Australia’s aviation watchdog to get greater powers to oversee safety of foreign airlines

Saturday, February 14, 2009, 13:19 by Aviation Correspondent

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the aviation watchdog of Australia, is to be given greater powers to check the safety of foreign airlines.

An amendment to civil aviation law would give the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – which is primarily responsible for the maintenance, enhancement and promotion of the safety of civil aviation in Australia – has been designed to give enhanced supervision of foreign airline flying into Australia.

Anthony Albanese, Australia’s Minister for Transport, was quoted by the website theaustralian.news.com.au as telling parliament that the amendment to the civil aviation law would enable CASA “to take greater account of both the conduct of air operators in their home and other jurisdictions as well as the level of safety oversight provided by civil aviation authorities in other countries.”

The new legislation would make it an offence “to negligently carry or consign dangerous goods on an aircraft.”

The amendments, Albanese added, were consistent with similar actions taken by the European Union and in North America.

The Bill amending Australia’s civil aviation law is also intended to change the structure of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority by creating a 5-member board of experts which is meant to give CASA what Anthony Albanese described as “strategic direction.”

The Minister also introduced in parliament a separate Bill to make the Australian Transport Safety Bureau – the agency that investigates accidents pertaining to air, marine and rail travel – a statutory authority. This Bill is intended to strengthen the independence of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau by setting up a separate statutory agency under a full-time chief commissioner and two part-time commissioners, Australia’s Minister for Transport was quoted as explaining.

The Bill regarding the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Minister elaborated, would make it operationally independent from the Transport Department as well as give it powers to force aviation agencies and aviation operators to respond to formal recommendations within 90 days.

According to Anthony Albanese, the two Bills demonstrated that the Australian government was taking “decisive action” to preserve public confidence in the safety and reliability of air travel in the country, the website theaustralian.news.com.au said.

Even while “Australia has an enviable safety record,” Albanese added, “we cannot take past success for granted.”

He also claimed that the new Bills have got widespread support from the aviation industry and said that more efforts were needed to enhance the safety and reliability of air travel in Australia.