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 the future.
In August 2013, CASA provided formal comments on the proposed Government response to the report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into aviation accident investigations.
On 28 February 2014 and 29 May 2014, CASA appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs to answer questions in relation to its inquiry into drones and the regulation of air safety and privacy. CASA provided information and answered questions on proposed regulatory changes.
On 18 November 2013, 24 February 2014 and 26 May 2014, CASA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Budget Estimates hearings. The issues raised at the hearings included:
- in November - firefighting operations, Barrier Aviation, colour vision testing in pilots, manufacturing approvals, recognition of maintenance services by other jurisdictions, standardisation of decision-making by inspectors, relocation of CASA staff from Bankstown, fatigue risk management systems, loss of separation incidents, the Sky Sentinel system, and CASA's involvement in the government response to the report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into aviation accident investigations
- in February - colour vision issues for pilots, training and aircraft licence endorsements for CASA staff, and responsibilities of Air Operator's Certificate holders
- in May - operations on narrow runways, remotely piloted aircraft, Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearings, and colour vision testing for pilots.
During the reporting period, CASA took action on 98 ministerial responses and responded to 29 questions from Budget Estimates hearings addressed to CASA, and provided input to a substantial number of questions, including written questions on notice, addressed to the portfolio.
Aviation Safety Regulation Review Panel
During the reporting period, CASA provided substantial input to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review Panel, including a submission and responses to numerous questions on CASA's organisation, policies and operations. See page 010 for more information.
Anderson v Civil Aviation Safety Authority  FCA 1367
On 17 December 2013, the Federal Court gave judgement in the matter of an appeal by Mr John Anderson from a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of 29 August 2013 affirming a decision made by CASA to cancel his pilot licences under regulation 269(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 (CAR).
Regulation 269(1)(a) of the CAR allows CASA to vary, suspend or cancel a licence where a licence holder has contravened a provision of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (CAA) or the regulations. Regulation 269(1)(d) allows CASA to vary, suspend or cancel a licence if the licence holder is not a fit and proper person to be the holder of the licence. Regulation 269(1A) provides that CASA may not cancel a licence under regulation 269(1)(a) unless the licence holder has been convicted of an offence in respect of the relevant contravention.
Since Mr Anderson had never been convicted of an offence against section 20A of the CAA, he argued that regulation 269(1A) prevented the tribunal from making findings that he had contravened that provision of the Act and then using that finding (in part) to reach a conclusion that he was not a fit and proper person to be the holder of his pilot licences for the purposes of regulation 269(1)(d) of the CAR.
Mr Anderson also argued that the tribunal took into account an irrelevant consideration, namely the fact that he had provided knowingly false information to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) concerning his employment in aviation and that the tribunal failed to take into account a relevant consideration, namely, the hardship which Mr Anderson would suffer if his licences were cancelled.
In dismissing Mr Anderson's appeal, the Court held that:
- Regulations 269(1)(a) and (d) operated independently of each other and that it was open to the tribunal to find that Mr Anderson had contravened section 20A of the CAA, and to take that finding into account in determining whether he was a fit and proper person to be the holder of his licences.
- The fact that Mr Anderson had provided knowingly false information to the DVA was a matter that could be taken into account in determining whether he was a fit and proper person to hold his licences.
- Hardship was not a matter that the tribunal was bound to take into account in determining whether to vary, suspend or cancel Mr Anderson's licences pursuant to regulation 269(1) of the CAR.
Sullivan v Civil Aviation Safety Authority  FCA 1362
On 17 December 2013, the Federal Court gave judgement in the matter of an appeal by Mr Mark Sullivan from a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of 24 June 2013, affirming a decision made by CASA to cancel his pilot licence under regulation 269(1) of the CAR.
Mr Sullivan argued that, in reaching its decision, the tribunal had made significant adverse findings against him without properly applying the test set out in Briginshaw v Briginshaw (1938) 60 CLR 336. The relevant principle is set out in the Briginshaw case as follows:
Except upon criminal issues to be proved by the prosecution, it is enough that the affirmative of an allegation is made out to the reasonable satisfaction of the tribunal. But reasonable satisfaction is not a state of mind that is attained or established independently of the nature and consequence of the fact or facts to be proved. The seriousness of an allegation made, the inherent unlikelihood of an occurrence of a given description, or the gravity of the consequences flowing from a particular finding, are considerations which must affect the answer to the question whether the issue has been proved to the reasonable satisfaction of the tribunal. In such matters “reasonable satisfaction” should not be produced by inexact proofs, indefinite testimony, or indirect inferences.
Mr Sullivan also argued that the tribunal erred in failing to take into account the fact that he had been excluded, under section 30A of the CAA, from exercising the privileges of his pilot licence following his conviction of a series of offences against provisions of the CAR and the CAA. Finally, Mr Sullivan argued that the tribunal erred in failing to accept the evidence of a witness called by him when aspects of that evidence were said not to have been tested in cross-examination.
In dismissing Mr Sullivan's appeal, the Court held:
- That the principle in Briginshaw was a tool for administrative decision-makers rather than a principle that the tribunal was bound to apply in a way that was clearly identified on the face of the tribunal's reasons. Furthermore, having carefully reviewed the findings of the tribunal, the Court was not satisfied that it had failed to apply the principles set out in Briginshaw.
- The tribunal cancelled Mr Sullivan's licence under regulation 269(1)(d) of the CAR having concluded that Mr Sullivan was not a fit and proper person to be the holder of that licence. There was nothing in regulation 269(1) or elsewhere that required the tribunal to take into account the fact of any exclusion period imposed under section 30A of the CAA, in determining whether Mr Sullivan was a fit and proper person.
