Select Page

Gone fishin’

Senator Fiona Nash, keeper and minder of ‘Pete’ the agnostic pot plant is one of the  acknowledged favourites of the IOS was the last in a long list of people who have asked ‘the question’.  Every single member of the Senate committee which investigated the Pel-Air debacle, the Rev. Forsyth and even the Canadian TSBC have all, at on time asked ‘the question’.  ‘The question’ has been phrased many different ways, but eventually it boils down to “Why”.    Why did the DoIT, CASA and ATSB take such incredible risks and go to such extraordinary lengths, under oath during a parliamentary inquiry to manipulate the results of an insignificant (in global terms) aviation accident.  PAIN intends to provide an answer to ‘the question’ in the form of a report to the Senators responsible for the Pel-Air inquiry.  The purpose of this post is to test some of the theory and seek a wider response from the aviation world, which will, eventually support that report.  The unspeakable Prune may have washed it’s lily white hands of the Senate inquiry; but Aunty Pru ain’t done with it; not by a long shot.

To begin our little foray into the murky depths of power, influence and cold hard cash; the exchange below will provide the reader with a basic understanding of ‘the question’ and hopefully lead to an understanding of how the Iron Ring forged the first iron bar of their cell.

Ben Sandilands – “Pel-Air needs to be re-investigated, as best as can now be done, by an independent body. The TSBC was specifically precluded from looking into the actual events and causes of the Pel-Air medical evacuation flight being ditched in the sea near Norfolk Island on 18 November 2009.”

But Ben, consider this: there was little wrong with the original ATSB investigation and reporting of the incident.  There are very clear indications that the causal chain and peripheral issues had been identified as ‘significant’ and contributory.  The ATSB investigators were all set up to issue some fairly ‘serious’ safety alerts and recommendations.   I believe we need to know why the original intent and report turned out and was published reading very much like the CASA report CAIR 09.  Somewhere, ‘twixt crouch and stirrup’ something changed, that change is clearly evident through Hansard; the reason why it changed is not.  Which, of itself is passing strange, as the ATSB team had no skin in the game: just another day in the office to them, there was no motivation to do anything other than their usual, routine work using ‘their’ system.  There was no motive for the ATSB investigators to do anything other than a ‘routine’, bog standard report.

I’ve said this a hundred time before: WHY did CASA not simply put their hand up and acknowledge that ATSB had identified some ‘systematic’ problems and a lack of oversight.  There was a gold star waiting – “Yes Senator, the ATSB did identify some areas where we have been able to improve our auditing and oversight procedures; we have initiated those recommendations, and thank the ATSB for bringing them to our attention”.  Piece of cake, no skin off, a gold star and a rock solid defence.  To act in any other manner would require a powerful motive; I for one, would very much like to know what that motivation was.  To persist with, and attempt to justify the ‘executive’ actions and stance, post incident, placed those people in a very high risk area, even before the Senate called for answers, let alone during an inquiry.  It is this element which needs investigation, not the ATSB ‘investigation and report’.

Ben Sandilands– “The senators named above have no intention of letting this matter go through to the keeper. They will keep hammering away at this until the matters are cleared up, and Mr Dolan removed from his role at the ATSB, in the process of dealing with more serious safety administration issues.”

Ben, I agree, however I must return to my original question – WHY persist, what possible motivation could there be.  CASA must have known that the Senate committee would be well briefed, hold solid evidence; and, that to continue attempting to bluff and bully the committee could only, ever end one way.  Shirley (and CASA) knew that Fawcett has forgotten more about ‘aviation’ than most of them would ever know, that Xenophon is an astute man and clever counsel.  The opposition, an aviation specialist and legal mind combined to lead a team of hard nosed, streetwise, savvy politicians.   Glen Sterle and Bill Heffernan have survived in a sea of connivance, obfuscation and departmental ‘sleight of hand’ for many years and can smell a fairy story at a 1000 yards, upwind of it.  The best way was to admit and minimise the errors, take a wet lettuce leaf flogging and depart the fix.  But no, for some reason the manipulation of our national aviation system was defended; at great risk. Why take the heat?, what was so important that made it easier to be publicly ‘outed’?, meekly accept the recommendations of the committee, the humiliation and damage?   What needs to be hidden so deeply that made it essential to continue the story line?  It is this element which needs investigation, not the ATSB ‘investigation and report’.

Ben Sandilands – Which is another way of saying the investigation needs to be very, very thorough. We don’t need lying any more than incompetency in the administration of air safety in this country, and if the government is serious about ending this controversy it will insist the new inquiry puts all of these matters to rest, impartially and as forensically, and as fairly in terms of procedure, as may be needed.

Spot on Ben, the only way to get it ‘done right’ would be to ask the Senate committee to open an inquiry, supported by a ‘Mike Walker’ type to do the ATSB ‘bit’, a ‘Mike Smith’ type to ‘look’ at the CASA end, a ‘Jack Langmead’ type of independent aviation ‘legal’ expert’ and an AFP ‘investigator’ or two; to do the heavy lifting and digging. Have them report directly to the committee which clearly understands ‘the game’.

Not too expensive; not in the grand scheme of things.   Not when you consider the amount of money leeched away providing all expenses paid holidays to Paris to attend a ‘course’ which cost AUD$ 48,000; gods alone know how much is ‘fritted’ away supporting this grandiose edifice we call our ‘safety system’.  I believe Australia has paid dearly for a superior system of aviation safety management and oversight, not only has the public been ripped off, but have been well and truly gulled.  In the vernacular, we need to know who Wodgered whom, why, when, how much it cost and who paid for the party?

Pel-Air is and remains the tip of a very ugly, expensive, potentially dangerous iceberg, with a history of leaving mayhem in it’s wake.  The solution is as easily identified as the problem; the Senate committee identified it, the Rev Forsyth identified it, the Canadians went as close as toucher to identifying it, so what’s the hold up, where’s the road block?  Every fool in the market place knows the answer, how to get it done?, well that is the minuscule’s problem.  I just hope Barnaby has the brains to protect his back and swing the axe.

More to follow, you bet…. 😉 ..