s submission and then we will ask questions. We will not get through the material you want to put; we will end up dealing with only part of it. So can we accelerate that part of it and then go the questions?

Senator HEFFERNAN —Righto.

Mr Tully —Sure. The other point I made in my submission was CASA’s relationship with industry and organisations and the weight that CASA tends to put on input from industry compared to input from their own staff. I found that specifically when I was involved with the night vision goggles project, trying to get that up and running. There were a couple of flight operations inspectors on that particular program, and I think their reputations were sullied by some of the feedback from that committee because they were standing up for—as they saw it—safety issues in relation to the approval of these night vision goggles. That was another specific area.

The other aspect within that too is the situation that you get where industry lobby CASA about certain officers. I notice that you have Mr Peter Lloyd appearing after me today. I had discussions with Peter Lloyd at one stage where he raised the issue of the suitability of some of my staff being in that regulatory policy area. I think he termed them in his latest submission ‘deadwood’ or ‘recalcitrants’. He raised those issues with me about the suitability of those staff and whether they should be terminated. I understand from Rob Collins that he had similar discussions with Mr Rob Collins on the same two staff. Those two staff are still working with CASA, by the way.

I mention in my submission the major issue in setting safety standards and seeking compliance with those standards is the relationship between CASA and the industry. There is a lack of trust in CASA by the industry. They seem to have a view that CASA is going to be embedding hooks within the legislation that is going to trip them up. There is a very little trust in how CASA operates in writing those standards. That is why you get to the point in some of the committees where you are debating grammar and tense within the regulations. The ideal position would be to agree on the policy and let CASA get on and write the regulations and not have to keep going back to committees to review the spelling and grammar within specific regulations.

My final point was the management of CASA staff safety concerns. As you hit on before, Senator Heffernan, I am aware that staff have specifically raised safety concerns with the group general manager of the General Aviation Operations Group. I am also aware that in some cases those staff are not in CASA anymore. One guy resigned and two are currently under scrutiny by management. I believe one of them has been suspended. The safety concerns of staff are frowned on by CASA management. I know some have been counselled and threatened with termination for raising safety issues with some of the managers. I am confident that the CASA technical staff continue to seek the appropriate safety outcomes, that they do the best they can in a pretty tough environment. But I am pretty sure that if you sought the opinion of staff specifically with the protection of giving evidence, then you would get a completely different picture on the health of the organisation to what is being presented by CASA at the moment.

ACTING CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Tully. Senator Heffernan, you have questions.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We have had lots of evidence that lots of people think CASA was a hopeless organisation 10 years ago and that it is undergoing a revolution. Revolutions are always personality clashes et cetera, but I would not like to think that they are going to come out at the other end of the revolution and the safety aspects of keeping aircraft in the air are no better off. We are hearing evidence that, as part of the revolution, a lot of the skill base is diminished and a lot of the intricacies and technological skills are growing because the planes are smarter et cetera. I personally cannot see anything wrong with someone in the industry complaining about an officer in CASA to the management of CASA. I feel out of it unless every six months, at least, someone calls for my resignation because they think I am a horrible bit of gear. It is sooky to worry about that sort of stuff. If you are worried about people who are not used to being criticised being criticised, then that is—

Mr Tully —I think criticism comes with the game in CASA. It is staffed by adults. I do not think you have been through any of the consultative committees that CASA has set up to have a look at how the proceedings are driven, but I think you will find there are very few sooks in CASA. I think the major reason is the undue influence in place by—

Senator HEFFERNAN —What I would be concerned about is that legitimate complaints have in the background an intimidation of your job. I think that is pretty unhealthy. My understanding of the Moorabbin exercise was that the operator thought there was a witch hunt by a former employee who went to CASA. Is that your summary of it?

Mr Tully —I am really not on top of that particular detail. I am aware that—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Were you a licensed aircraft inspector in your former life?

Mr Tully —I was in the Navy—didn’t you read my submission?

Senator HEFFERNAN —I did; you were in the Navy for 20 years but you did not actually spell out what you did, whether you were an engine man, an airframe man—what were you?

Mr Tully —Engine/airframe.

Senator HEFFERNAN —From that experience, do you think that some of the people in CASA who are inspectors of airframes and engines are working above their qualifications and capacities?

Mr Tully —I think there has been a paucity of training in CASA for years. I think that, in some cases, they are employing highly qualified and experienced individuals from either the military or the industry. They have the capability to become good regulators but CASA has not really trained its staff to be regulators.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is not answering the question. Do you think there are people doing jobs that they are not qualified to do?

Mr Tully —That is what I am getting to. The role of the CASA staff member is to be a regulator. It is not to be a pilot or an engineer. It is good to have those technical skills behind you, but your role is a regulator. You are out there to seek compliance with the regulations. You utilise your skills in carrying out that role.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Hang on. CASA is the regulator; I accept that.

Mr Tully —Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —CASA employs people to carry out the instrument of the regulation.

Mr Tully —Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think the people carrying out the instrument in some circumstances are not qualified or are working above their capacity?

Mr Tully —From a technical perspective? I do not know—

Senator HEFFERNAN —I would like to think that, when a jumbo takes off from Sydney, the bloke who gave it a tick to go knows what he is talking about.

Mr Tully —The guy who gave it a tick to go would be a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer.

Senator HEFFERNAN —We have heard evidence that you are not supporting. That is fair enough.

Mr Tully —That I am not supporting?

Senator HEFFERNAN —We have heard evidence that there is a gradual diminution of the capacity of some inspection staff, not only with their qualifications but also with their capacity to do their job. In other words, they are not smart enough, qualified enough or energetic enough.

Mr Tully —No, I think they are skilled enough to carry out their role.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is the question.

Mr Tully —What I am saying is that the background and technical skills are one aspect of the role of the inspector.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So you think everything is all right technically?

