Keynote Address, 7th Aviation Postgraduate Seminar, Swinburne University of Technology
Bruce Byron, CEO, Civil Aviation Safety Authority
9 December 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you. There are a number of reasons why that is so. Not the least of them is that I am a believer in the value of the cross-fertilisation that comes from exchanges of views between industry, government, and particularly in the context of this gathering, our institutions of learning and research.
Incidentally, in the context of cross-fertilisation I have a small initiative in mind which may be of interest, and I will return to that a little later.
As this is my first public appearance since becoming CEO at CASA, I imagine there is a reasonable expectation that I should say something about where I see CASA going.
Being only nine days into the job, I'm not about to make grand statements about new brooms, radical changes in direction, or dramatic new initiatives. I have a lot of ideas on how we might do things better, and some of those I will touch on today. But I also have a lot of listening to do, a lot of communication, a lot of consultation, both with industry, and within CASA.
So there will be some changes you will see quite early in the scheme of things, others will come along more slowly, but they will come. It won't be change for the sake of it, it will be change needed to build a better and more effective CASA.
However, I can say that by the end of the month, and with the benefit of some pretty intensive discussion and consultation with my new colleagues, I aim to have defined the governance and management processes under which I see CASA moving forward, and to have made a good start in implementing those processes.
Let me first touch briefly on my background. I won't subject you to my entire history, which has been pretty much aviation oriented from the start.
Firstly, I am a professional pilot, airforce trained, in which I spend 20 years with a strong emphasis on training. My final RAAF appointment, in the early eighties was as CO CFS. After that, I managed a corporate pilot operation whilst developing a safety consulting activity. In the airline sector, I have managed the transition of Kendell Airlines to high capacity jet operations. Most recently I have designed a Safety Management System for Virgin Blue. I fly as often as circumstances will let me, and I believe it is helpful to bring to my new responsibilities the perspective of an Aviation practitioner.
In the recent past I have had the role of independent chair of the Aviation Safety Forum, which as many of you will be aware is a body with a broad-based industry membership, and which provides advice to CASA across the spectrum of aviation issues.
At the invitation of Minister for Transport and Regional Services I have also operated as an industry advocate', taking on broad industry views on the new aviation regulations currently being developed and passing those views on to where they would do the most good in CASA. I will of course no longer fill these roles, but the experience has meant that I come to CASA with a built-in bias in favour of the merits of consultation and communication, and with a fairly comprehensive exposure to the industry and its thinking.
So I can claim reasonable currency' on the practical side of safety systems and procedures, and the safety interests of the travelling public.
And I was for two years a member of the CASA Board, and a party to the sometimes tough decisions that have to be taken by the regulator. So I have seen things from both sides of the fence, and I suggest that is no bad thing in any endeavour.
And having used the phrase both sides of the fence' can I introduce my comments on the CASA of the future by saying that I see fences and barriers between the regulator and the aviation industry (and for that matter between CASA and any of our stakeholders) as being things of the past. Certainly CASA has to maintain a suitably independent position in terms of its regulatory responsibilities. But we also need to operate cooperatively with our stakeholders, and with as much harmony and common purpose as is reasonably possible.
Working with government
One thing that should not be forgotten is that CASA is an arm of government. Most of our income comes from government, we have a Minister who carries ultimate responsibility for our actions and gives us policy guidelines, and we have an Act of Parliament which tells us what we can and cannot do. We are subject to scrutiny through the Parliamentary committee system, and we are audited by the Australian National Audit Office.
Our relationship with government is one that we cannot avoid, nor should we want to.
The Civil Aviation Act remains the ultimate reference point for us. Subject to the provisions of the Act, and related legislation such as the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act, CASA is responsible through the Minister to the government, the parliament and the Australian people. That is fairly standard stuff. But the story gets a little more interesting when you look at the detail.
There is now a direct reporting and responsibility line between myself as CEO and the Minister. The Minister will have a greater role in policy setting, strategic direction and in setting overall performance guidelines. It follows from this that the Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services, as the Minister's adviser on broad aviation policy issues, will probably become more involved with CASA. This is not a problem for us - we are all working in the same direction and a more collegiate approach is fine by me.
At the end of the day the CEO has an independent role and responsibility in managing CASA's regulatory function, and that is how it should be, but I am happy to take on board any advice, suggestions or input from whatever source.
And the same goes for our working relationship with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. We both have our separate statutory responsibilities but that should not stand in the way of cooperative interaction, and I will be looking to progress that early in my term.
