Aviation Legislation Amendment (International Airline Licences and Carriers’ Liability Insurance) Bill 2008: Second Reading

Secondly, it will amend Australia’s system of mandatory airline insurance to streamline the administrative process and grant the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, CASA, improved powers to audit and enforce compliance with the scheme. The system of international airline licences will be revamped so that existing licences can be reissued with standardised and consistent conditions. Our system of IALs makes sure that flights are conducted in accordance with the bilateral agreements Australia has with our aviation partners. It also provides for a final checking system to make sure that all the safety, security and insurance approvals are in place before an airline starts services.

The system that has been evolving for decades has been hampered by the government’s limited ability to cancel, amend and audit licences. Under the existing system, licences are on issue to airlines that no longer exist or that no longer fly to Australia. Different licences are subject to different conditions, and the government has limited ability to check that airlines are actually complying with the conditions. This bill will remove the entire regulatory framework for IALs in the Air Navigation Regulations 1947. Regulations will later be drafted to deal with the granting, variation, suspension and cancellation of IALs, rectifying the current administrative deficiencies of the system. This bill will give regulations the capacity to deal with the granting, variation, suspension and cancellation of international airline licences by the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

The bill also amends Australia’s system of mandatory carriers’ liability insurance to streamline the administrative processes and grant CASA improved powers to audit and enforce compliance with the scheme. The Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 requires carriers to maintain minimum levels of insurance to protect passengers in the event of an accident. The scheme is supplemented by the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, which allow CASA to enforce requirements as part of their management of safety issues via the air operator certificate process. Under the new system, carriers will no longer need to obtain a certificate of compliance from CASA before flights are operated. Instead, operators will be obliged to provide CASA with a declaration indicating that they have obtained that insurance. If the operator allows its insurance to lapse, authorisation to carry passengers will automatically lapse. The authorisation will automatically be reactivated as soon as the operator secures the appropriate insurance. If at any time an operator carries passengers without appropriate insurance, it will be subject to administrative and criminal sanctions under the Civil Aviation Act in addition to the criminal penalties that are currently imposed under the carriers’ liability act. The bill will also streamline administrative processes. It will cut down the paperwork for CASA’s oversight of the mandatory insurance scheme for airlines. It will also improve the ability of CASA to proactively enforce insurance requirements for air carriers.

The Aviation Legislation Amendment (International Airline Licences and Carriers’ Liability Insurance) Bill 2008 will provide significant and long overdue improvements to the aviation industry. Can I also use this opportunity to commend the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government for his focus on and the attention he has given to aviation issues in the short time that he has been minister-and some of those issues, it should be pointed out, bear heavily on his electorate. There has been the development of Australia’s first ever aviation white paper as well as his decision-and this was important-not to allow the expansion of Bankstown Airport as Sydney’s second airport.

Unlike the situation in Avalon described by the members for Corangamite and Corio earlier today, a major passenger airport is not wanted at Bankstown. Bankstown Airport is already the main general aviation airport for the Sydney region and-this may surprise some members-it is one of the busiest airports in the world. The threat of more movements and large passenger aircraft is not one that is welcomed by my local community but, under the master plan that was approved by the previous government, it is one that could occur. It just requires the runway at Bankstown to be lengthened and strengthened. Because this work-the lengthening and strengthening of the runway-would cost more than $20 million, it therefore constitutes a major development and so requires the approval of the federal government. My community was very relieved and very grateful when earlier this year the minister ruled out any expansion of the airport to become Sydney’s second airport. It is a good example of the difference a Labor government makes. Bankstown Airport is a great place to create local jobs but it is a bad place for large passenger aircraft. The minister recognised this and recognised that Bankstown is not the place for such an airport, so I thank him very much for that.

Airports are a key part of our economic infrastructure. They provide jobs, they move freight and they underpin our economic growth. But they also have an impact on the communities that live around them. They create extra noise and extra traffic and, as I said earlier, the minister understands this better than most. The people of Blaxland are very grateful for his decision in relation to Bankstown Airport, and I, as the member for Blaxland, thank him on their behalf. I look forward to the aviation white paper when it comes forward and I also look forward to the feasibility study that is currently being conducted on the M5 East duplication in Sydney’s west. It is a project that will help Sydney airport and make it work more effectively and more efficiently. It will reduce congestion between Sydney airport and my electorate and it will make the electorate of Blaxland a better place to live and work. With those remarks, I commend the bill to the House.’