Opening address - Standards Consultative Committee
Director of Aviation Safety, Mark Skidmore
Standards Consultative Committee – 31 March 2015
Thank you Rob for the introduction. And welcome to all of you to this first meeting of the SCC plenary since I took on the job of Director of Aviation Safety. I look forward to working with you to achieve our common vision of safe skies for all. In my view, it’s a new beginning for everyone involved. Let me provide some reasons for why I say this.
The Australian Government has set a clear agenda for CASA in 2015 and the years to follow through their response to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review (ASRR) which was released late in 2014. I am glad the Government’s response to the Review has coincided with the commencement of my tenure as Director of Aviation Safety, as this provides a clear basis for planning, action and achievement.
We are in the process of finalising CASA’s implementation plan for the Government’s response to the ASRR, which we expect to complete by 30 April 2015. Then the implementation plan will be fully embedded in CASA’s 2015–16 to 2018–19 Corporate Plan. In addition to this, by the end of this calendar year, I will develop and publish a statement of CASA’s long-term strategic intent - Flight Plan 2030, broadly setting out our objectives over the next 15 years. I believe these plans will set out the way forward for CASA and establish a common understanding amongst all of our stakeholders reflecting our shared interest in promoting aviation safety in Australia.
CASA’s engagement with the aviation community forms a significant part of our standards development, educational, advisory and operational activities. CASA understands the importance of maintaining a meaningful, cooperative and mutually respectful relationship with the aviation community.
Like other regulatory authorities in Australia, and not unlike aviation safety regulators throughout the world, CASA is no stranger to criticism, complaints, and other expressions of dissatisfaction about the things we do and the way we do them. We recognise that this as an inevitable feature of the regulatory landscape. Where such criticism is deserved, however, you may be assured it is my intention to see that its causes are identified and addressed as quickly and effectively as possible.
To that end, I believe the aviation community and CASA need to build a closer working relationship based on mutual interest in achieving the best safety outcomes. This relationship must be based on respect and trust. CASA is open and committed to an appropriate ‘safety partnership’ with the aviation community and I am devoting a good deal of time and energy towards working to the achievement of this goal - both at a strategic and working level.
Safety Partnership and SCC
I feel it is important that I elaborate my thoughts on building ‘safety partnership’ in the context of industry consultations on safety policies and standards, and the role of the SCC in helping CASA and the Government achieve their objectives for an aviation system that both provides appropriate safety outcomes and serves to facilitate industry growth. We cannot do this in any effective manner without industry’s participation in, and support of, our efforts.
I believe in a regulatory approach that gives due consideration to non-regulatory alternatives such as training and education, before moving to introduce new and additional regulation.
I also believe in regulating aviation activities based on risk, taking into account the costs and benefits of regulation, and making decisions based on where CASA’s and the aviation community’s safety resources are best directed. This is an important area where we can collectively work together to ensure that we are getting the biggest safety return from our aviation safety investments.
I believe in effective industry consultation and the role that the SCC plays in providing an industry focal point for policy and standards consultation.
CASA is obliged by law to consult industry and other stakeholders on standards development. In practical terms, it would be unrealistic to expect CASA to be knowledgeable of all industry practices, special operational procedures or other risk mitigations already in place. Industry can and in my view should, also provide assistance in identifying certain safety risks that may not be on CASA’s radar.
Industry input is invaluable to CASA, both in terms of identifying hazards and evaluating risks, and in advising CASA of any implementation issues that should be taken into account. It is in our interests - industry and CASA - that we get the regulations right before they are made and being implemented. It is much more difficult to ‘fix’ things after they become law. Therefore, building an appropriate ‘safety partnership’ based on respect and trust is fundamental to get things right in the best interests of aviation safety and an apex committee such as SCC is seen as one of the pillars for this cause.
Most of you would also be aware that CASA, similar to other Commonwealth agencies, is subject to Government policy that requires red tape reductions and offsets of new regulatory costs. This is a significant challenge for CASA, as the aviation environment is constantly changing. New technologies arise. Accident investigators often call for regulatory interventions by regulators such as CASA. To add to this, the ICAO continues to publish new standards and recommended practices for implementation by member states. Cost considerations are not always a factor for these other bodies.
CASA, on the other hand, will need to make some tough decisions moving forward on what safety risks need new or additional attention (and resourcing), and which will receive less attention, either because the risks are lower or because non-regulatory or other approaches are adequate. CASA will benefit from the assistance of the industry and broader aviation community to help establish its work programmes and priorities moving forward.
Continuation of our collaborative approach
I have been briefed that in recent times early industry input on policy, standards and implementation issues has not always been solicited by CASA and/or provided by industry. The ASRR in their report also referred to consultation fatigue.
Little or no industry input, or untimely input, can result in developing poor standards, standards against which exemptions need to be raised for them to work and CASA’s implementation plans need be revised due to unexpected consequences of new regulation.
The message I have for all of you is that CASA continues to need your input on new and amended regulations. I appreciate this can be daunting, especially for the regulatory reform packages which are very large and quite complex. I expect that this year will see the end of such large consultation packages, as regulatory reform winds down. In the future, we will be focusing more on post implementation reviews and more targeted consultations on specific standards issues. I look forward to that time, as I am sure you do.
Review the role of SCC
This brings us to look at the role of SCC and how to renew a collaborative and effective work of SCC - I am using words directly out of the ASRR report.
What I would like to encourage in this meeting is free and frank discussion. I would like the discussions to remain as positive as possible, but you have my assurance that any comments made here that criticise CASA will be taken in the spirit of open communication.
The SCC role questions that come to mind are:
- is a body like the SCC useful to industry and CASA? Where is it effective and where is it not so effective?
- what should the SCC do?
- focus more on strategic issues, or on specific regulatory themes
- continue to limit itself to policy and standards issues
- expand its mandate to include, for example, compliance and service delivery issues
- how often should the SCC meet in plenary?
- is SCC membership appropriate, in terms of coverage of regulated activities and participation of the relevant stakeholders?
- would the establishment of an SCC steering or executive committee be useful?
- are there too many or too few subcommittees? is their coverage appropriate?
- how does the SCC relate to other industry/CASA consultative groups such as the Regional Aviation Safety Forum and Sport Aviation Safety Forum?
As a newcomer to CASA I sense that most of these questions appear to relate to SCC plenary meetings which are currently held annually. Regardless of the role of the SCC at the plenary level, CASA will still require access to industry subject matter experts through SCC subcommittees and working groups to help inform regulatory decision-making.
I want to hear your ideas on how the SCC can be made more effective, so that it better serves the aviation community, CASA and ultimately the Australian public.