In mid-November 2013, the Australian Government announced it will be undertaking an independent review of aviation safety regulation in Australia.

In announcing the review to Parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mr Warren Truss, noted that ‘aviation is an essential part of our [Australia’s] economy’1 and is an industry which is ‘growing strongly’.2 Mr Truss advised the Parliament that in order to keep pace with the ‘speed with which the aviation industry evolves, the need for continued improvement in the aviation safety regulatory system is even more critical than in many other sectors’.3

In view of the above, Mr Truss confi rmed ‘now is the right time to refl ect and take stock of how our [Australia’s] safety regulatory system is placed to deal with this economically important industry’.4

The background to the review (as per the terms of reference5) is the extensive period of ongoing regulatory reform which has been implemented by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) over the past three years, and which is expected to continue into 2014. An additional factor was reportedly the release of the Senate report into Aviation Accident Investigations (in mid-2013) which highlighted a range of issues with the regulation and governance of aviation safety within Australia.7

The review is to be undertaken by a panel comprising Mr David Forsyth AM (Chair) (Chair of Safeskies Australia); Mr Don Spruston (former Director General of Civil Aviation at Transport Canada) and Mr Roger Whitefi eld (former Head of Safety at British Airways, former safety advisor to Qantas and former UK Civil Aviation Authority board member).

The terms of reference for the review provide the objective for the panel to investigate:

  • The structures, effectiveness and processes of all agencies involved in aviation safety;
  • The relationship and interaction of those agencies with each other, as well as with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development;
  • The outcomes and direction of the regulatory reform process being undertaken by CASA;
  • The suitability of Australia’s aviation safety related regulations when benchmarked against comparable overseas jurisdictions; and
  • Any other safety related matters.’8

Public consultation – Submission period

It is understood the panel will be supported as required by ‘specialist advisers to assist on specifi c aspects of the review’.9 At this stage, the only specialist adviser announced is Mr Phillip Reiss, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia. To that end, Mr Reiss has been enlisted to represent the concerns of general aviation and regional operators.10

The terms of reference for the review also suggest the panel will be provided with assistance / views from:

  • The CASA Board, Senior Management and Staff;
  • The ATSB Commission, Senior Management and Staff;
  • International, domestic, regional, general aviation, sport and recreational aircraft and maintenance operators and organisations;
  • Federal, regional and local airport operators;
  • Other government agencies including Airservices Australia; the Department of Defence and the Offi ce of Parliamentary Counsel; and
  • Other industry and public stakeholders’.11

The public consultation period is now open (scheduled to end on 31 January 2014) via the following link:

http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/asrr/ submissions.aspx

It is somewhat unfortunate the public consultation period crosses over with the Christmas / New Year period, potentially affecting the ability of the industry to prepare and submit comprehensive submissions by the 31 January 2014 deadline.

Notwithstanding the above, it is understood that members of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Aviation Special Interest Group will be making submissions addressing the concerns of those who legally represent people injured or killed in aviation accidents.12

So as to ensure a range of concerns and / or recommendations are put to the panel, members of the aviation insurance industry, together with direct industry participants, may well wish to consider taking this opportunity to prepare a submission on those issues affecting their respective interests in aviation safety regulation in Australia.

Timing of report to Minister

It is understood the panel is expected to report to the Minister, Mr Truss, in May 2014,13 a tight timeframe given the broad ranging objectives to be investigated and the breadth of public submissions / consultation foreshadowed.

Carter Newell will continue to monitor developments in regards to the review and will report further on the outcome of same as the year progresses.