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A question for the minister.

P2 – “With the ATSB now 2 plus year re-investigation, it should be safe to assume that there will more a proactive review of the historical CASA oversight/audit of the significant elements of the pre-ditching CASA approved Pel-Air AOC.”

PAIN – “5) We submit that any other form of investigation will not withstand the scrutiny of industry experts; as the initial premise is fatally flawed.  The potential for further disingenuous obfuscation is obvious.  This will, ultimately, be detrimental, not only to the travelling public and industry, but to the government which allowed one authority to investigate it’s own wrong doings, but avoided investigating those agencies and their officers, those which aided and abetted the travesty, which is, in reality, exactly what the Pel-Air accident investigation became, internationally, recognized as.”

The incredible amount of time the ATSB have taken to revisit their own report is only a small part of the complaint and protest not only industry, but politicians of all parties should be making on behalf of the tax paying, travelling general population.

PAIN – “3) Our greatest concern is that a deliberate, calculated manipulation of the national aviation safety system was attempted. This, despite contrary, departmental input, is clearly not a ‘one off’ aberration. We firmly believe that the subsequent actions of both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the ATSB were proven, by the AAI committee, to grossly pervert the conclusions of the investigation, to suit a clearly predetermined outcome, thus denying industry valuable, safety related knowledge and information.”

Paragraph 3 of the PAIN introduction defines the radical concern. These concerns have not been addressed in any way shape or form. A fact independent research undeniably confirms.  The Senate AAI committee made some 30 recommendations for reform of the regulator; these have, for all practical purposes, been ignored. Those recommendations went to the heart of the matter; the complete lack of trust industry has in the probity of two safety agencies; the breaking of that trust was not of industries’ doing. The ASRR confirmed this as further proof of fact, with an additional 36 recommendations to the Senate deliberations.

One of the more alarming results of the independent study defines, very clearly, not only the very ‘soft ride’ the Pel-Air operating certificate was afforded in terms of operational scrutiny, but in surveillance of the CASA approved operations. Standing alone, this fact is worthy of investigation.  This is not however the most serious concern raised through investigation.

Any comparison between the actions of CASA and it’s officers involved in the closure of Airtex aviation and the almost indecent rapidity with Pel-Air were granted absolution provides a picture which is both stark and clear.

Not only were CASA prepared to overlook the glaring organisational and operational shortcomings at Pel-Air, they were prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to minimise that lack. The treatment of Airtex was diametrically, demonstrably opposite. In depth analysis of the Airtex ‘treatment’ reveals numerous instances of what are alleged to be serious breeches of law, policy and accepted protocol committed by CASA officers during the Airtex audit and subsequent AAAT hearing.

It is not realistic to expect a whole industry to trust or be prepared to ‘co-operate’ in a any form of regulatory reform process until there can be a modicum of trust in the regulator. There is only one way to resolve the situation. The minister must open a judicial inquiry to allow complaints made by industry participants against CASA to be tested. This process is the only option available to ‘clear the air’. There is to be a new DAS; it would be highly desirable to begin the new administration with a ‘clean sheet’ and trust between the regulator and those it regulates re established.

As matters stand now there is little prospect of genuine regulatory reform or, trusting, genuine cooperation. Nor will there be, not until festering resentment is treated with open, fair, impartial rulings made against ‘law’ rather than malleable policy and questionable motives.

This could be achieved without the expense of a Royal commission or the natural delays which encumber the Senate process. A judicial inquiry, in camera would quickly reveal if there was indeed a case for CASA to answer.

A question directed to the minister, asking if he is prepared to resolve the conflicted opinions would reveal whether or not CASA is prepared to stand in a court of law, defend their past actions and be governed by the rule of law. The Pel-Air and Airtex comparison would be a good place to begin the journey.