AOPA Meets the Minister!

Notes on Meeting, 1305 -1415 Eastern Summer Time 3 February 1999 in the Minister for Transport's Office, Parliament House, Canberra ACT.

Attendees: The Hon John Anderson MP Minister for Transport (the Minister)
Mr Bill McKinley, Aviation Adviser (Bill McKinley)
Mr Tony Mitchell, AOPA Vice President (TM)
Mr Mark Barnett, AOPA General Manager (Mark Barnett)

After usual introductions, the Minister started the meeting by stating he had put a lot of thought into aviation recently, sometimes it appeared to be his only portfolio!

The Minister went on to say that there were some immediate issues to be dealt with, such as the Skehill report, due for "action" next week (he would not say whether this meant "to be released") and other aviation matters that were occupying him.

The Minister went on to thank AOPA for the various submissions to the Department, and noted our request for a "sub-Minister for Aviation", but stated firmly that John Howard retains the "rights" to cabinet numbers and members and guards this right jealously. The Minister then said he felt our submissions were generally extremely helpful, and enjoyed the phrase in one that said, "time cycles between eruptions in CASA are becoming more frequent," adding he agreed with that!

AOPA Vice President, Tony Mitchell, having listened to the Minister stated, "let's cut to the chase", and then explained the burnt patch on the ground near Port Hedland where a Viscount crashed in 1968 was still there, and that the DC-10 that hit Mt Erebus brought the Muldoon Government down in NZ.

Tony went on to say that CASA is corrupt, we have examples to prove this, numerous examples. He said, "although we know there's corruption, we support the CASA board, and it must be an independent board with free-thinking individuals on it, who steer the CASA policy but avoid micro-management.

"We support an independent board, and we support the Government, but equally we will support Democrats Senator John Woodley's desire for an inquiry if nothing is done, and that includes the removal of CASA's Director of Safety who is nothing but contemptuous of the board."

The Minister, smiling stated, "Next you'll say you support the CASA Board despite the fact it was this Board which appointed the Director in the first place. Also, why do you think Mr. Toller is being contemptuous?"

Tony Mitchell: "Well, Toller said in a press conference, after the first set of airspace problems with the trial, that he'd sent Dick 'away to Katmandhu. It's now three weeks later and I've sent him to NZ.' That's what I mean by contemptuous."

The Minister argued this was mere flippancy but agreed it wasn't clever to say things like this on a serious safety issue.

Tony Mitchell then pressed for the removal of the Deputy Director of CASA, saying, "we have evidence that he is ineffective and has not done anything about the corruption as evidenced by the Professor Pearce Report." Tony added, "For instance, I heard today from Steve Dent of Dent Aviation that the Federal Police had been withdrawn from the CASA corruption investigation. What CASA needs is a change agent, and change. The management of CASA are going against Government Policy, we'll put that policy of February 1996 on our website and we'll point out where CASA have foiled your Government and treated the board and the Government with contempt.

"I'm concerned that nothing will happen unless a change agent is put into clean out corruption and the 'Group Captain's Club' of ex-RAAF people who treat the Government like that."

Bill McKinley, the Minister's Aviation adviser said, "Don't be concerned about the Government ... we're not scared of a Senate Inquiry, of the Opposition and we don't believe CASA or the board will be a threat."

Tony Mitchell carried on, "The Office of Legal (OLC) should be shut down within CASA and the role of that office be returned to the Attorney General's Department like other industries. The CASA are trying to fix the problem by Prosecution not by Education.

The Minister, "But Dick Smith is all for prosecution."

Bill McKinley agreed, "Yes, the board want huge fine increases, and let me say that in New York the police started arresting people for trivial things under a policy called 'Zero Tolerance' but found they prevented major crimes, because the minor offenders were often en route to a burglary or other major crime."

Mark Barnett, "But aviators are not criminals ... they're being prosecuted for trivia because the level of change hasn't been put to them properly and it's hard to comply if the education process has let you down."

Tony Mitchell, "Sure there are some crooks in every industry, but let's be reasonable. We need to have proper education, and without it the airspace trial was a mess, and aviation will stay a mess."

The Minister, "So what can we do about the airspace problem?"

Tony Mitchell, "We need an ICAO observer to oversee the implementation of ICAO airspace, a bit like the UN oversee elections in trouble spots around the world.

