Not-so-great expectations?

Comment – Paul Phelan, April 24

Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has provided an interim Statement of Expectations to the not-quite-finalised CASA Board, effective until June 30, 2017.
A ring-around industry sources found everybody frankly pretty cheerless about the apparent lack of any urgency on some of the more devastating issues emerging from the ever-unfolding CASRs, and one provided an interesting document for comparison, which we invite readers to compare with Mr Truss’s more recent contribution.

The letter is (then) Minister John Anderson’s “Charter letter“ to (then) incoming CASA CEO Bruce Byron, and for the benefit of newcomers to the scene, that was way back when CASA didn’t have a Board anyway, and Ministers and CEOs had regular meetings – which often got things moving.
First, here’s Mr Truss’s SOE, which our process-watchers believe has all the symptoms of an origin somewhere close to the top of the Infrastructure tree.

When the text colour changes to blue, you’re in Anderson/Byron country.

Statement of Expectations for the Board of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for the period 16 April 2015 to 30 June 2017

This Statement of Expectations (SOE) outlines in a formal and public way, the Government’s expectations concerning the operations and performance of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) from 16 April 2015 to 30 June 2017.

This SOE serves as a notice of strategic direction to CASA under section 12A of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (the Act).

This SOE replaces the previous SOE which came into effect on 1 July 2013.
As the Board of CASA, I expect that you will:

1. Provide proactive leadership in setting, steering and overseeing CASA’s strategic direction to meet current and emerging challenges in aviation safety;

2. Continue to perform your functions effectively under section 53 of the Act, which are to:

(a) Decide the objectives, strategies and policies to be followed by CASA;
(b) Ensure that CASA performs its functions in a proper, efficient and effective manner; and
(c) Ensure that CASA complies with directions given under section 12B of the Act.

3. Ensure that CASA, in performing its functions:

(a) Acts in accordance with the Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) as well as other relevant legislation;
(b) Is guided by the key aviation safety principles set out in the tabling statement to the Government’s response on the Aviation Safety Regulation Review Report;
(c) Considers recommendations by the Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) about systemic issues arising from the ICC’s investigations;
(d) Communicates regularly with relevant Government agencies, industry and other key stakeholders regarding CASA’s activities and functions; and
(e) Ensures that I and the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (the Department) are kept fully informed of CASA’s actions in relation to the requirements stated, and are alerted to events or issues that may impact on the operations of CASA, including through the provision of timely quarterly reports of progress against the Corporate Plan. My expectations are that CASA will, in performing its functions:

4. Continue to focus on aviation safety as the highest priority.
5. Operate as a world leading aviation safety regulator, backed by a workforce with the requisite skills and capabilities.
6. Provide an implementation plan of how CASA will implement the Government’s response to the CASA-related recommendations in the Aviation Safety Regulation Review Report in an effective and timely manner.
7. Prepare a revised workforce plan to come into effect from 1 July 2015, to be annually updated, which will outline CASA’s strategies for managing and developing its workforce over the next four years covering future recruitment, training and skills requirements and opportunities, as appropriate, for staff exchanges with industry.
8. Work closely with the ATSB to ensure continued arrangements are in place, consistent with the current Safety Information Policy Statement and informed by ‘just culture’ principles, for the appropriate sharing and use of safety information by CASA and the ATSB;
9. Implement the Government’s policy objectives in the Australian Airspace Policy Statement and review the operations and functions of the Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR) noting that the OAR commenced with the enactment of the Airspace Act 2007.
10. Work with the Department in the preparation of a new long term funding strategy for CASA to be reflected in the 2016-17 Portfolio Budget Statements to provide ongoing financial stability for CASA and examine opportunities for reducing the costs of regulation to the aviation industry.
11. Continue to work closely with the Department and other Australian Government agencies, including the ATSB, Airservices Australia and the Department of Defence, to deliver integrated and comprehensive safety regulatory advice to the Government, the aviation industry and the community.
12. Continue to strengthen international and Asia-Pacific regional aviation safety engagement through:

a) establishment of appropriate mutual recognition arrangements;
b) support of the Government’s aviation safety initiatives in the Asia/Pacific region; and
c) commitment to the Memorandum of Understanding between CASA, the Department and Airservices Australia, regarding the management of Australia’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) responsibilities.

