– Ken Cannane
It is of great credit to the participants of general aviation that safety levels have been sustained during continual transition to an unknown future not yet defined by governments, or the public service, that are still debating what is "general aviation".
Since the 1992 Productivity Commission's Intrastate Aviation paper, aviation, in particular general aviation, has been in transition. But transition to what?
Aviation, especially general aviation, has been unsympathetically treated by governments for decades and some changes that have been imposed on aviation were not based on survival or growth of the VH general aviation industry. You only have to look at how public service interprets recommendations from multiple reports that have been created over the last 30 years to understand the outcome we have today.
None of the reports generated by federal and state parliaments supported a blueprint that describes where and how general aviation participates and grows in the future. The political answers were, and are, competition and direct cost recovery from participants.
Like roads, airports are a means of transport servicing communities commercially and privately. Without airports, communities tend to wither and stagnate.
The significance of "Aviation" was officially removed from the federal department's title in 1987 when the departments of Transport, Aviation and Communication amalgamated to form the Department of Transport and Communications.
Creating an agency (CAA) in 1988 moved aviation outside political influence, but this also meant a loss of a previously politically-supported general aviation industry: design, manufacturing, maintenance, private and commercial operators.
The August 1990 Federal Budget announced that the $73 million contributed towards safety regulation would be phased out in favour of the costs being met by the aviation industry.
A list of the changes over the last 20 years demonstrates the instability of the governance.
No industry can grow when there is so much change in governance and administrative directions – all effect the capability of small and private businesses and individuals. What are the benefits to the community and the small private and commercial industry?
It is hard to imagine the future when there is no vision promulgated and politically supported. The biggest single problem with the government's Guide to Better Regulation is that the Regulatory Impact Statement [RIS] is based on there being a government policy.
If there is no policy for a future safe and viable general aviation industry, then all the RIS is creating is an undocumented policy problem to be changed.
The government's Guide to Better Regulation provides what was once an approach taken by the Authority and before the decision to include European provisions. "Light touch regulation" is defined as: As a policy maker, you can choose to be less prescriptive and give discretion to regulated parties on how they can act. Principles-based regulation allows for maximum flexibility among affected groups as to how they achieve compliance.
When politicians eventually support a future for general aviation, private and business aviation including design, manufacturing and education, then making regulatory changes to reduce regulation and red tape to support that vision would make sense.
Ken Cannane is the Executive Director of the Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Business Association (AMROBA). This article first appeared in the AMROBA newsletter of October 2018 and is reproduced here with permission.