Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Transport Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese yesterday committed the federal opposition to providing bipartisan support to the government for aviation reform.
Speaking to around 60 delegates and observers at the Australia General Aviation Alliance (AGAA) summit in Wagga Wagga, Albanese said he welcomed the tone of a speech given by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack on Monday, and said he was prepared to work with the government to bring about change.
However, Albanese stopped short of supporting changes to the Civil Aviation Act to remove the priority of safety, which the summit originally sought to have done.
"I am willing to support legislative reform that would explicitly recognise the regulatory arrangements," Albanese said, "whilst prioritising safety, also ensured that CASA must regard two things: the maintenance of a strong, efficient aviation industry including a viable general aviation and training sector; and secondly, the need to enable more people to benefit from civil aviation.
"These should be the next most important considerations."
"I've certainly got an open mind on these issues as long as safety is not compromised. I want to make it clear to everyone in this room that I take a bipartisan view to aviation safety."
Albanese told the gathering that he understood that regulations have presented the industry with challenges, and that there was opportunities for the government to make changes to allow growth in the sector.
"If we get the policy setting right, there is no doubt this industry has the potential to be a major source of new export dollars for Australia," he said.
"Australia's favourable weather, relatively uncongested skies and proximity to the booming economies of Asia are competitive advantages that put us in a strong position to become a training ground for the region's future pilots. We need to build a stronger general aviation industry so that we can grasp such opportunities.
"It comes down to a very simple idea, and that idea is partnership; a partnership between policymakers, regulators and the industry, one built on mutual respect and shared goals."
When questioned later, Albanese said that he would welcome the chance to co-operate with the government when dealing with the outcomes of the summit.
"I am committed to working closely with the minister, Michael McCormack, to ensure that the recommendations that come out of this conference for any changes that are required are dealt with in a bipartisan way, because aviation safety shouldn't be a partisan political issue, and I know that's a view shared by Minister McCormack."
The AGAA summit was held in Wagga Wagga over 9-10 July, and brought together over 30 industry associations. As well as McCormack and Albanese, the summit was also attended by CASA Group Manager - Stakeholder Engagement Rob Walker, International Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Secretary General Craig Spence, Senators Fraser Anning from Queensland and Slade Brockman from Western Australia, and Mayor of Wagga Wagga Greg Conkey.