Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese told the House of Representative on Wednesday that the government's bill to amend the Civil Aviation Act 1988 didn't go far enough.
During the second reading of the bill, Albanese said that, although he supported the amendments, a Labor government would have made more significant changes.
"When it comes to issues of aviation, we have tried to ensure as much bipartisanship as possible," he said. "What that requires is a bit of compromise and perhaps not getting everything that you want–indeed, this legislation, the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 2019, doesn't go as far as Labor would go if we were the government. But it is an important step forward."
Albanese singled out the general aviation community, saying that the parliament could do a lot to reduce red tape and the burden of regulation applied to that sector.
"Of course there is no margin for error when it comes to aviation safety. It's that simple," he continued. "Another responsibility of the parliament is, of course, the need to avoid unnecessary red tape getting in the way of business activity. Business drives economic growth. It creates jobs and supports our standard of living. Aviation is an important business, particularly in regional communities.
"What this legislation does is go to the issue of general aviation. There has been a lot of concern from operators of general aviation about the regulatory burden that is placed upon them.
"There was a very successful conference held in Wagga Wagga, in the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister, and I had the opportunity to speak and engage with the sector there. This legislation that's before the parliament now arose out of some of the recommendations from that conference. It doesn't go as far as some would like, but I believe it is certainly a step forward, balancing the need to protect the traveling public and, of course, the desirability of ensuring that economic activity can occur."
The shadow minister also reinforced to the house his position that safety must remain the primary consideration, whilst recognising the concerns of the general aviation community.
"In recent times, a section of the general aviation sector has expressed concern that CASA's strong focus on safety has created a situation where the sector is over-regulated. There has been a push for legislative recognition in the Civil Aviation Act that CASA should not consider just safety, but also the effect of safety regulation on businesses.
"We must recognise that regulators, as well as the minister, face intense pressures in bearing the responsibility for aviation safety, and I certainly felt it when I was the minister. I know from discussions with Minister McCormack that he had considered these matters very carefully before bringing forward this legislation."
Coalition MP David Littleproud, Member for Maranoa in Queensland's south-central region, also spoke in support of the bill, saying he believed the bill would provide for growth in the aviation community without compromising safety.
"This bill is designed to support a regulatory environment which continues to maintain confidence in the safety of aviation in Australia without unnecessarily restricting innovation and growth. It is important to note that this bill is not intended to, and would not in any way, impede CASA's ability to make operational decisions in relation to safety.
"CASA must be allowed to ensure aviation in Australia is safe and reliable."
The bill has now passed the House of Representative and will be sent to the Senate.