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“A second helping of Pony Pooh pudding, Vicar?”

One of the many reasons aeronautical elephants are so well liked by Aunt Pru is their incredible memories. Some of the ‘mature’ beasts residing at the houseboat sanctuary have particularly good ones, each generation holding specific details of the events which occurred during their working lives. It is easy, for those who wish to do so, to go back into history and provide a detailed picture of ‘significant’ events and factual analysis of the lead up to and the aftermath of those events. If nothing else is proven, beyond reasonable doubt, it is, unequivocally, that history is indeed repeated, by those who will not learn from it.

Far be it from me to decry or belittle the tremendous efforts made by RAAA, TAAAF, AAAA and AMROBA; or to dampen their enthusiasm for ‘dialogue’ with the powers that be. These expert industry groups and the inestimable Senate committee have generated enough energy to sustain yet another serious (expensive) attempt at true reform. The parallels to be drawn from 20 years back are remarkable, there are other similar events stretching back even further, which reflect the endless cycle: the persistent demand for changes; and, most importantly for true reform of the regulator and the regulations. Many of the current generation of 25 to 45 y.o. industry participants will not see the pattern emerging, they were but pups during the  subject event. Lets take a step back 20 years, then, lets have a look at ‘current’ events.

There are no prizes for making an accurate prediction of where this is all going to finish up – again. That is no challenge at all. The challenge lays in making sure that the same old wool is not pulled over the new, keen eyes of the next generation which must live and make a career or business out of the industry known as ‘aviation’.  {P2 – Gold star}.

February 1997

Vigorous debates in Parliament regarding CASA Board placements by Transport Minister John Sharp, who continued his criticism of the CASA Board in response to the Wheelahan report and Kimpton inquiry.

Australian, 13, 15 and 17 February 1997.

Some excerpts of historical & parallel intrigue…
Quote:April 1996

CASA board members rejected calls for their resignations from the new Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the Hon John Sharp MP.

Australian, 20 April 1996, 10 July 1997.

6 June 1996

NSW Coroner John Gould handed down findings into the 1993 Monarch Airlines crash critical of the airline, the former CAA and the NSW Air Transport Council. The Minister (Mr John Sharp) foreshadowed a review and other actions to address the report’s recommendations.

Canberra Times, 7 June 1996; Minister for Transport Media Statement, 6 June 1996 TR46/96

25 June 1996

The Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the Hon John Sharp MP announced reviews of the regulatory framework and role in an aviation safety ministerial statement. (Why does that sound so familiar.. )  He also introduced the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 1996 to increase the CASA Board size from four to six people. While the Opposition supported the Bill, it questioned the motives.

House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1996, p. 2653

26 September 1996

The Minister for Transport and Regional Development announced an industry-based panel to oversee the CASA regulatory review headed by Ansett’s Mr James Kimpton. The review produced recommendations that could be implemented in 1998, while reporting monthly. Industry consultations continued throughout.
(Hmm…”Let’s do the timewarp again..”
– but wait it gets worse.. )
Minister for Transport Media Statement 20 and 26 September 1996, TR101 and 110/96.

October 1996

The (Staunton) Report of the Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry into the Relations Between the CAA and Seaview Air was particularly scathing of CAA operations and identified a number of systemic problems. Recommendations included action against two CAA officers, and suggested mechanisms for responsibility, accountability and documentation. The minister urged changes to CASA and its management board positions. BASI undertook a separate investigation of the incident.

House of Representatives, Debates, 8 and 9 October 1996, p. 5046; Sydney Morning Herald and Australian 9 October (& worse.. )

10 October 1996

The CASA Board released a media statement in relation to certain findings of the Seaview inquiry and lamenting comments about it made by the minister in Parliament.

Australian, 12 October 1996; Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1996.