The Act tells us in broad terms what our responsibilities are and what we can and can't do. For example, the Act tells us that we should be conducting regular reviews of the system of civil aviation safety in order to monitor the safety performance of the aviation industry, to identify safety-related trends and risk factors and to promote the development and improvement of the system'.
This is very much a strategic function of CASA. Aside from being a requirement of the Act, it is also a sensible thing for a regulator to be doing, and given the broad nature of this function it would be an easy matter to put aside in favour of day-to-day operational demands. It is an area on which I want to give a greater focus.
This sets a clear environment for CASA. Certainly our priority is safety, but we need to be conscious of the government's strong aviation reform agenda and take appropriate account of that in our planning. We cannot operate in a vacuum.
Relationship with the Minister
Although I mentioned the Minister in my comments about the relationship with government, I would like to focus a little more on the Ministerial relationship, because it is quite important.
The Minister will set policy directions and performance standards for CASA, but he will be at arms length from day-to-day operations.
Those directions and guidelines have been documented in a comprehensive Charter Letter, which, with the Minister's agreement, I plan to make generally available on 15 December.
However, there would be limited value in developing a set of guidelines which sets out the Minister's expectations for CASA, without there also being in place a process of reporting back to him against performance, an agreed basis for monitoring progress, and the opportunity for feed-back and fine tuning.
So, an important part of the governance arrangements that have been developed will be regular meetings with the Minister, and with the Secretary of the Department.
My own performance agreement with the Minister will be directly linked to the targets that have been set for CASA, and for which I am ultimately accountable.
And I see those performance targets, or sub-sets of them, being incorporated into the performance agreements I have with my senior management, so they have a quite specific understanding of what is required of them, and what they need to achieve as their contribution, individually and collectively, to ensuring that CASA meets the goals that have been set for it.
And a brief word about my own position.
As CEO I will have a greater strategic leadership role than has previously been the case, as I have been given some of the responsibilities previously collectively held by the Board. I have specific responsibility for CASA's safety regulatory functions and the management responsibilities that go with them. I also pick up the responsibilities previously held by the Board in terms of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act. These relate largely to governance responsibilities. And rather than being accountable to a Board, I will be directly accountable to the Minister.
For those among you with a particular interest in management structures, while it is too early for me to finalise possible changes to senior executive responsibilities, I have appointed the Deputy CEO as Chief Operating Officer. This will allow me to focus on implementation of the Minister's policy directions, and will ensure I can give appropriate priority to managing CASA's relation with its stakeholders.
There will be a small Office of the CEO to assist me with the initiatives I have in mind without diverting resources from mainstream operational areas.
Relationship with the aviation industry
CASA's relationship with the aviation industry is a cornerstone for our future success.
One of my highest priorities will be to work towards establishing the best possible professional working relationship between CASA and the aviation industry and also between myself personally and industry players.
I see aviation safety as a shared responsibility between CASA and the industry. We need an industry that is willing and able to meet its part of those safety responsibilities. And we need a CASA that is both independent in the discharge of its safety surveillance and enforcement obligations, but at the same time is responsive to the needs of the industry, and is prepared to assist those in the industry wanting to do the right thing by , among other things, by being responsive, by genuinely consulting, by showing flexibility, by providing simpler rules, by listening, by educating, and operating in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
And we also need an industry which can develop and grow, and not be constrained by rules that don't do anything for safety. If we are to have genuine and meaningful communication and consultation , and to be accountable for that, we need to monitor and measure our performance against benchmarks, and for that performance outcome to be available to industry. This means having a transparency in the things we do.
The existing industry consultative bodies, the Aviation Safety Forum and the Standards Consultative Committee will remain in place and where possible, strengthened. But it is not enough to set up mechanisms to facilitate communication and exchanges of ideas. There needs to be a cultural environment that welcomes industry views and regards members of the industry as a useful and valued source of information. This is consistent with statements I have previously made regarding the technical expertise that resides in industry. It is an environment I will be eager to cultivate.
There is no doubt as to what our focus should be core safety related functions. The Act makes that quite clear. And in executing that focus operationally, we should be aiming for world's best practice.
In many areas Australia already compares favourably with the rest of the world in aviation safety, but we can't rest on that. We also have to be careful not to hide behind the defence that Australia is a special case and we need to have special rules that can't be compared with what happens elsewhere. We do have situations that may require a unique solution. But these are not that common.
Let me take a specific example. Among the things that contribute to best practice are rules that are simple and easy to follow. As many of you will know we are currently devoting substantial resources to rewriting virtually all of our regulations, with the theme Safety through Clarity'. A lot of real progress has been made in updating the rules and making them simpler, and our people have been working very hard to meet the deadlines previously set.