13. Maintain high standards of professionalism, service, probity, reporting, accountability and transparency, consistent with the provisions of the PGPA Act and have a code of conduct and values consistent with those used by the Australian Public Service.
14. Undertake effective and ongoing engagement with the aviation industry to create an effective collaborative relationship between CASA and industry based on a foundation of mutual understanding and respect.
15. Consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community in the development and finalisation of new or amended regulatory changes.
Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
14 April 2015

Mr Bruce Byron
Chief Executive Officer
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
GPO Box 2005
25 NOV 2003
Dear Mr Byron
I am pleased to provide you with a new Charter Letter setting out strategic directions for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as it enters a new era of enhanced governance arrangements based upon direct and appropriate lines of authority between myself, as the responsible Minister, and you, as the Chief Executive Officer of CASA.

This Charter Letter is also intended to provide CASA with a better understanding of the broader Government policy framework in which it must operate. You should consider my views as strategic direction as you commence your work. I urge you to take full account of the points made in this Charter Letter; to reflect on how your role relates to CASA’s new operating environment; and to share the Government’s vision with the staff of CASA.

Under the Civil Aviation Act 1988, as amended, the CEO will be particularly responsible as the Director of Aviation Safety, for CASA’s safety regulatory functions and the associated management responsibilities. With the new designation of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), you take on a greater leadership role for the Authority than was previously the case. You will have additional management functions; you will be the sole Director of CASA for the purposes of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997; and you will be directly accountable to me as the Minister. While I will have an increased role in CASA policy setting and organisational performance, it is important that you retain your independence as Director of Aviation Safety responsible for managing CASA’s regulatory function.

I would like also to emphasise the greater role that will be played by the Portfolio Secretary in our future dealings. While I consider you responsible, as the CEO, for delivering CASA’s overall work plan in accordance with the views expressed below, I will be looking to the Secretary for advice across the Portfolio on aviation generally and aviation safety policy issues in particular. It is therefore important to me that you and CASA continue to develop and improve the relationships that CASA has with the Department.

It is also essential that CASA has a positive working relationship with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), our transport safety investigator. I wish to see a co-operative working relationship between the three bodies in the best interests of aviation safety in Australia.
A similar working relationship on matters of aviation security will also be essential in the national interest, notwithstanding the exclusion of CASA from security aviation matters in its legislation. I am aware that there are a variety of safety matters, such as pilot training and licensing, that have important implications for the regulation of some aspects of aviation security and I look forward to active co-operation on these matters.

I will be convening planning and reporting meetings at least every two months between you, the Secretary and myself and believe these will go a long way towards ensuring a good working relationship.

Against world standards, Australia’s aviation safety reputation is exemplary. It is my expectation that CASA, as Australia’s aviation regulator, should also aim for world’s best practice and I look to you to help achieve this goal.

Government Policy
The Government’s vision is for Australia to have a world class safety regulatory environment, including regulations that are simple to follow and reflect world’s best practice. I have also previously spoken of the importance of having a modernised certification system, which will serve to encourage Australian aircraft manufacturers.

I am pleased to acknowledge that CASA has delivered a modern certification system but I do believe there is some way to go to achieving a simple to follow regulatory system. I shall have more to say about regulatory reform later in this letter.

Its vision for CASA is of a firm but fair regulator which focuses on core safety related functions in a way that ensures that industry meets its safety obligations, but at the same time permits development and growth in Australian aviation.

Whilst CASA should perform its functions consistent with its obligations under the Chicago convention, I accept that there will be times when Australia will need to have differing regulations owing to the uniqueness of the Australian aviation environment. When Australian regulations vary from ICAO standards and recommended practices CASA should notify the differences to ICAO.

More broadly, in very recent times the Government has begun to implement quite major aviation reforms, including of CASA itself and in relation to lower level airspace. The rationale for pursuing these reforms is the desire on the part of the Government to foster a safe, strong and active aviation sector. While CASA’s primary concern must always be with safety, it must not operate in a vacuum, without having regard to the Government’s broader aviation policy agenda. Rather, it should maintain a high level of awareness of the Government’s aviation reform agenda and be in a position to respond fully to Government policy directions and decisions.

