Jurisdiction - Australia
Australia – Cleared For Take-Off: Review Of Aviation Safety Announced.

13 December, 2013


Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Australia – Shipping, Maritime & Aviation




  • The Federal Government has announced an independent review of Australia’s aviation safety agencies and regulations.
  • The three member panel will review the processes adopted by aviation safety agencies in developing new or amended aviation safety regulations and the roles and interrelationships between these agencies.
  • The terms of reference for the Review are quite broad and have the potential to result in significant changes being made to aviation safety agencies.



  • Interested parties should consider making submissions to the Review Panel prior to the close of the public consultation period on 31 January 2014.

On 14 November 2013 the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Planning, the Hon Warren Truss MP, announced that an independent panel (Panel) would review Australia’s aviation safety framework (Review).

The Review will culminate in the Panel reporting its findings on Australia’s aviation safety framework in May 2014. The terms of reference for the Review and the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament are publically available here and here respectively.

Rationale For The Review

With aviation activity expected to double in the next 20 years, the Federal Government considers that now is the time to ensure that the aviation safety sector is structured effectively and that a ‘best practice’ approach is adopted towards future regulatory development and implementation.

In addition to this, recent issues that have emerged in relation to aviation safety agencies are arguably catalysts which support the Review being undertaken.

Loss of Pel-Air Aircraft

On 23 May 2013, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee handed down a report into the loss of a Pel-Air aircraft near Norfolk Island that occurred on 18 November 2009.

The report highlighted a number of issues with the current governance of aviation safety in Australia. One such finding was that during the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) investigation of the accident, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) willingly withheld documents which had significant probative value.1

Delays To CASA’s Regulatory Reform Program

Recently, CASA has sought to implement a long-running regulatory reform program. Broadly speaking, this program involves simplifying the structure of regulations, aligning regulations with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommended ‘best practice’ and providing for greater global aviation interoperability.

Although CASA’s regulatory reforms were due to be introduced on 4 December 2013, CASA’s receipt of a relatively large volume of concerns and constructive suggestions from industry at a late stage in the program’s development has resulted in implementation being postponed until September 2014.

The nature and scale of industry concerns and suggestions, as well as the time it has taken for implementation of this reform, has led to criticism of CASA.

Strategic Objectives Of The Review

The principal objectives of the Review is the investigation of:

1. the structures, effectiveness and processes of aviation safety agencies;
2. the relationships and interaction of those agencies with each other and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD);
3. the outcomes and direction of CASA’s recent regulatory review process;
4. the sustainability of Australia’s regulations when benchmarked against comparable overseas jurisdictions; and
5. any other safety related matters.

Matters To Be Reviewed

Aviation Safety Agencies

Firstly, the Review will examine the roles that CASA, the ATSB and other agencies ‘as appropriate’ play in aviation safety, their interactions and relationships with each other and with DIRD. Following this examination, appropriate recommendations for improvement will be made.

Secondly, the Review will examine CASA and the ATSB internal matters. Such matters will include appointment processes, the selection criteria applied to key safety roles and the process by which CASA creates safety regulations and instruments (such as civil aviation orders). This examination is to be conducted with a view to the Panel recommending improvements to future agency processes.

Aviation Safety Regulations

Thirdly, the Review will examine the planning and implementation of CASA’s recent regulatory reform program, ensuring its effectiveness and reviewing the cost impacts on industry. This will not extend to reviewing the merits of current aviation safety regulations.
Fourthly, the Review will consider possible improvements to future regulatory reform programs, drawing on international reform experiences, the views of stakeholders and the objective of reducing regulatory costs on business.

Finally, the Review will advise the Federal Government on priorities for future regulatory development and implementation strategies, possible options for improving the oversight and enforcement of aviation regulations.

Composition Of The Panel

The Panel is comprised of the following leading aviation safety experts:


  • Mr David Forsyth AM (chair);
  • Mr Don Spruston (member); and
  • Mr Roger Whitefield (member).

The Panel will also be assisted by a DIRD secretariat.


The Panel is to consult with numerous specialist advisors and industry groups including:


  • international, domestic, regional, general aviation, sport and recreational aircraft operators and organisations;
  • aircraft maintenance organisations;
  • domestic airport operators;
  • agencies currently involved in aviation safety regulations;
  • government agencies such as the Department of Defence and Office of Parliamentary Counsel; and
  • public stakeholders.

Next Steps

The Review panel is currently accepting submissions from stakeholders and the public until 31 January 2014. Submissions are to use the Aviation Safety Regulation Review Submission Form and are to be made through the DIRD’s website here.


End Notes:


1 Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transportation Committee, Aviation Accidents Investigation, 23 May 2013, para 7.14. publically available here.


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For further information, please contact:

Paul Newman, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]

Shane Bosma, Ashurst
[email protected]

David Morgans, Ashurst
[email protected]


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