But it is critically important for the future of Australian aviation that we get absolutely the best set of rules we can. There are few chances to do a major re-write and if we don't make the most of this opportunity it may be some time before another comes along. So we need to get it right and to me, that means making sure that our rules address known safety risks identified through an objective process. If that means we have to put back the introduction of the new rules to achieve the best outcome, then I would prefer that to meeting deadlines with something that is less than optimum. And if that is the way we have to go, I will be very happy to explain that to the industry.
Another area where best practice will be the standard is our certification system. I know there has been good progress and great improvements from where we were, but we may be able to do even better. We need a system that encourages Australian manufacturers, rather than putting up limitations.
A best practice regulator
In my own working through of the vision I have for CASA, and in the discussions I have had with both government and industry in the lead-up to my appointment, there are a number of points that have emerged.
We need to have an organisation that operates effectively and efficiently, and responds in a timely manner.
We need to be accountable for our actions.
We need an unreserved commitment to genuine communication and consultation, and a willingness to change our views, if that is the sensible thing to do.
We need to show fairness and good judgement, as well as flexibility and responsiveness. The aviation industry does not stand still, and CASA needs to move with it. If we have regulations that are out dated, or are not reflecting the real world, then we need to be prepared to change them. If any of our rules don't really contribute to safety, but just make life harder for the industry, then we should scrap them.
We at CASA have to recognise that a part of our operations is in the provision of changed services to the industry, and for that activity there are clients who, like in most other spheres of activity, are entitled to a high quality of service, and should be treated with professionalism, and with proper consideration and courtesy.
But we still need to be independent and unbiased when we come to enforcing the regulations.
The better we get, the less industry will have to complain about, and for those of us who tend to be at the receiving of complaints that has to be a great incentive in itself to be better.
But we also need to improve the way we handle complaints we do get, so that industry can see how their concerns are being handled, that they are being addressed in an objective, open and transparent manner. This is a reflection of my intention that CASA must be, and be seen to be, fair and accountable.
An ultimate goal is that CASA will come to have the trust and respect of those that it regulates. I don't think we are quite at that stage as yet, and it won't come to pass by the waving of a magic wand. But it is something we will work towards, and when it is achieved, I will feel we are really making progress.
CASA's effectiveness and efficiency
Given that we are funded by the taxpayer and by the industry, we have a duty to conduct our operations as effectively and efficiently as we can. We need to focus on our core safety related responsibilities and ensure that we concentrate our resources on where they are most needed.
For example, it has long been a priority for CASA that we focus our attention on protecting the travelling public, and that remains the case. And yet we still find ourselves with a significant involvement in the private pilot segment of the industry, experimental aircraft, warbirds and the like, where passenger carrying is not a major issue. It may be that we need to put more effort into finding a way to focus our resources where they will make the greatest impact on aviation safety, without, of course, leaving a safety vacuum in any particular segment of the industry. We need to look for innovative solutions.
We need to be constantly asking ourselves whether a particular task or project is genuinely improving aviation safety.
We need to constantly monitor our costs.
Consistency is something close to my heart, particularly having been a consumer of CASA's activities as a member of industry. There used to be a saying in Canberra to the effect that it is less important whether you are right or wrong, the important thing was to be consistent. I obviously don't see great value in being wrong. Indeed I want the best of both worlds. I want CASA to apply the rules correctly, and I want them applied consistently.
I would like to touch on the sensitive subject of enforcement.
It would be good if we could achieve all the safety outcomes we desire through sound education, the kind of things you are doing at Swinburne. It would be good if we could develop an aviation safety culture, based on sound education and professionalism, so strong that the need for enforcement action is a rarity.
Unfortunately that desirable state has yet to be achieved, and enforcement remains an integral part of our aviation safety framework, and where CASA needs to resort to enforcement we will do so without fear or favour, and with a level of severity that is appropriate.
But we need to be careful that we focus our enforcement action on those who deliberately breach the rules and constitute a genuine risk to safety.
To me, this translates into a CASA that is prepared to help and point in the right direction those in the industry who are genuinely trying to do the right thing, but will come down hard on those deliberately flouting the rules.
As always, the trick is striking the right balance between compliance and enforcement action, and the function of educator and facilitator. Regulators everywhere, and not just in aviation, are faced with the same challenge. We need a firm but fair structure.
The recent amendments to the Civil Aviation Act have introduced a number of new enforcement measures, focussing on achieving a wider and more appropriate mix of regulatory tools. These will allow CASA the flexibility to take a more measured response, rather than only having only the options extreme prejudice' or a slap on the wrist. The new regulatory tools include an automatic stay' of suspension or cancellation decisions not involving an immediate risk to air safety. There will be the introduction of a demerit points system for more minor breaches of the regulations target difference consequence.