30 October 1996

A large newspaper advertisement with 512 listed names published, later found to be sponsored by the Aircraft Owners’ and Pilots’ Association, requested the CASA board members to stand aside. It followed the publication of a letter by the CASA Chairman stating why the board should remain in full control despite Ministerial denigration. Meanwhile, CASA developed a program known as Airspace 2000 planned for introduction in 1998. The scheme aimed to achieve an ICAO standard with the use of systems safety, harmonisation and staged delivery.

Australian, 21, 23, 25 and 30 October 1996; Canberra Times, 23 and 31 October 1996.

&.. worse

3 November 1996

Falcon Airlines plane crashed into the sea off Cairns with the occupants safely reaching the shore. The subsequent report by David Wheelahan QC found a possible conflict of interest between CASA, the airline and Minister John Sharp. The Minister had sought an independent report after stating that a response from CASA was inadequate.

AAP, 18 February 1997; Canberra Times, 8 November 1996.

19 November 1996

Concerns expressed in the letter of resignation of the CASA Director of Aviation Medicine Dr Robert Liddell, caused the Minister to ask the Board to reconsider safety.

Minister for Transport, Media Statement TR152/96; Age, 27 November 1996.

5 December 1996

Government response to the Plane Safe report tabled by the Minister for Transport and Regional Development the Hon John Sharp MP. (Refer to 14 December 1995). It included a monthly CASA update on safety breaches. The Senate decided to investigate the purchase of Australia’s new search and rescue equipment after faults were found.

Minister for Transport, Media Statement TR167/96; Australian, 6 and 9 December 1996; Age 6 December 1996.

February 1997

Vigorous debates in Parliament regarding CASA Board placements by Transport Minister John Sharp, who continued his criticism of the CASA Board in response to the Wheelahan report and Kimpton inquiry.

Australian, 13, 15 and 17 February 1997.

Then finally in September 1997 John Sharp was given the bullet:
Quote:26 September 1997

CASA Director Mr Leroy Keith left after the Board passed a no-confidence motion in his management strategy. Chairman Justice William Fischer and member Dr Clare Pollock both resigned in protest at the Board’s handling of the former Director. The New Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the Hon Mark Vaile MP, replaced Mr John Sharp.

Australian Financial Review, 26 September

P2 – “There is no doubt many critics of the tumultuous John Sharp period as the Minister responsible for aviation safety. However there is also IMO no doubt that Sharp understood his role as a Minister for the Crown and that he was in a dog fight with an entrenched bureaucracy operating solely in their own self-interest. Not in the interest of the travelling public nor for the betterment of Australian aviation safety standards”…

Sandy – Rex Deputy Chairman and Director of Rex Mr Sharp opens his defence of Rex with the modest statement that he’s been “associated ” with Rex for some time.

I believe President Trump is revisiting the question of retiring Government officials getting work with those private companies that were previously in the officer’s area of jurisdiction. Personally I think they should not because there’s no doubt its a grey area and our democracy should, like justice, be seen to be fair.

One may now see why the research done, the efforts made and even the threads in Aunt Pru’s knitting are, I believe, important. The total shambles which has emerged, unscathed from a history of total resistance to meaningful change. The  paying of lip service to demanded reform, the  premeditated connivance, with intent, to deceive the minister and the parliament; to thwart ICAO, denigrate the FAA and tell the Rev. that his report was merely ‘an opinion’ all symptoms chronic, all  a result of repeated history.

Yet our purblind minister is content to watch this expensive charade, this black pantomime repeat; believing, despite history and evidence, that all is rosy in the garden. Well It ain’t. Every fool in the Souk knows this. The question is, do we fall for it all over again?  Make no mistake; the machine is in action, working hard to confound, confuse and deflect. The snake oil salesmen are preparing their next advertising campaign to sell their dodgy lotions, potions and placebos. If we fail, this iteration, to achieve meaningful, tangible, demonstrable reform, in another 20 years the new entrants of today will have to fight this same battle, all over again.

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind.”  Samuel Taylor Coleridge.