The Minister, "That's a really good idea. What about the Director's job at CASA?"

Tony Mitchell, "Put Brooksbank or Broderick in for two months and find someone for a two year contract. They must be strong, want change and manage that change."

Mark Barnett, "However CASA must remain in charge of Airspace regulation and management, we don't want the ATC service provider regulating more jobs for Air Traffic Controllers."

Tony Mitchell, "That's right, with an ICAO observer / adviser to oversee the change and monitor the safety. What we're saying, is that change has upset the GA industry because the airports were sold, Location Specific Charging came in, and the airspace requirements changed all at the same time. This is too much change for a pilot from the bush, flying into Bankstown who has to cope with different airspace, different charging and it all gets too much."

The Minister, "Oh okay, what about CASA and BASI?"

Tony Mitchell, "First, CASA. The PAP needs to be reinstated, because the regulations that have been written haven't been implemented by the OLC. A new, stronger PAP will fix this. For instance the situation in the Torres Strait would never have occurred if CAR 121 as written by the PAP for air taxis had been put into place. But the OLC have sat on it for months and now we have the RAAF flying the school kids. CASA have cancelled UZU Air's AOC, not because of safety, but because of trivia. They are accused of selling tickets like RPT, and the Torres Strait Islands Access Act 1984 allows UZU and the others to operate as they were doing. The accident seemed to be a "low on speed, low to the ground, low on ideas" one where a 4WD drove across in front of the landing aircraft and the pilot skidded the thing to avoid it."

Bill McKinley, "Let's wait for the BASI report before we get into this ..."

Tony Mitcehll, "Yes okay, but as a pilot of thirty plus years I'm pretty sure I'm right, anyway, let's get back to the problem, and that is that CASA MUST be fixed by strong directors."

The Minister, "There have obviously been misunderstandings caused by the "hands on" approach of the Chairman. Do these extend to BASI as well?"

Tony Mitcehll, "BASI has its own problems but it's CASA we need to fix first."

The Minister, "So you're saying a change agent plus a PAP."

Tony Mitchell, "Yes."

Mark Barnett, "Just going back to the Torres Strait for a moment, do you realise that the RAAF are using the Caribou aircraft up there, and the Caribou does not comply with civilian regulations for performance? If one crashes it'll be severely embarrassing."

Bill McKinley, "But no RAAF aircraft have to comply."
Mark Barnett, "That's true but it's not general regulations we're talking about here but performance..."

Tony Mitchell, "The Caribou doesn't comply with FARs either and is not cleared for transport use as a civil aircraft, if one crashes with a belly full of kids, and the press find out the things can't comply to basic performance criteria it WILL be harmful to the government."

The Minister, "Which regulation is it?"

Mark Barnett, "CAO 20.7.1B"

The Minister to Bill McKinley, "Make a note!"

Tony Mitchell, "With the Dent case, why have the Federal Police withdrawn? I understand from Dent himself that Foley took them out."

The Minister, "My information is different. The Federal Police took themselves out, and if they didn't there's corruption there too! This is bizarre, Dent seems a straight shooter to me and yet we have conflicting stories."

Tony Mitchell, "Here's Dent's telephone number ... why not ring him?"

Bill McKinley, "I will, thank you."

The Minister, "The Pearce report into the Dent case is very ordinary, nothing like the Skehill report (into the Seaplane accident at Berowa last year) which is very good, but it's not out yet, wait 'till you see it!"

Tony Mitchell, "We're also concerned that CASA are an economic, not a safety regulator, they're prosecuting people on a whim of unqualified (in an economic sense) FOIs."

The Minister, "Okay I've got that, what about the ageing fleet in GA, I've flown in some weary aircraft in my time!"

Tony Mitchell, "Again, the PAP can fix this by ensuring the new CARs are adhered to, and the new aircraft are signed out. We have some categories where aircraft have been sitting around, new Australian aircraft, and no-one in CASA will certify them to fly ... it's that simple!"

The Minister, "Okay, now what about BASI?"

Tony Mitchell, "Essentially BASI are okay, occasionally wrong but we need that independent investigator, it should stay that way."

The Minister, "Okay, I've got to go now ... if Toller went, who'd replace him."

Tony Mitchell, "Brucksbank for two months, then two years with a contracted change agent."

The Minister, "Thank you." (Polite goodbyes and handshakes all round.)

last upgrade 23 Oct 1999

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