CASA as Safety Regulator
It is my view that a good regulator will exhibit specific behavioural attributes and these can best be summarised as follows. A good regulator will communicate and consult extensively with stakeholders. Its decisions will be consistent and predictable, based on transparent processes. A good regulator will demonstrate fairness, good judgement, and be flexible and responsive to the changing environment in which the aviation industry operates. It will be effective, efficient and timely in its operations and it will be accountable for its actions. In the provision of regulatory services CASA must provide a high level of client service and treat clients with consideration and courtesy. Finally, it will be independent, enforcing civil aviation regulations, as it deems appropriate, while bearing in mind these expected standards of behaviour.
Above all a good regulator should command the trust and respect of those it regulates. It should act as a facilitator for those who are genuinely trying to do the right thing while retaining the ability to act swiftly and decisively against those who deliberately flout aviation safety regulations. You may have heard me use the friendly bobby on the beat analogy to illustrate this point.

These are characteristics which I want to see systematically entrenched in CASA and exhibited by staff at all times. Combined, they represent a commitment to high quality delivery of CASA’s regulatory functions in a manner structured to engender the confidence and support of the aviation industry and the wider community. The challenge for all CASA personnel is to balance the responsibility for compliance and enforcement with the role of educator and facilitator.
Two particular initiatives I would also like to see introduced are a comprehensive and publicly transparent complaints handling mechanism and a system to encourage internal reporting of organisational shortcomings while ensuring the necessary protection for all CASA personnel.
I appreciate that much of the criticism directed at CASA may be misinformed. It is nevertheless essential for the Authority to have a visible and accessible complaints handling mechanism for the purposes of fairness and accountability, particularly where the livelihood, financial security and personal reputation of individuals may be on the line.

Reform Implementation
The Civil Aviation Act 1988, as amended, has facilitated substantial changes to CASA governance. It has broadened the range of enforcement measures, while at the same time enhancing procedural fairness without in any way restricting CASA’s ability to take appropriate safety action. You are well aware of these changes.

I expect that the implementation of these new measures and processes, along with those proposed under the CASA regulation reform process, will be preceded by comprehensive education and communication initiatives. CASA staff must be well prepared to implement and administer the new arrangements with consistency and fairness and industry must be well briefed as to how these measures will impact on their day-to-day operations and provided with information to assist with their compliance.

It is important that CASA make productive use of the new tools that have been made available to it such as the demerit points scheme which can be appropriately used for more minor breaches of the regulations where traditionally a heavier handed approach may have been used.

I would also like to see a broadening of focus beyond just the criminal offences and penalty provisions. The use of education and monitoring powers by regulatory personnel will go a long way to contribute to a culture of increased safety compliance within the industry, particularly in the general aviation sector. I appreciate the challenge facing CASA staff in balancing the requirements of regulator with that of educator and look to you to ensure the appropriate support and training is available to assist regulatory staff with this transition.

I would like to discuss with you appropriate administrative measures that will assist you with the continuation of the CASA reform agenda, the further development of a simple-to-follow regulatory system and the establishment of a new and improved organisational culture. The future role of the Standards Consultative Committee and the Aviation Safety Forum will be important and we need to examine if any other advisory body or mechanism will be required to take this agenda forward.

I want to make it very clear that the Government remains committed to the timely implementation of the regulatory reform program. However, we must also take care not to squander the unique opportunity we have to get right the key aviation safety regulations that will be with us for decades to come. Meeting deadlines alone will serve little purpose if we do not achieve CASA” aim of safety through clarity and moreover if we do not end up with a world’s best practice regulatory system. Therefore I would urge you to strongly not treat regulatory reform as a case of “don’t get it right, get it written”.

I would also like to take this opportunity to make the point that it is important that the aviation safety regulations target known safety risks and are supported by credible and appropriate safety analysis. While safety must remain CASA’s primary preoccupation, it is important that regulation does not unnecessarily inhibit the dynamism and vibrancy of the aviation industry – ie without a solid and credible safety foundation. I would therefore urge you to ensure that proposed regulations address known risk factors for the various levels of operation, while also having regard to any issues that may be unique to Australian circumstances such as the often large distances between towns and the corresponding reliance, particularly in regional areas, on air transportation.

