Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: Safeskies Conference 2017

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04-Oct-2017 Australia continues to have one of the safest aviation industries in the world and this is testament to you, our aviation community and Government.

Aviation is critical for Australia connecting Australians domestically and across the world, directly contributing nearly $9.5 billion to the economy. As passenger demand increases and the industry grows I am committed to a prosperous future and am committed to ensuring we do so safely.

As passenger numbers increase so does Australia's investment in infrastructure. I commend Brisbane Airport on securing over $1.2 billion in private investment for the new runway scheduled to open in 2020. And in Victoria, Melbourne Airport is well advanced with planning for a third runway to meet forecast growth.

The Government is also investing with our once in a generation decision to deliver Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek is a project that will generate thousands of jobs during construction and on-going employment in the airport itself and in the surrounding precinct.

It will benefit domestic travellers from the region and boost tourism opportunities. The Government has established the WSA Co with an investment of $5.3 billion in equity to build the airport.

The Government is also investing in our regions. Through the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Programme the Australian government has provided $23.4 million for 142 aerodrome upgrade projects to date and recently opened the applications for the next round of funding under this program.

Recently, I took my children to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Broken Hill base and it was a reminder of the importance of connectivity and the need to have safe and efficient links between regional and remote communities and our cities.

Aviation Safety Agencies

As our aviation industry grows it is important to maintain our focus on safety.

Since becoming the Minister responsible for aviation in Australia, I have issued our major aviation safety agencies with updated Ministerial strategic directions.

These Statements emphasise the priority given by the Government to safety, and for each agency to perform their vitally important roles in a way that will continue to deliver the best outcomes for the industry and the travelling public.

CASA's Statement of Expectations requires the Board to continue to regard the safety of air navigation, and in particular, the safety of passenger transport services, as CASA's most important consideration.

This will be achieved through a focus on regulatory activity that is pragmatic, practical and proportionate, while also being mindful of the economic and cost impact of this activity on individuals, businesses and the community.

However, it is not just CASA which is responsible for safety, I recognise that industry too are also setting higher than minimum safety standards to ensure the safety of its aircraft and passengers.

The Government has committed an additional $12 million over five years in this year's Budget to enhance the ATSB's core capabilities.

The ATSB will continue to give priority to transport safety investigations to inform how we can achieve the best safety outcomes for the travelling public.

Airservices operates as a world leading air traffic control and aviation rescue and firefighting service provider, backed by the requisite facilities and skilled workforce.

While acknowledging the efficiency, asset and project management benefits of the Airservices Accelerate Program, the Chair and CEO of Airservices have assured me that the Program will not affect the level of safety provided by front-line air traffic and aviation rescue and firefighting service staff.

Airservices, with Defence, is progressing the Onesky project with the aim to update our Air Traffic technology and in doing so it will be ready for increased activity and to do so more efficiently and safely.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) plays in Australian aviation plays an increasingly important role in civil aviation policy and the industry.

Accordingly, this brings into focus the importance of the Aviation Policy Group (APG), chaired by the Secretary of my Department, and includes the Chief Executive Officers of CASA, Airservices and the RAAF as a forum to enhance cooperation and coordination on civil and military aviation-related issues and air traffic management planning.

I am pleased to see that there is an APG panel session on the Safeskies Conference program.

In mentioning APG, I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding work done by Mike Mrdak during his last eight years as Secretary of the Department.

I know many of you have had the pleasure of working with Mike, and under his professional leadership, the Department has helped deliver improvements in aviation safety that will have a lasting legacy across all sectors of the aviation industry.

I welcome Dr Steven Kennedy into his new role. I look forward to our ongoing work together.

Aviation Strategic Leaders Forum

The Government appreciates industry's wealth of knowledge and expertise and that by harnessing this, and working together with government agencies, we are able to take the industry forward.

With this in mind, I established the Aviation Strategic Leaders Forum to provide an opportunity for aviation leaders to discuss high-level strategic issues relevant to the industry and to provide advice directly to the Government.

In particular, the forum will help set future policy settings that will harness the potential to sustainably grow the aviation industry and ensure we maintain and wherever possible, improve the safety and security of the industry.

I had the opportunity to host the Forum's first meeting in August this year and was pleased by the positive and collaborative approach demonstrated by members, and I look forward to working with its members as we head into 2018.

General Aviation

The General Aviation industry in Australia has an important role to play, particularly in supporting regional and remote communities across the country.

I am passionate about opportunities in the GA sector and would like to ensure that if any person wants to be a pilot or a maintainer that they can do so in the GA sector.

I asked the Bureau of Infrastructure and Regional Economics (BITRE) to undertake a study of the General Aviation Industry. The study is examining the industry in Australia by outlining the challenges facing the GA industry and identifying opportunities to respond to those challenges.

I have established the General Aviation Advisory Group to act as an advisory body to me on matters in this sector.

This Group is a forum where industry representatives can identify opportunities to work collaboratively to respond to pressures facing the General Aviation sector.

Members come from a cross section of the diverse General Aviation sector including training, manufacturing, sport and recreation, rotorcraft and fixed wing aircraft, aerial application, remotely piloted aircraft systems and medical operations.

The Group is working on their strategic advice as input into the GA study and have come with a positive and constructive approach to tackling the issues facing GA.

I expect to release the GA study report before the end of the year.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

Also, by the end of this year CASA will have released its review of drone regulations.

Drones are a rapidly growing technology that have captured the imagination of many—from entrepreneurs to recreational users.

They have the potential to improve productivity, reduce costs and improve workplace safety across a range of industries and applications, such as agriculture, mining, search and rescue, fire and policing, aerial mapping and scientific research.

The Government is committed to fostering an environment that ensures the safety of drone operators and of other people and property, while facilitating the business opportunities for this sector.

CASA is currently reviewing the relevant aviation safety regulations. This review has given the wider community, as well as government agencies and industry, the opportunity to have input into consideration of future safety regulation of drones.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the review. There is a lot of work being progressed around the globe and Australia's regulation is at the forefront of this technology.

Aviation Security

Another area where there will be a focus on technology will be in aviation security. It is unfortunate that at a safety conference we have to talk about security, but the reality is that aviation remains an enduring and attractive terrorist target.

Providing the Australian public with safe and secure air travel is an Australian Government priority.

Following the recent disrupted plot, I asked the Inspector of Transport Security to review security settings at all 173 security regulated airports in Australia. I support our security being led by the advice of our security agencies and being proportionate and appropriate. Government and industry must work together to ensure the security of, and public confidence in, our transport systems.


Australia's aviation safety system is recognised internationally as one of the best in the world.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels and the Government and industry must continue work together to ensure we are able to deliver high standards of aviation safety while enhancing growth, efficiency and capacity.

As the Minister responsible for aviation in the Australian Government, I look forward to continuing to work with you to meet the challenges of a changing aviation environment and build opportunities for the future.

Thank you and enjoy the conference.