As a Commonwealth statutory agency, CASA is subject to scrutiny by the Australian Parliament. CASA's activities may be subject to investigation or consideration by administrative agencies or the courts. In addition, CASA receives informal feedback on its performance through media coverage and through complaints received from industry or members of the public. CASA welcomes external scrutiny as a means to confirm what it is doing well, and to identify ways to better meet its statutory obligations and achieve its vision in future.
In October 2010, February 2011 and May 2011, CASA appeared before the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport Estimates Committee. Topics covered during these appearances included: sport aviation, fatigue risk management, liaison with the ATSB, the regulatory development program, airspace issues, the CASA Board, and CASA's Industry Complaints Commissioner.
On 18 February 2011, CASA appeared before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on law Enforcement's inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures to combat serious and organised crime.
On 25 February, 18 March and 27 May 2011, CASA appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Rural Affairs and Transport's inquiry into pilot training and airline safety, including consideration of the Transport Safety Investigation Amendment (Incident Reports) Bill 2010.
On 29 March 2011, CASA appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's inquiry into the Department of Defence's request for tender for aviation contracts. The appearance gave CASA an opportunity to explain the Foreign Aircraft Air Operator's Certificate regime and issues of concern related to the activities of some charter brokers.
The committee did not make any recommendations relating to CASA or its functions.
On 19 May and 1 June 2011, CASA appeared before the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications's inquiry into the ratio of cabin crew members to passengers on aircraft.
During the reporting period, CASA took action on:
- 68 ministerial responses
- 44 parliamentary questions.
Reports by the Auditor-General
In 2010–11, the Australian National Audit Office tabled the reports of two performance audits involving CASA that were conducted during 2009–10. The reports were:
- Audit Report No. 13 2010–11, Implementation and Administration of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's Safety Management System Approach for Aircraft Operators
- Audit Report No. 14 2010–11, Capitalisation of Software.
CASA acknowledged the findings from each audit report and undertook to implement all applicable recommendations.
Investigations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman
The Commonwealth Ombudsman commenced investigations into five matters involving CASA during 2010–11. One matter remained outstanding at the end of the year and one matter relating to an investigation commenced by the Ombudsman's office in the preceding financial year remained unresolved.
The investigations related to a range of issues, including the management of a complaint of a regulatory breach and the alleged conflicts of interest within the aviation industry, the licensing of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, and an allegation of a lack of procedural fairness in relation to CASA's consideration of the airworthiness of an aircraft.
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.
Tables C.6 to C.8 (Appendix C) show Administrative Appeals Tribunal merits reviews of regulatory decisions from 2007–08 to 2010– 11, the categories of CASA decisions appealed to the tribunal in 2010–11, and applications to Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions from 2007–08 to 2010–11.
CASA was mentioned in 1,411 media stories during 2010–11. Of those stories, 45 per cent were in newspapers, 15 per cent were on television and 40 per cent were on radio. A CASA spokesperson or media release was quoted in 60 per cent of stories. Media analysis shows that 90 per cent of stories were neutral in tone towards CASA, while 2 per cent were positive and 8 per cent were negative.
CASA published 92 media releases and 12 editions of its newsletter, The CASA Briefing, during the year. The number of subscribers to The CASA Briefing rose to more than 10,000.
CASA ran a proactive information campaign to inform the aviation industry about the introduction of the new suite of maintenance regulations. Media releases targeted aviation magazines and other media; regularly updated information was posted to the CASA website; and regular items were run in The CASA Briefing.
The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) offers industry a transparent and accessible mechanism for making complaints about the conduct of CASA officers. The ICC operates within terms of reference that support a complaint-handling process aimed at resolving problems between members of industry and CASA officers and ensuring that any deficiencies in CASA's processes and procedures that are identified are rectified.
In addition to the ICC, the Ethics and Conduct Committee reviews serious complaints involving possible contraventions of key CASA policies, including the CASA Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest and Fraud policies. While the committee often refers matters to others (such as the Head of People and Performance or the ICC) for investigation, it provides an additional, senior level of oversight in relation to more serious matters and ensures that existing processes for managing complaints and contraventions of CASA's policies operate fairly.
The ICC has been working with other government aviation complaints handlers— Airservices Australia, the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, the Office of Transport Security and the ATSB—to improve access to complaints channels and the experience of complainants. In particular, the members of the group have been collaborating to ensure that, where appropriate, a complainant receives a 'whole of government' response to any issues raised that involve more than one agency.
The members of the group recognise the difficulties that members of the aviation community sometimes have in identifying the correct agency to which they should complain. To overcome some of those difficulties, the group has agreed to develop a shared web page that directs complainants to the most appropriate agency. In 2010–11, the group put in place processes and implemented a shared complaint form to facilitate the transfer of complaints between the agencies. In addition, the efficiency and consistency of complaints handling have been improved through the sharing of policy and procedural documentation by the group.
Complaints in 2010–11
During 2010–11, the ICC investigated complaints from 80 complainants about the conduct of CASA officers. In addition, the ICC received 189 complaints about the aviation industry and 18 requests for information.
As Figure 8 shows, most of the complaints related to the actions of officers within the Operations and Industry Permissions divisions. Those divisions are the areas in CASA that have the highest levels of interaction with members of the industry.
Figure 8 Complaints by division in 2010–11
The ICC took responsibility for the management of a number of complaints from some members of the public who were absorbing a disproportionate amount of the resources of CASA by repeatedly raising the same issue. The strategies employed in these circumstances were consistent with the new policy and guidance material associated with managing unreasonable behaviour from members of the wider aviation community. The policy and procedures are intended to assist officers in managing a range of difficult behaviours, such as unreasonable persistence, unreasonable demands, unreasonable lack of cooperation, unreasonable arguments, and unreasonable behaviour, including aggression and threats of harm.