Funding Issues
CASA funding and financial management remains an issue. It is essential that CASA has a rigorous strategy in place that will ensure greater certainty in CASA’s underlying financial position. Funding must be more closely linked with activity levels. Any long term funding strategy must be supported by efficient and effective fiscal management and an increase in cost consciousness by all in the Authority.

Organisational Performance
It is important that CASA not only be able to claim a high level of performance, but that the organisation’s performance be measurable and able to be benchmarked. I envisage the behavioural concepts I have set out, together with my specific reform measures, meshing neatly together so that CASA’s performance can be measured in key areas. In particular, I draw your attention to the areas where I see CASA being able to demonstrate its performance during the course of the coming year.

Communication and consultation – CASA has seen an improvement in this area largely due to the appointment of an industry advocate and a maturing of the Standards Consultative Committee. I note the recent inclusion of Departmental officers on critical advisory subcommittees and commend this development as a practical step towards streamlining CASA’s relationship with the Department as a key stakeholder.

It is important to build on this improvement. Valuing stakeholders, by developing a culture of trust and cooperation between all areas of CASA and the industry is paramount. A focus on improving performance in this area and upholding standards in a fair and responsive way will engender a better relationship with industry.

CASA must honour its commitment to working cooperatively with the aviation industry to maintain and enhance aviation safety. There is a strong need for CASA to strengthen stakeholder relationships, not just through formal consultative mechanisms, but in the day-to-day dealings with industry participants, particularly in the general aviation sector. CASA should provide relevant information and documentation regarding the decision in question in a timely manner, and provide the opportunity for industry to raise issues of concern, and participate in discussions about those issues.

Consultation involves more than a mere exchange of information although engaging in a process of consultation does not mean that the parties must necessarily reach agreement in relation to each issue. However, where consultation with industry results in a divergence of views I would ask you to ensure that the final decision by CASA is made at an appropriate level within the organisation.

Consistency and predictability – this has been an area of contention over the years. The new enforcement regime, particularly the introduction of the demerit points scheme for individual authorisation holders, should give more consistency and predictability for the aviation industry. CASA needs to exercise good judgement in the use of the tools available under the enforcement regime including how they can be used with education and liaison, particularly in the initial stage of the implementation.

It is crucial that CASA staff deliver a consistent message to industry on safety and regulatory matters and it is important that appropriate training and monitoring of staff performance is in place to achieve this aim. Such consistency is essential to an efficient and respected regulatory agency and will help limit the level of complaint on this issue particularly from the smaller operators.

Flexibility – is about setting the boundaries without being too rigid. The aviation industry is dynamic and diverse and CASA must have the capacity to respond to this diversity while, as aviation safety regulator, maintaining consistency and accountability. The ‘one size fits all’ solution is not always appropriate. It is CASA’s role to take into account all relevant considerations and only those relevant considerations, while acting with integrity and impartiality.

Effectiveness and efficiency – the safety of the fare paying passengers cannot be compromised. As CASA is funded by industry and the Australian taxpayer, it has a responsibility to ensure the efficient and effective use of resources. CASA must always be conscious of the potential adverse impact of organisational inefficiencies and must avoid any unnecessary cost implications for industry, while maintaining its strong focus on aviation safety.

Timeliness – I acknowledge the good work CASA has done recently to streamline its processes and require continued work to ensure approvals, authorisations, certificates and other responses are completed in a timely manner. Prompt attention to these matters is both highly desirable and conducive to building a stronger relationship with CASA’s stakeholders.
Accurate and timely advice to me as the Minister, on key aviation safety and regulatory issues, is also essential to ensure the Government is best placed to respond promptly to matters arising in the aviation industry.

Accountability – the reform of CASA will see the Agency directly accountable to me. This requires a strengthening in the corporate planning processes within CASA to ensure that programs are strategically focussed, integrated, achievable and subject to performance and financial indicators, which enable the Government and CASA’s stakeholders to clearly assess the degree of achievements against corporate targets.

Transparency – the setting of rules that maintain or enhance safety that are clear, concise and unambiguous is essential. Transparency in all CASA’s regulatory and management processes provides a good background for governance. The ability to uphold standards fairly, a meaningful and consultative approach to stakeholder interaction and an ability to deliver and measure results without compromise are essential to CASA’s transparency.

