Last week Warren Truss, the deputy PM and transport and infrastructure minister, did what his predecessor Labor’s Anthony Albanese, failed to do last year when he promised but never delivered a timely response to the Senate committee inquiry into the ATSB’s final investigative report concerning the the Pel-Air crash.

For the many new readers who are visiting Plane Talking, a Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet was performing an air ambulance contract to transfer a patient from Apia to Melbourne via a refueling stop at Norfolk Island in November 2009 when it was ditched in the sea , from which all six people on board were rescued against all the odds.

The quality of that report, and the suppression of documents that cast a very bad light on Australia’s air safety regulator, CASA, and its safety investigator, the ATSB, has become something of a cause in Australia’s aviation sector where both bodies are distrusted and held in contempt.

The Senate all party committee was unanimous in its criticism of both bodies but all of its substantive recommendations for strong corrective action were in effected ruled out by the new minister, who appears to be channeling his discredited predecessor, when he tabled the much delayed government response  to the committee’s findings.

The committee’s report and the new government’s response, can be found on this page.

The are some matters arising from the Pel-Air crash that require the Minister’s attention.

The Senate committee devoted a chapter of its report to its rejection of the integrity of the testimony given by the chief commissioner of the ASTSB, Martin Dolan, something that may be without precedent in the history of parliamentary scrutiny of the affairs and performance of a government agency.

Why is Mr Dolan trusted to head the ATSB when his word is not trusted by an all party committee of the Parliament of Australia?

Why is it the Coalition way to endorse what was the Labor way in the Pel-Air crash, and permit two statutory authorities to rig an air crash investigation so that evidence that showed CASA was incompetent was disregarded and evidence that implicated the regulator and the operator subordinated to the purpose of apportioning all of the blame on the captain of the flight.

It’s one thing for Labor to treat individual rights with contempt when it comes to the  misconduct of powerful public authorities.  But does this make it right for the Coalition to do the same thing?

Why is it that the Coalition position that the ATSB report, which failed to deal with the lack of regulatory oversight of the operator, or the suitability of the aircraft for the purpose, or the lack of appropriate regulations concerning the conduct and fueling of such operations, should nevertheless be allowed to stand?

Why is the government tolerating a so called independent review of the ATSB’s investigative processes by its Canadian counterpart that is so restrictive in its terms that not all the parties to that inquiry are being asked to participate in what seems to be a desk audit?

Is the government a party to suppressing documents highly critical of CASA that have been submitted to its Aviation Safety Regulation Review?

When a government that models itself on the Westminster system invites submissions to a statutory inquiry and publishes them they are protected by legal privileges.

Can the Minister assure the aviation industry that their ‘suppressed’ submissions are also privileged in the event that these detailed allegations and observations made about CASA are independently made public?

These are important questions. For the public accountability of Government and Public Administration as well as the safety of aviation.

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