Positioning CASA to be the regulator of tomorrow
CHC Safety & Quality Summit - keynote Address
Vancouver, Canada – 4 April 2016
Thank you Karl and Duncan for the introduction. And welcome everyone to this annual conference; I’m privileged to be amongst such a top-tier gathering to deliver the keynote address. I should tell you now that I have no graphic PowerPoint slides (just a lead slide) or animated videos to illustrate the things I want to talk about today, the attempt is to hold your attention using one single slide that illustrates my insights on how I envisage positioning CASA into the future.
Let me start by saying that what we do in CASA has been determined by the Australian Parliament and is prescribed in the Civil Aviation Act 1988 - that is to establish a regulatory framework for maintaining, enhancing and promoting the safety of civil aviation with particular emphasis on preventing aviation accidents and incidents. Over the 20 years CASA has existed, these functions have not changed in any significant way and I’m not expecting to see a change any time soon. However, what I’m expecting to change is the approach of CASA’s management, staff and delegates in the conduct of those activities as a modern regulator that encourages exercising the balance between freedom and flexibility with responsibility and accountability with particular regard to the interest of aviation safety, which we all are passionate about.
When I was appointed to lead CASA in late 2014, I believed that setting a fresh tone right across all of CASA’s activities was needed to face the demands of the complex and ever changing aviation environment within which we operate. I believe a modern regulator should engage, educate and enforce fairly and proportionately and only when necessary - this premise is expected to provide a breath of fresh air to CASA and to the industry we regulate. Too often in the past, some CASA people and some members of the aviation community have taken a defensive or ideological approach to matters on which reasonable people can and will differ. Trading hostile and provocative barbs across a barren space benefits no one, and certainly does little to advance our shared interest in aviation safety.
Consultative and collaborative approach
The thrust of my address is heavily sided with my first principle - engagement.
CASA’s engagement with the aviation community forms a significant part of our standards development, and our educational, advisory and operational activities. I have invited everyone in the Australian aviation community to make a commitment to work cooperatively and constructively with CASA to effectively address any issues relating to safety regulation. Further, on behalf of CASA, I have openly renewed our commitment to listen and engage meaningfully with the aviation community on safety issues and to find lasting solutions to any problems identified.
The idea is to engage with our stakeholders at the grassroots level to fully understand the underlying aviation safety issues and problems faced by the aviation community and ensure CASA’s responsibilities have been identified - this work is underway in many areas in CASA. For example, just recently I have concluded hosting a series of forums to discuss current and future challenges the aviation community and the regulator alike may face.
Having recognised the importance of a consultative and collaborative approach with the aviation community, the next step was to emphasise the value of maintaining a meaningful and mutually respectful relationship with the people and organisations that make up the aviation community - in Australia or globally.
Simply, what I mean by this is to engage with the people and organisations who will, or are likely to be affected by CASA’s regulatory action and ensure they know:
- what it is that CASA proposes to do;
- why CASA is proposing to do so;
- what considerations CASA has taken into account in forming its view on the matter in hand;
- what alternatives (if any) had been considered and why those alternatives had been ruled out;
- what the effects of the proposed actions are expected to be; and
- what recourse is available to persons who are, or are likely to be, affected by the proposed action.
On face value, these steps may sound too simple to follow but I consider this as the start of a long process of us genuinely engaging with the community we regulate - this is an area I’m planning to invest much more time and energy in during my tenure in CASA.
With the ground work done on the ‘engagement’ front, I thought we as a regulator can push ourselves one step further. That is to get my people recognise that CASA is just a part of the aviation safety system - we do not hold all the knowledge - we need to work together by forming safety partnerships across industry, agencies, regulators and across other nations — across the global aviation community so to speak... to establish an environment where we can all work together to enhance safety of the aviation environment we enjoy today. Our aim is to keep people flying and flying safely.
We are all partners in safety, and we need an environment within which we can work together in a collaborative and cohesive manner. We do not share the costs and other imposts you are obliged to shoulder; and we certainly do not share your profits. In this sense, then, CASA as a regulator is not, and cannot properly be a partner with those whom we regulate. This does not mean, however, that we cannot, should not or will not be a cooperative, constructive and collaborative contributor to your safety-related activities, or that we won’t do all we can do, consistent with our safety-related obligations, to minimise the costs and burdens attendant on necessary regulatory intervention — and to eliminate those costs and burdens where regulation is unnecessary. Part of this is being open to criticism and I have assured everyone that where CASA is deservedly criticised we will listen carefully and respond.
Investing in a safety partnership
Since taking up my appointment in CASA, I have met with, and listened to many passionate people in the aviation community. Views will naturally differ among a diverse group of people we do look after everything from small RPAs to A380s, but where we have common ground is our shared goal to maintain and improve on Australia’s enviable aviation safety record.