Independence -the reform of CASA will allow me to set policy directions and performance standards but remain at arms length from day-to-day operations, as is quite proper. CASA will continue to be able to carry out its enforcement activities independently, thereby building on procedural fairness while maintaining powers to take appropriate action.
It is your legislative responsibility to develop CASA’s objectives, strategies and policies and I expect you to formalise long-term plans consistent with the Government’s policy and bring them forward for approval in the context of the CASA Corporate Plan. Supporting this, I intend to negotiate with you a Performance Agreement covering the performance of CASA’s functions and the exercise of CASA’s powers as specified in the new legislation.

CASA plays an essential role in Australia’s participation in the activities of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Key to the contribution made by CASA is the responsibility that it accepts, within the overall portfolio effort, for a number of ICAO Annexes. This responsibility requires a commitment by CASA to the provision of technical expertise for ICAO Panels and other relevant activities. CASA is required to maintain its commitment under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department, Airservices Australia and CASA, to assist in administering Australia’s ICAO responsibilities.

It is important that Australia maintains the level and quality of its contribution to ICAO and the Government expects CASA to continue its commitment appropriate to its functions, in the national interest, and to assist CASA to keep fully abreast of international developments.

CASA must be fully responsive to Government policy directions and decisions. The recent reforms introduced by me in the Civil Aviation Act 1988, as amended, included a series of considered measures aimed at improving CASA’s accountability, enhancing their consultation with industry and building greater fairness, flexibility and strength into its enforcement processes. As the CEO, I look to you to ensure these outcomes are delivered.

In summary, I wish to see CASA demonstrate world’s best practice in the area of aviation safety regulation. In its daily dealings, CASA must exhibit those behavioural attributes of a good regulator including consistency, accountability, fairness, flexibility and efficiency. The CASA reform process must be taken forward to achieve the Government’s aim of a simple-to-follow regulatory system and a new and improved organisational culture. These objectives must be accompanied by explicit benchmarks and a capacity within CASA to demonstrate in a measurable and accountable way how and when these objectives will be met. This Charter Letter will be reviewed with you after six months and revised as necessary.

I am confident that the strategic direction I have provided will not only increase the safety of air navigation but assist CASA in becoming a highly respected and best practice regulator and I encourage all CASA personnel work together to achieve this shared vision.
Yours sincerely
John Anderson



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About Paul Phelan

Paul Phelan flew for over 50 years in private, charter, corporate and regional aviation, worked in senior management roles with a major regional airline, and retains his license. In parallel he has been writing for Australian and international aviation journals for well over 20 years on all aspects of aviation including aircraft evaluation, flying, industry affairs, infrastructure, manufacture, regulatory affairs, safety, technologies and training. He has won three separate National Aviation Press Club awards for "best technical aviation story of the year."

1 thought on “Not-so-great expectations?

  1. Frank Andrewartha

    With such an ongoing saga of the “song remaining the same”, it begs the question, maybe time for a new approach? By this I mean something completely new. From time to time there have been a few active groups in the community who have taken on CASA with varying results. The common denominator being that when CASA has it’s back up against the wall, they bunker down and not much happens.

    Governments don’t listen to individuals or single associations. They listen to Peak Bodies. A body that is an active representative association or council of associations that can authentically speak for an industry. this the aviation community (particularly GA/RAA/Manufacturers) have never had. To recover the industry’s fortunes there needs to be an organisation/council that is a real peak body with a cohesive agenda that can cover the areas of industry development and negotiate with the regulator to achieve the necessary outcomes. To deal with CASA it needs to be an industry organisation of comparable magnitude. In the absence of cooperation such an organisation can represent directly to the Minister.

    This is not a question of “doing battle with the regulator”. A collaborative and constructive relationship would be the desired outcome and there are many industries that have this kind of relationship with the government agencies. However to get to this point, a council of aviation associations may have to bulldoze their way in the front door at first.

    Without a cohesive council or peal body, we will just get more of the same song with maybe a few new cliches thrown in for window dressing.

    Anybody up for this? I am speaking as someone who has helped up a peak body and once you have one, you’ll be wondering how you got along without it. Even the industry regulator in my industry is on board.

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