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Safeskies 2013—Theme: People and Technology

Speech

WTS003/2013

16 October 2013

Hotel Realm, Canberra

Thank you Peter (Lloyd, President, Safeskies) and David (Forsyth, Chairman, Safeskies) and the Safeskies Executive Board for the invitation to open this conference today.

I would also like to thank all of you for attending this event, from near and far, to share and learn from each other's aviation safety experiences.

Safeskies provides an excellent opportunity for all of us committed to best practice in safety to exchange our views and ideas about how to enhance aviation safety in Australia—and throughout our rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region.

It is a pleasure for me to address this important international aviation safety event as the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

I am very glad to return to a Ministerial portfolio that has truly engaged me through a lot of the time in Parliament.

And aviation is a critical part of my portfolio—and of Australia's future development and economic growth.

Aviation Growth and its implications

Australian aviation has achieved strong and sustained growth over the past decade—and this growth underlines the importance of aviation safety.

More people are flying within Australia, and in and out of Australia than ever before. 

Over 142 million passengers moved through Australian airports in the 12 months to 30 June 2013. 

A record 57 million passengers were carried on more than 640,000 regular public transport flights around Australia within this time.1

Sydney remained Australia's busiest domestic airport with over 25 million passengers movements, followed by Melbourne with nearly 23 million passenger movements and Brisbane with nearly 17 million passenger movements.2

Fixed-wing charter operators carried an additional 2.4 million passengers in 2012–13.  More than one third of all charter passengers took flights either to or from Perth Airport—reflecting the strong growth of Australia's resource industries.3

However, although the aviation industry has expanded overall, this growth is not evenly shared around the country.  

While parts of regional Australia have benefitted from strong growth associated with the resources sector or coastal migration, traffic levels at some smaller regional airports have declined.

International aviation continues to grow with over 30 million passenger movements into and out of Australia in the year ended June 2013—an increase of over 5 per cent over the previous year.4

Significantly, 11 million passenger movements were between Australia and South-East Asia and over 5 million between Australia and North-East Asia.  

Together, these two regions contributed more than half of all passenger movements into and out of Australia.5

This is a clear pointer to the future.

Asia-Pacific passenger kilometres already represent about 30 per cent of global traffic.6

And the most recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts indicate that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to be the fastest growing part of an expanding international aviation market.

ICAO forecasts that the current 3.0 billion global passenger traffic movements will have more than doubled to 6.4 billion movements by 2030.7

These levels of global and regional growth create challenges and opportunities for virtually every aspect of Australian aviation, including maintaining the safety of our skies.

We recognise that the Australian aviation industry is highly diverse.

The industry includes international and domestic passenger and freight carriers, smaller regional operations, charter and business services.  It also includes aerial agricultural operators, emergency services, general, sport and recreational aviation. 

These front-end services are complemented by other vital parts of the industry—including aircraft manufacturing, aircraft maintenance and flight training for both domestic and international flight crews.

Above all, the Australian Government is committed to providing an aviation governance and regulatory framework that helps ensure  Australia's aviation industry operates in a safe, efficient and reliable environment.

Aviation Safety

The Government's aviation industry policy reflects the realities of the industry's diversity.

Our policy also shows that we have listened to the issues which concern aviation stakeholders. 

Our response to their concerns includes several key aviation safety and air traffic management commitments which I will briefly outline today.

We are committed to undertaking a strategic independent review of aviation safety and regulation.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority is well advanced in rewriting Australian aviation regulations—a process that has been underway for more than 20 years—and it is not without its critics and controversy.

This review will help ensure Australia maintains best practice in aviation safety.

Australia's aviation safety record is internationally recognised as a very good one.

However, I believe that it is time to examine our aviation safety framework and identify where improvements can be made.

The future success of Australian aviation fundamentally depends on maintaining its impressive safety record and improving on it wherever possible.

The aviation safety and regulation review will be undertaken by a qualified and experienced member of the international aviation community, who will be assisted by my Department.

The Review will be expected to consult with all interested parties to make sure we achieve the best possible outcomes.

The review will examine:

  • the structures and processes of the Government's aviation safety agencies, and how they work together;
  • the outcomes and direction of  the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's regulatory review process; and
  • the benchmarking of our regulatory framework against international best practice.

I expect to release further details, including the final terms of reference and timing of the review, before the end of this year. 

When the review is completed and the Government has considered its recommendations, I will issue CASA with a new strategic direction under Section 12A of the Civil Aviation Act 1988.

The Government is also committed to delivering improvements to CASA's structure and governance arrangements to enhance the organisation's role as Australia's aviation safety regulator.

We will appoint two additional members to the CASA Board—and strengthen its aviation skills and experience to ensure the Board is well-placed to oversee CASA's new strategic direction. 

We will also enhance the role of the independent CASA Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) and improve the ICC's reporting and resourcing arrangements as required.

The Government is also aware of significant pressures being placed on the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's resources.

We will ensure that the Chief Commissioner of the Bureau can request additional funding, on a needs basis, to ensure a high standard of investigations is maintained, particularly when a large number of investigations are required.

Air Traffic Management

Nothing is of course more welcome in any industry than growth—but we clearly need to ensure that growth in air traffic is safely managed in our skies and on the ground.

