The Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese was caught out on 7 News tonight in a report by Chris Reason on the festering sore that is the proven hush up by CASA and the ATSB of all of the circumstances that were relevant to the crash of a Pel-Air operated air ambulance flight near Norfolk Island in 2009.
Albanese said he was unable to take action over a damning Senate committee report on lies and deceits of Australia’s two air safety authorities because parliament went into caretaker mode.
Minister, this is total unmitigated rubbish. Caretaker mode began on 5 August.
On 29 May after consultation with your department Plane Talking published this story as to the urgency with which you and your departmental head Mike Mrdak were claimed to be responding to the unanimous report of the Senate Committee inquiry into aviation safety investigations with particular reference to the performance of the ATSB (the safety investigator) and CASA (the safety regulator).
At that inquiry the Director of Safety at CASA, John McCormick, admitted to withholding an internal audit by CASA that found that the accident was preventable if CASA had actually carried out its duties and obligations in law in relation to the oversight of Pel-Air.
Mr McCormick also apologised for his actions, which the committee has referred to the Australian Federal Police to resolve whether or not it was action that constituted an offence under the Transport Safety Investigations Act of 2003. (If the words in the act mean what they say, McCormick broke the law.)
The committee went on to devote an entire chapter of its report into its lack of confidence in the testimony given by the chief commissioner for the ATSB, Martin Dolan. The committee’s findings, made by a panel drawn from Labor, the Coalition and the Greens, was unanimous in its findings.
It also recommended, among other things, that the ATSB reconsider its final accident report and in the process retrieve the data recorder from the wreckage of the jet, which lies at a recoverable depth on the sea floor near Norfolk Island where it came to rest after being ditched immediately before it ran out of fuel. (All six persons on board were subsequently rescued by a fishing boat in the middle of the night).
The ATSB has deliberately chosen not to recover the data, which carries the distinct possibility of proving that the pilot did not receive correct meteorological information before flying the jet to a position where it could no longer divert to an alternative airport in Noumea or Fiji should it be unable to land at Norfolk Island for a refueling stop.
The ASTSB failed to honor its international obligations to make safety recommendations in relation to the failure on board the ditched jet of all of the safety equipment to perform as intended. It regarded the eventual discovery that CASA had found Pel-Air to be in breach of dozens of safety requirements at the time of the crash as ‘immaterial’, and it framed its final report to visit the entire blame for the accident on the captain Dominic James, who was central to the 7 News report, which should be readily found by a search query on the internet later tonight.
As Mick Quinn, the former deputy chief executive officer of CASA told Chris Reason on 7 News tonight, this corrupted and untruthful circus performance by the safety bodies in relation to the Pel-Air investigation has destroyed Australia’s reputation as a first class nation when it comes to the administration of air safety.
Minister, you are personally responsible for this. You allowed commitments to be made on your behalf, which were not honoured, and you have demonstrated contempt for the Senate of Australia by not responding to the committee’s recommendations within 90 days.
This means you have not acted in a timely manner to correct or restore the integrity of the aviation safety authorities, and that means the safety of Australian air travellers, and those of foreign airlines and their passengers using our air space and airports, is no longer a given.
On 30 May Plane Talking reported on the intention of the department of Infrastructure and Transport to ‘ride out’ the controversy over the disgraceful report issed by the ATSB into this accident.
Minister, surely you are not a party to ‘riding out’ critically important air safety issues? The world is unlikely to let Australia get away with such a poor attitude, as explained in this more recent report.
If the Minister can say so during caretaker mode, what was he thinking when he gave his misleading answer about his inability to repond to these matters in the Chris Reason interview?
Was it amnesia? Or did he think no one would notice that what was broadcast night night was in conflict with his position at the end of May?