- The fact that the evidence of one of Mr Sullivan's witnesses was not challenged in cross-examination did not mean that the tribunal was bound to accept that evidence. That evidence was clearly challenged by other aspects of the evidence led by CASA, and therefore, especially in circumstances where CASA led its evidence first, there was not unfairness in the tribunal proceeding in the manner in which it did.
Mr Sullivan has appealed this judgement to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia.
CASA's legal costs for 2013-14 are outlined in Table B.14 on page 179.
Coroners have the authority to investigate deaths, identify other injuries and make recommendations that may prevent deaths and non-fatal injuries. Coroners' findings vary from brief descriptions about the place of death, the identity of the deceased and the cause of death, through to detailed descriptions of the circumstances leading to the death and detailed recommendations concerning what could be done to prevent similar deaths and injuries. Such recommendations may deal with the administration of aviation safety by CASA.
In 2009, CASA established an Accident Investigation Review Committee (AIRC). Amongst other things the AIRC is responsible for reviewing, and where appropriate acting on, coronial inquest findings and recommendations.
Table B.8 in Appendix B shows the number of coronial inquiries that involved CASA in each year from 2009-10 to 2013-14.
Reports by the Auditor-General
In 2013-14, no reports involving CASA were tabled by the Australian National Audit Office.
Reports by the Australian Information Commissioner
No decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner during the reporting period had a significant effect on CASA's operations.
Investigations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Three investigations were begun by the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office during 2013-14. All three investigations remain open.
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 B.5 to B.7 in Appendix B show Administrative Appeals Tribunal merits reviews of regulatory decisions from 2009-10 to 2013-14, the categories of CASA decisions appealed to the tribunal in 2013-14, and applications to the Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions from 2009-10 to 2013-14.
The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) offers industry a transparent and accessible mechanism for making complaints about the administrative actions or services provided by CASA staff, delegates or authorised persons. The ICC reviews the complaints to determine whether the actions or services were wrong, unjust, unlawful, discriminatory or unfair. The ICC operates within governance arrangements that support a complaint-handling process aimed at resolving problems between members of the industry and CASA officers and ensuring that any deficiencies in CASA's processes and procedures are identified and rectified.
Complaints in 2013-14
During 2013-14, the ICC investigated complaints from 135 complainants about the administrative actions or services provided by CASA staff, compared with 142 complaints in the previous financial year. In addition, the ICC received 42 complaints about the aviation industry that were not within CASA's jurisdiction.
The number of out-of-jurisdiction complaints declined from 52 in 2012-13 to 42 in 2013-14. A new online aviation information resource centre was launched in late 2013 to provide complainants with an overview of the various bodies that investigate aviation-related complaints. The decline in the number of out-of-jurisdiction complaints may be attributable, in part, to the availability of this web page.
As in previous years, the large majority of complaints related to activities of the Operations and Industry Permissions divisions. Complaint numbers for the Operations and Industry Permissions divisions decreased in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13: Operations Division decreased from 53 complaints to 45 complaints and Industry Permissions from 78 to 76.
Figure 12 shows the complaints received by CASA in 2013-14 and the categories into which those complaints fell.
Figure 12 Complaints, by category, 2011-12 to 2013-14
Processing of complaints
The ICC aims to finalise straightforward complaints within 10 business days of receipt of the complaint. For more complex complaints, the ICC aims to finalise the complaint within three months.
The average number of days it took the ICC to finalise a complaint in 2013-14 was 16 business days. There were nine complex complaints that took longer than three months to finalise.
In the majority of those nine complaints, preliminary investigations took place quickly after the complaint was received and practical measures were implemented by the relevant area to address the main deficiencies raised by the complaint while the remainder of the issues were investigated. Often there is a delay after a request from the ICC for detailed information from the complainant, or a detailed analysis from a subject matter expert within CASA.
In 2013-14, a more sophisticated complaint-handling database was under development. Once finalised, it will lead to earlier identification of complaint trends and a quicker response to emerging issues. From January 2014, preliminary work on the new database has allowed the ICC to capture the number of business days a complaint remained open.
The information in Table 10 reflects data from January to June 2014.
|No. of business days open|
|No. of days||<10||11-20||21-30||31-40||41-50||51-60||>60|
|No. of complaints||64||5||6||2||1||3||3|
Strategies to address the causes of complaints
The majority of complaints about the Industry Permissions Division related to the processing of medical certificates. As was the case in previous years, complaints about medical certificates were approximately evenly divided between complaints about the administration of the application (including lost paperwork, delays and the quality of information provided) and medical decision-making.
A common complaint in relation to medical decision-making was that insufficient weight was given to the views of the applicant's designated aviation medical examiner (DAME) or treating physician, particularly in cases where those medical practitioners supported the issuance of a non-restricted medical certificate; or that too many additional medical reports were required before a decision could be made by CASA.
To address the causes of medical certificate delay and service complaints, Industry Permissions implemented a range of strategies during the year. The Division introduced:
- a new scheme that permits some DAMEs to issue Class 2 medical certificates (private pilot) within set criteria
- additional staff in the Aviation Medicine Branch, performing a new role to facilitate difficult or more complex cases
- additional medical officer capability to improve communication and service delivery timeframes
- system changes to reduce time at the DAME offices, communication by email, and other process changes.
The new medical records system, due in early 2015, is expected to be a significant step forward for service improvement, with improved reliability and additional online capability.
New guidance material has been published and existing material has been updated to help DAMEs and applicants to better understand the policies that apply to aeromedical decisions in relation to particular medical conditions.