We are experiencing delays at our major capital city airports—especially Brisbane and Perth—as they struggle to meet growing international and domestic demand. 

And of course the resources sector will continue to create challenges for our air traffic management system—especially peak period demand associated with fly-in and fly-out operations.

These and other air traffic management issues demand an integrated response from airport and airline operators and Government agencies.

The Government's aviation policy has outlined several areas where we can help improve Australia's air traffic management system.

Undoubtedly, the single most significant step for air traffic management in Australia in the future will be the implementation of a new national air traffic control (ATC) system.

This project is being progressed jointly by Airservices Australia and the Department of Defence and  a request for tender is currently out with industry.

A harmonised civil and aviation air traffic system will not only provide greater operational efficiencies, but ensure seamless compatibility with other systems in Australia's regional neighbourhood.

These harmonised systems will accommodate future air traffic in the region—which is expected to grow by more than 50 per cent over the anticipated life of the new air traffic system platform.

Defence is clearly a key stakeholder in Australian aviation.

I am looking forward to working with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon David Johnston, in supporting our agencies joint commitment to a harmonised national air traffic system.

As part of the broader response needed to improve air traffic management, I also welcome and support Airservices'  efforts, through its Airport Capacity Enhancement program, to enhance the efficiency of airport operations especially at Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. 

I look forward to the program's extension into other major airports—including Sydney.

Future development at Sydney Airport will of course be informed by the Sydney Airport master plan due to be provided to the Government for consideration in December this year.

Infrastructure investment is a key part of improved air traffic management—and hence a priority for this Government.

Aviation Security

Aviation security is a close companion of air safety.

The Government recognises that the ‘one size fits all’ approach in aviation security does not always produce the best outcome. 

We will therefore work to ensure that security measures are appropriate to the level of risk—without imposing unnecessary cost burdens or affecting the viability of services.  

Requirements should be implemented in a practical and common sense way—while of course ensuring that aviation security is not comprised. 

Regulatory reform in this area will allow compliance resources to be better directed to higher-risk infrastructure as the industry continues to grow.

The Government is also committed to ensuring all agencies work collaboratively and cooperatively with industry to, where possible, remove duplicated and unnecessary regulatory requirements.

Where practicable, we will also explore the use of non-regulatory approaches. After all, this government is committed to reduce the cost of government red tape on industry by $1 billion a year.

I expect my Department to play a strong role in assisting industry to implement security requirements in a common sense manner that is fit for purpose.

General Aviation (GA)

As a regional Australian I am well aware of the importance of a healthy general aviation sector.

The sector provides a very diverse range of services—ranging from charter flights, search and rescue, surveying and aerial photography, aero medical services and pilot training.

These are all important parts of our diverse Australian aviation industry.

We note industry concerns about the state of general aviation in Australia and at the same time recognise the potential opportunities for the industry to generate jobs, stimulate economic growth and create investment opportunities.

We are committed to establishing a regulatory regime that reflects best practice safety arrangements and is appropriate to the risks.

To this end, the Government will re-establish a regular dialogue with the GA sector to address industry issues—and agree on priority areas as part of a revitalised GA action agenda.

People and Technology

The continuing growth in Australian and international aviation means that Government and industry will need to continue to invest in our people and in technology to meet future demand.

Hence the theme of this conference—People and Technology—could not be more appropriate. 

This Government supports a competitive and innovative aviation sector and the vital economic role in plays in Australia particularly for our tourism and other export industries.

It is through a skilled and well trained workforce and that workforce's effective use of technology, that we can ensure our Australian aviation industry can meet future growth in the international and domestic aviation market. 

I have therefore asked my Department to undertake a study into the state of the workforce in the aviation industry to inform future skills development and training policies. 

A review of skills and workforce requirements across the aviation industry will provide an evidence based and coordinated approach to training and workforce development to meet industry needs.  

The review is likely to encompass a broad range of aviation occupations including pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers, aircraft maintenance and engineering, avionics manufacture and repair, aviation security and airport operations.  

It will also assist the aviation training industry in taking advantage of international opportunities presented by the strong aviation growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

The future is likely to be challenging, and we need to ensure that we plan effectively—but we cannot do this without workforce planning and training programs to provide us with a clear overall picture of the industry.

Conclusion

The Australian Government is determined to play its part in ensuring that Australia has a safer and more competitive aviation sector—and one that will continue to advance the national interest in the years and decades ahead.

We will work with our Government agencies, all sectors, and our international partners to support best practice in aviation safety.

I wish everyone involved in Safeskies 2013 a successful and rewarding conference.

Thank you very much—and enjoy the next two days.

  1. BITRE, Domestic Aviation Activity, June 2013, see page 3
  2. BITRE, Domestic Aviation Activity, Annual 2012
  3. BITRE, Domestic Aviation Activity, Annual 2012
  4. BITRE, International airline activity, year ended June 2013
    www.bitre.gov.au/statistics/aviation/international.aspx
  5. BITRE, International airline activity, year ended June 2013
    www.bitre.gov.au/statistics/aviation/international.aspx
  6. ICAO Capacity by Region, Monthly Monitor to June 2013
    www.icao.int/sustainability/Documents/Monthly-Monitor.pdf
  7. ICAO Facts and Figures, Long Term Trends
    www.icao.int/sustainability/Pages/FactsFigures.aspx