Through a range of forums and meetings with many people in the aviation community at all levels, I have made it clear that my goal will be for CASA to forge a closer safety partnership with all sectors of aviation with a view to getting the best from the aviation safety system.
Employ rational ‘just culture’ principles
For a safety partnership to be sustainable for a longer period of time there is one more important cog in the wheel we need to embrace and employ - that is the application of just culture principles. CASA’s approach to ‘Just Culture’ is entirely consistent with what has been since November 2015 law in the EU, as well as the recently adopted amendments to ICAO Annex 19 (Safety Management), which the Council adopted in March this year.
There are many definitions of ‘just culture’, however, generally it is used to describe an approach where if you make an honest error or mistake and report it we should look at ways to educate, train or grow necessary skills so that it does not happen again.
Of course, this doesn’t mean people can or should get away with anything, or that appropriate action taken in the interests of safety may not be necessary. Gross negligence, recklessness, wilful violations or destructive acts are not tolerated and may well be subject to enforcement - there is a clear line in the sand.
The advantage of a ‘just culture’ approach is that it encourages people to be open and accountable about their mistakes, so there is better reporting of errors and the ability to learn from them is enhanced. Fear of punishment doesn’t stop people from making mistakes. But mistakes can be avoided by having comprehensive safety systems, training and an overarching commitment by everyone to achieving the best possible safety outcomes.
A lot of work is underway to implement a ‘just culture’ approach in CASA. We will work to develop a regulatory and operational environment where genuinely honest mistakes are recognised for what they are — and use as an opportunity for further learning and improvement. CASA’s response will be to understand why the mistakes were made and how we can reduce the likelihood that the same mistakes will occur in the future — I consider this approach as a fundamental shift from our recent past — we need to recognise that a cultural change in both CASA and industry are required to harvest the real benefits of this concept. This itself is a challenge for us but we are working on it.
Elements of a ‘just culture’ approach are already implicit in CASA’s enforcement policy and practice. However, we will be making this commitment clearer and more explicit as part of our overarching approach to regulatory policy and practice.
New Regulatory Philosophy
To complete setting the future direction for CASA, last year I released an important policy statement - CASA’s Regulatory Philosophy, which is fully in line with the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy.
The regulatory philosophy sets out ten key principles to guide and direct the way I intend to regulate Australian aviation. Whilst, I’m not going to cover all ten principles here, I would like to seize the opportunity to elaborate a bit more on the following principles:
- Trust and respect – we are committed to re-engaging and maintaining the trust of the Australian aviation community. Likewise, we are committed to fostering mutual respect between us and the aviation community in every aspect of our engagement.
- Consideration of alternative approach – although safety must always be CASA's 'most important consideration', this does not mean that safety is the only consideration CASA takes into account when performing its regulatory functions and exercising its regulatory powers. In other words, this means there is an opportunity for the aviation community to show CASA how the right safety outcomes under the regulations can be achieved at a lower cost or administrative burden. We will entertain such an alternative approach if it does not compromise safety.
- Consultation and collaboration – I have covered this already.
- Balancing consistency with flexibility – this is an interesting and a challenging dilemma for the regulator (CASA), we are working to provide training on the application of this principle.
- Embrace Just culture approach – I have covered this.
I understand the first principle – trust and respect has to be earned. The way I feel is that if we are successful in our efforts to live up to the other 9 principles, we’ll effectively have earned respect.
These are principles to which we aspire (i.e., we’ve not fully achieved all of them yet), but they are also practical benchmarks against which we assess our actions today and against which we expect the industry to do likewise. The key thing is, we are moving toward the achievement of these objectives, steadily, surely and with no turning back. I believe that the regulatory philosophy is an important milestone for both CASA and the aviation community.
Renewing CASA – reorganising how we deliver our functions
To supplement set of clear principles that reflect a modern regulator, I have begun the process of renewing CASA with a view of strengthening CASA’s ability to meet the needs and demands of a modern day regulator. The change is centred on reshaping CASA to be an engaged, collaborative and sustainable organisation – the founding principles I’ve just touched on. The structural realignment will bring together complementary functions to meet the safety and regulatory needs of the aviation community more effectively and are being phased in by the middle of 2016.
I have already seen feedback from people who are experiencing a real and positive change in the way CASA is working and in how our people are interacting with the aviation community. This fresh approach is already paying dividends as I see a change in attitude by many CASA staff towards the organisations and people we regulate. I will work tirelessly to ensure this kind of improvement continues and is maintained.
I am excited and optimistic about the future, and I look forward to engraving the thrust of my vision within CASA – to be the regulator of tomorrow – in the coming months and years.
Thank you very much for your attention.