The Australian Federal Government has just released its Aviation Industry Green Paper, the next step towards the creation of Australia's comprehensive and forwardlooking national aviation policy.
This follows the release of an Issues Paper in April 2008. The final step of the process - the White Paper - will be released in the second half of 2009.
The aim is to provide greater planning and investment certainty for the industry, maintain and improve Australia's excellent aviation safety record, and address the wider community and environmental impacts associated with air transport and airport development.
The 200+ page document discusses a range of initiatives for short, medium and long-term policy and regulatory reform. The four key principles of the Government's initiatives are safety, economic prosperity, consistency and coordination, and environmental responsibility.
Key proposals include:
- Establishing a small, independent Board for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
- Equipping CASA with the necessary legal powers to deal decisively with operations falling short of safety standards, by expanding its powers to investigate and obtain information.
- Evaluating CASA's penalty provisions to provide a balanced and effective range of responses to breaches. This may include substantially increasing penalties where it considers it is appropriate.
- Enhancing the independence of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as a safety investigation body by establishing it as a statutory agency within the Infrastructure portfolio.
- Pursuing air safety improvements in the region through targeted safety regulatory and air traffic management activities, including the implementation of the Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package and assistance to Papua New Guinea under the Strongim Gavman Program.
- Developing a strategic air traffic management plan.
- Retaining Airservices Australia as a fully Governmentowned, statutory authority, and establishing Airservices' National Operations Centre to deliver strategically coordinated air flow management.
- Developing a strategic Air Traffic Management Plan in consultation with industry.
- Delivering an updated Airspace Policy Statement under the Airspace Act 2007 (Cth) to improve airspace classification and administration in Australia.
- Improving coordination across Government agencies and consultation with industry on directions in air traffic policy.
- Implementing a new foreign airports visit program in 2008-09 involving cooperation with foreign governments on security arrangements.
- Reforming current passenger, carry-on and checked baggage screening arrangements.
- Introducing new screening technologies and techniques with due regard to privacy.
- Developing new complaint handling procedures in partnership with industry.
- Pursuing an agenda of liberalisation of international routes, albeit one which balances the economic interest with the perceived need to provide Australia's airlines with the opportunity to compete effectively.
- Maintaining the existing access arrangements to the trans-Pacific route between Australia and the United States to allow Virgin's new international carrier, V Australia, a reasonable opportunity to establish operations.
- Pursuing a comprehensive single air services agreement with the European Union to replace the existing bilateral agreements with 17 Member States, negotiations of which are underway.
- While retaining the basic restriction to 49% on foreign ownership of Australian international airlines, considering a removal of the intermediate caps under the Qantas Sale Act 1992 (Cth) of 25% on individual foreign airlines and 35% on aggregate foreign airline interests. This led to a swift announcement from Qantas and British Airways of their merged entity intentions.
- Establishing a joint government/industry national passenger facilitation committee, to develop a master plan for improvements to international passenger facilitation in the long term.
Consumer protection - disability access
- Establishing an Aviation Disability Access Working Group, composed of industry, government agencies and disability advocates, to provide advice on disability access policy and practical measures to improve access to air services by those with disabilities.
Airport infrastructure investment
- Acknowledging the need for greater airport infrastructure in Sydney, but declaring that the Government does not support building a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. The process to identify additional capacity for the Sydney region will be established once the Sydney Airport Corporation's Master Plan is completed. This will be further discussed in the White Paper in 2009.
- Improving the coordination and oversight of airport development and operations, including:
- Improving planning processes.
- Establishing community consultation groups for each major airport to foster effective community engagement in airport planning and operation issues.
- Ensuring development on airport land is not approved in isolation from state and local planning laws, and is better integrated with the surrounding transport and community infrastructure.
- Giving the Federal Minister the power to establish expert Airport Planning Advisory Panels to independently assess Master Plans and Major Development Plans.
- Requiring major airports to establish and fund permanent consultation groups so there is genuine engagement with the local community on planning and key operational issues.
- Insisting airport operators publicly disclose more information as part of the five year review of their master plans, including significant details about their development proposals.
- Prohibiting the construction of certain nonaeronautical facilities on airport land such as residential homes, aged care facilities, schools and hospitals.
- Finalising the design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), the national emissions trading scheme to apply from 2010.
- Investigating more appropriate roles for players in the industry (airlines, airport operators, governments, planning agencies and the community) in aircraft noise management and mitigation.
- Limiting the operation of noisy aircraft and phasing out marginally-compliant aircraft such as Boeing 727s.
- Considering industry-funded noise amelioration programs.
- Continuing to develop a noise-information network to ensure information on noise exposure patterns is readily available, building on initiatives such as the Transparent Noise Information Package (TNIP) and Airservices' new online flight path information tool, Westar.
- Working with the Council of Australian Governments and other appropriate forums to ensure a national land-use planning regime is put in place near airports and under flight paths to protect communities from excessive noise levels.
A period of public consultation will close on 27 February 2009. The National Aviation Policy Statement (White Paper) will then be released in the second half of 2009.
The Green Paper can be viewed at www.infrastructure.gov.au