I wasn’t planning to speak on this bill but, having heard some of the concerns just raised by Senator Rice, I want to make a very brief contribution. Back when David Forsyth ran the inquiry into Australia’s safety regulation for aviation, I worked with former Minister Truss, travelling much of Australia, speaking at many of the same forums and getting feedback from people. One of the issues that was raised consistently was that there were multiple occurrences where the requirements of CASA were bureaucratically correct but didn’t actually have a safety outcome. In some cases, advice was given by CASA to industry which they didn’t follow through, because they basically didn’t care about the economic impact. For example, if somebody wished to bring an aircraft into the country that was not the first of type, they would approach CASA and do all their due diligence about how long it would take them to bring the aircraft in and get it cleared, and they would debt fund the aircraft when it arrived, but it would then sit on the tarmac for months because they didn’t get the paperwork cleared by CASA, as there was no regard for the economic impact of a lack of action on behalf of the regulator. Then there were things like check-in training. I know from my own aviation background—23-odd years both in the military and flying in the civil sector—that there are very sensible economies that can be had for things like check-in training. For example, as a pilot flying multiple types of aircrafts that are in a similar category—a twin-engine aircraft that’s rated to fly in instruments—you can do an instrument rating on one complex aircraft and it very comfortably translates to another aircraft of the same category even if it’s a different brand, if you like, of aircraft. Yet I’m hearing from the industry great concerns that CASA are now requiring them to do multiple tests every year on different aircraft types even though they’re in the same category. So there are things that are not really economically viable for an individual pilot or company and that don’t actually contribute to safety in a large way. I speak from experience.
So I hear the concerns, but the origin of this amendment goes back a number of years to when there was very extensive consultation with operators and pilots and aircraft mechanics—the LAMEs—into how CASA approached their regulation. The desire is not to provide an avenue for someone to say, ‘We think that’s going to lose us some profits, so we’re not going to do it,’ but for them to actually say, ‘Can we achieve the same safety standard and take account of the economics for a small business?’ That was the intent that came out of the Forsyth review and the associated discussions and has bounced around now for a number of years. I’m very pleased to see that the opposition has been able to work with the government to come up with a form of words that makes sure that we keep companies viable, because I’ve got to say: a safe company is a viable company. A company that’s scraping to make ends meet is far more likely to also end up taking shortcuts. I commend the bill to the Senate.