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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 6 February 2004: National airspace system; values debate.

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Martin Ferguson MP

Shadow Minister for Urban and Regional Development Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure

6 February 2004


Topic: National Airspace System; Values Debate

FERGUSON: Over the last couple of months, the Minister for Transport John Anderson has vilified and sought to undermine anyone who challenged his airspace reform system.

In fact, the Minister John Anderson said in Parliament on a number of occasions there are no safety concerns with his personal airspace reform system that he put in place with a hand selected group of people at arms length from the official Government regulators including Airservices Australia and CASA.

It is now clear that the airspace reform system is on the skids, that there are serious concerns about air safety in Australia as a result of the changes and that Airservices is in the process of finding a way out of the mess for John Anderson.

That raises serious questions in my mind, not only about air safety in recent months, but also about the backroom processes which lead to the new airspace system in Australia.

I think that it is important that we have an independent inquiry, not only as to why CASA and Airservices and other respected institutions and individuals were pushed aside who could have offered valuable insight into the changes in air safety. But also the role of the Prime Minister, his relationship with Dick Smith and whether or not John Anderson, the Minister for Transport might have been directed to put this system in place despite his best advice from the Department and associated Departmental agencies such as Airservices and CASA and whether or not in those consultations some of those organisations felt as if they couldn’t offer honest advice on air safety for fear of retribution.

I think it is also important in going forward that we make sure that in any changes to the airspace system we take the industry with us, that they are properly consulted and we make sure the changes are bedded down in

consultation with the industry so as to guarantee that we avoid any air safety issues.

Any Questions?

…/2 JOURNALIST: Have you got any evidence that Mr Anderson has been directed to do this?

FERGUSON: If you actually go back through the records you will find that John Anderson the Minister for Transport had previous concerns about Dick Smith’s involvement in airspace reform.

It was only in the lead up to the last election that it would almost look as if some understandings were reached that should the Coalition win Government that airspace reform would be revisited and Dick Smith in association with the Prime Minister, because of his personal support for Dick Smith, would be given a special role in that airspace reform proposal.

It is well known in the industry.

Now, that is important to me because I note that the Deputy Prime Minister was on radio today talking about the need for a values debate in Australia. Well to me, values are also about your responsibilities as Minister to actually carry out

your duties in an independent and professional way and to guarantee that your ministerial responsibilities - in this instance airspace reform, the safety of the travelling public - are free of political interference.

That is a pretty important values debate to me as a representative in the Commonwealth Parliament.

Thank you.