It’s more than 24 hours since officials were boasting in Canberra circles that ‘we’ll ride this one out’ in reference to the damning Senate inquiry that made findings and recommendations concerning the ATSB’s disgraceful report into the 2009 crash of a Pel-Air jet near Norfolk Island.
It’s a full day since the chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, told Senate Estimates that it would not be until a scheduled meeting of commissioners on 24 July that “consideration” would be given to the results of the Senate inquiry.
That is monumental contempt from Mr Dolan for the Senate inquiry that found his standing as a witness seriously eroded by his misleading evidence in relation to the ICAO rules concerning the retrieval of flight data recorders from accident sites, something that the ATSB has refused to do on grounds of costs, even in a year when it was in budgetary surplus.
Why can’t the Minister, Anthony Albanese, or his departmental head, Mike Mrdak, order the ATSB to convene an immediate meeting of the commissioners to consider findings and recommendations that document or respond to a totally deficient air accident report issued by the ATSB, and the nastiness of Commonwealth authorities covering up the administrative failures of CASA to oversight an operator it subsequently audited as unsafe and scapegoat a pilot?
One of the problems in situations like this, where the actions of public authorities are called into question, is that Ministers in general rely on advice from the same departments that have the most to lose from revelations of maladministration.
The results and recommendations of the Senate inquiry point to serious deficiencies in the administration of air safety in Australia. Correcting them before an incident involving only six people who fortuitously escaped with their lives in the Pel-Air crash turns into something much worse, yet similarly avoidable, ought to be a priority for government, not an inconvenience, or an exercise in ‘riding this one out’.