Mr Tully —Technically, when they join CASA they are hired on the basis of their qualifications at that time. As I said before, CASA got rid of its training centre in about 1988 or 1990.

Senator HEFFERNAN —You do not think the people CASA employs have been deskilled technically?

Mr Tully —There is very little ongoing training within CASA. There is for pilots, but the airworthiness aspects and the engineering aspects have very little specific training.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So is the end result of that going to be that they are going to run out of capacity?

Mr Tully —I think they will eventually if they do not introduce specific ongoing training for staff, but a major aspect, as I said before, is the regulatory side of the role, for which there is very little training.

Senator O’BRIEN —In your submission, you make reference to the state of the maintenance regulations.

Mr Tully —Yes.

Senator O’BRIEN —What I think you were suggesting was a breakdown of the process many years ago, which leaves us in an inadequate situation in that regard at the moment. Is that fair?

Mr Tully —My point was that we have gone through so many changes in trying to get these maintenance regulations completed. I came back from Melbourne in 1995 to start on what was called the RSVP, the regulatory structure validation project, which was to look at the regs that we had in Australia and measure them up for suitability. At that time the Civil Aviation Orders were a mixture of advisory material plus mandatory requirements. The suite of legislation was quite untidy. So the RSVP was putting that together to try to streamline it. That then evolved into the regulatory framework project. As I said in my submission, I think that in about 2000 we just about had it finished. The notice of proposed rule makings had gone out, we had the responses back and apart from a small group of industry I would say that there was majority support for those regulations. Then, out of the blue, in 2000 we decided to can that because we had not consulted enough. We started the ball rolling again. CASA just never—

Senator HEFFERNAN —Who was in charge then?

Senator O’BRIEN —Come on. It does not matter who was in charge then. Can I finish my questions because we have very limited time? I have had it put to me that the state of the maintenance regulations and CASA’s situation in that regard has had an impact on its relationship with the FAA, with regard to certain projects that the FAA is involved in. Do you know anything about that.

Mr Tully —I am not aware of that.

Senator O’BRIEN —In terms of relationships with industry organisations and individuals, you say in your submission that you would be happy to expand on matters contained in your submission. To the extent you have not already done so, is there anything else you wish to put in that regard to the committee? It is under the heading ‘CASA’s relationship with industry organisations and individuals’.

Mr Tully —I think the point I would make there is that we have become more of a partner than a regulator in the last few years or so. You hear very little about the public interest aspects of safety regulation. In the back of my mind all the time was a view of a person strapping themselves into an aircraft seat and flying somewhere. That was why CASA was there: to protect the fare-paying public. I think that element of the equation has diminished over the years. It is more of this: ‘We have got to be a partner with industry.’ I think that one of the objectives of CASA is to have a lower public profile. The less CASA is in the press the better.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So are you saying that familiarity breeds contempt, as it were, within the industry. I mean, if you are a copper you should not drink with the crims, as it were. That is fair enough.

Mr Tully —I think you have got to keep a professional distance when you are a regulator. If you are going to carry out an audit of an organisation, you walk in, you identify yourself, you explain what you are going to do and you get on with it. Give them a time frame and a picture of what is going to happen in that particular audit.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think it is the difficulty of an officer of CASA imposing their authority on the industry?

Mr Tully —No, I think it is the relationship, as I said before.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Okay.

Senator FISHER —I want to explore a bit more your concerns about CASA’s relationship with industry. I restate that my father operates a private aeroplane. To the extent that you are saying that CASA is too close to industry, can you give more detail about how you would characterise that in respect of the private aviation sector as opposed to the commercial sector. Are you including that sector of the industry in your criticism of CASA’s relationship with industry?

Mr Tully —I think that was a generic term I was using to say that the message coming out from CASA, the spin is always the partnership: ‘We are not the regulator.’ ‘We are not the nanny regulator anymore,’ as the CEO has said, when in fact CASA is a regulator. You cannot get away from that fact. The act puts a responsibility on CASA to seek compliance with those standards that it establishes. But the spin coming out is, ‘Yeah, we’re in a partnership mode with industry’—rather than standing fast and saying, ‘We are here to ensure aviation safety.’

Senator FISHER —To put the question in another way, do you think that means they are genuinely in partnership with the private aircraft operator?

Mr Tully —I think that is the message.

Senator FISHER —Okay. Thank you.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I think you’re a dead ringer for Gough Whitlam.

Mr Tully —Is that a compliment or an insult?

Senator HEFFERNAN —It is a compliment. If I were to take a photo of you sitting there, I would think, ‘That’s young Gough there.’ You’re a dead ringer.

Senator O’BRIEN —Mr Tully, just on your statement about what you perceive as the direction that CASA takes in terms of industry partnership, what gives you that view specifically? Is it because that is what you were told when you were there or because you have heard it from others or because you have read it somewhere?

Mr Tully —I think it is the experience that you gain when you deal with and are on committees with industry, when you are writing the regulations. You get to a point of disagreement where rather than taking the hard decisions and saying, ‘I am sorry, the line in the sand is there, this is a safety issue,’ we tend to go one step further and keep negotiating—

Senator O’BRIEN —Compromising?

Mr Tully —In some cases I have seen compromise in some of the regulations that have been developed. That is not to say that there has been a drastic reduction in safety by the compromise, but it just gets to the stage where it keeps going round and round in circles. It is nearly impossible to get regulations finished in some instances.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Do you think it has to do with the prior links in the industry?

Mr Tully —I daresay there are people who still have a link with industry. I guess you are still linked to the bush, even though you are sitting in Canberra.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is self-evident.

Mr Tully —It is self-evident, Senator.

CHAIR —We have run out of time. We do thank you for your assistance.

[10.02 am]