The new provisions also enhance procedural fairness. People affected by CASA's administrative decisions will have the opportunity to argue their cases before an independent arbiter, either the Federal Court or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The aim is to focus firmly on fairness and natural justice without in any way restricting CASA's ability to take action on safety breaches. I think the balance is a good one. There has been no limitation on CASA's ability to take appropriate safety action, but there is increased flexibility in terms of penalties, and greater protections in terms of procedural fairness.
The new measures will require comprehensive education both for CASA staff and the industry. Our people need to understand the new measures, and need to be encouraged to embrace the wider options available to them. This process has already commenced.
Industry also needs to be assisted to understand the new arrangements, and appreciate their implications. The education element I am talking about will need to be targeted to clarifying the new enforcement and procedural fairness measures, but as I suggested before, I would like to make sure all the education and information we do promotes the broader goal of an enhanced safety culture, a culture of compliance that in the ideal world may leave our enforcement people with little to do.
I mentioned earlier the need for an objective approach in identifying real safety risks. Indeed, there is a sound argument that all of CASA's core safety-related functions should be driven by analysis and knowledge of past and likely future safety risks.
In fact, CASA has an obligation to conduct such analysis as specified in Section 9 (g) of the Civil Aviation Act. And that's just what we're going to do.
Commencing this month and concluding in June next year CASA will conduct a broad review of the safety of the Civil Aviation system. The review will be tasked to identify the major risks, by sector and will test CASA's activities against those risks. The review will be managed from the office of the CEO, utilising existing CASA resources. Industry will be invited to participate through analysis and ideally, by contributing safety data. We will need to rely heavily on data held by the ATSB
The first module of this review I have in mind is an analysis of the historical data on the findings related to GA fatal accidents, to check trends and make sure we have not over-looked systemic issues. There is a tendency to focus on accident rates rather than probable cause, that enable us to look behind the stats. This ties in with the idea that the regulations we develop need to be more focussed on identifiable safety issues. There is clearly diminished value in devoting resources to making and enforcing regulations which may have theoretical appeal, but in practice do little for safety. The same could be said for our compliance activity.
In my opening remarks I made mention of the benefits of cross-fertilisation of ideas and information. I see the conduct of on-going Safety Reviews by CASA (as we are required to do) as a means of using this approach. In the last few years I have been impressed by the quality of the new generation of aviation professionals entering the industry, including many with aviation technical or management tertiary qualifications. These are likely to be the future leaders of the industry, including CASA.
In exercising my desire for cross fertilisation, it is important that these people have a good knowledge of CASA's role and the best place to get that is inside CASA. Accordingly, I have asked for a proposal on how we may offer short term engagement of suitable graduate students by way of an internship, or perhaps by a scholarship arrangement. I see these people working on tasks relating to CASA Safety Reviews which will be an ongoing CASA activity. I hope to have more detail on this initiative in January and I will want the program to commence as soon as practical.
Can I pull all this together by saying that the CASA I see evolving over the next few years is an organisation with a clear understanding of and responsiveness to government policy directions and decisions on aviation and with a clear focus on core safety-related functions.
With the amended Act the government has given us, we have a sound basis for improving accountability, enhancing communication and consultation with industry, and developing greater fairness and flexibility into our enforcement processes, without losing the robustness in those processes when strong action is required.
We will be aiming at world's best practice as our benchmark, and we will be focussing on consistency, accountability, fairness, flexibility and efficiency. We will have a simple-to-follow regulatory system, and we will try and be smarter at what we do, and how we do it, through research and analysis. And all this will be benchmarked, and our progress measured. It will be transparent, and we will be publicly accountable for the outcomes.
It is a solid agenda. Can we achieve it?
Yes, we can. And we will.
Will CASA have a greater involvement in aviation security ?
CASA does not have any formal responsibility for aviation security. That function lies elsewhere in government. However, there are a number of areas where CASA's responsibilities touch on security issues, such a pilot licencing and pilot training and we will obviously be cooperating closely with the relevant arms of government on these and other such issues.
When you say world's best practice, does that mean we will, for example, simply adopt everything ICAO recommends, or take up US practice?
No, not necessarily. We will of course continue to observe our obligations under the Chicago convention, but if we need to have different regulations to reflect special Australian conditions we will do so, and register those differences with ICAO, as is accepted practice. An I'm not wedded to the procedures of any particular country as being the benchmark -my target is world's best practice no matter what country has it. Indeed it may be that Australia already has it, and others need to match our standard.