External audit arrangements
The Australian National Audit Office undertook two performance audits involving CASA during 2009-10. The first was a performance audit of the implementation and administration of CASA’s Safety Management System approach, while the second was of the capitalisation of software. The reports are expected to be tabled in parliament during 2010-11.
CASA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Estimates Committee in October 2009, February 2010 and May 2010. Topics covered during these appearances included drug and alcohol testing, foreign air operations into Australia, overseas maintenance of Australian aircraft, airspace issues and CASA’s Industry Complaints Commissioner.
On 10 June 2010, CASA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee hearing into the effectiveness of Airservices Australia’s management of aircraft noise.
On 17 June 2010, CASA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in relation to the Excise Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010.
During the reporting period, CASA took action on:
- 86 ministerial responses
- 51 parliamentary questions.
CASA used the media effectively to promote the airspace changes introduced on 3 June 2010, particularly in regional areas. Local media releases were produced to promote airspace change workshops, as well as the improvements to safety being achieved through the changes. Regional media were also used effectively throughout the year to promote the AvSafety workshops, with localised media releases produced for each location.
CASA was mentioned in 883 media stories during 2009-10. Of those stories, 45 per cent were in newspapers, 8 per cent were on television and 47 per cent were on radio. A CASA spokesperson or media release was quoted in 40 per cent of stories. Media analysis shows that 94 per cent of stories were neutral in tone towards CASA, while 2 per cent were positive and 4 per cent were negative.
CASA published 117 media releases and 12 editions of the CASA Briefing e-newsletter during the year. The number of subscribers to the CASA Briefing rose to almost 10,000. Each hardcopy issue of Flight Safety Australia, CASA’s bi-monthly aviation safety magazine, was distributed to 90,000 subscribers.
The Office of the Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) offers industry a transparent and accessible mechanism for making complaints about the conduct of CASA’s officers. The ICC also receives information about matters relating to air safety.
The ICC does not replace formal legal avenues of appeal, which remain open to those affected by a decision of a CASA officer or delegate. The ICC has authority to investigate complaints and make recommendations to resolve issues identified as a result of those investigations.
The terms of reference for the ICC were refined and clarified during 2009-10 to focus the role on dealing with complaints and to take account of the creation of the Ethics and Conduct Committee, which consists of the Associate Director of Aviation Safety (Chair of the committee), the Executive Manager Corporate Services Division and the Chief Legal Officer. Non-permanent members include the Deputy Director of Aviation Safety and other Executive Managers as required.
The Ethics and Conduct Committee considers serious complaints involving possible contraventions of CASA policies and monitors the management and disposition of matters arising under CASA’s Code of Conduct, the conflict of interest policy and fraud policies. The committee may determine a matter itself or refer it to another person for consideration. The committee met nine times during the year and made decisions in relation to a wide range of issues.
During 2009-10, the ICC received:
- 94 complaints about CASA actions, decisions and service
- 295 complaints about the aviation industry
- 31 requests for information about the aviation industry and safety
- six reports or complaints not related to the ICC’s role.
This was an increase of 22 per cent from the previous year, which reflects the increased promotion of the role of the ICC and complaint handling within CASA.
During 2010-11, the ICC intends to focus on refining CASA’s internal complaint handling procedures and developing systems to enhance CASA’s capacity to better identify and respond to emerging complaint trends.
Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman
The Commonwealth Ombudsman decided to investigate ten complaints about CASA during the year. Four remained open at the end of the year. The complaints related to a range of issues, including a procurement process, the referral of a matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution consideration, the professional development requirements for hot air balloon approved testing officers, the processing of medical assessments and the complaint handling process.
Reviews of regulatory decisions
Certain types of regulatory decisions made by CASA are subject to ‘merits’ review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Merits review involves the reconsideration of an administrative decision. On the facts before it, the tribunal decides whether the correct decision (or, in a discretionary area, the preferable decision) has been made in accordance with the applicable law.
A person who is the subject of a CASA decision may apply directly to the Federal Court for a review of the decision under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In some cases, a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal may be reviewed in the Federal Court.
Part 6, Tables C.6 to C.8 show Administrative Appeals Tribunal merits reviews of regulatory decisions from 2007-08 to 2009-10, the categories of CASA decisions appealed to the tribunal in 2009-10 and applications to Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions from 2007-08 to 2009-10.