• Rex Patrick of the Centre Alliance. (still from APH feed)
    Rex Patrick of the Centre Alliance. (still from APH feed)

A motion to disallow CASA's restrictions on community service flights was soundly defeated in the Senate last Thursday.

Moved by Centre Alliance's Senator Rex Patrick, the Coalition and the ALP combined to vote down the motion 29-12. Only the independent parties and Nationals Senator Susan McDonald voted in favour of the motion.

In his speech to the senate before the vote, Senator Patrick said the restrictions introduced by CASA earlier this year needed to be disallowed because they were part of a CASA agenda to destroy general aviation in Australia.

"The general aviation community knows that what is being done here is wrong," Patrick said. "We have a Senate committee that has recommended changes. I've asked for those changes to be made by CASA. I sat down with CASA and said, 'I will withdraw my disallowance if you simply accept the recommendations of the Senate committee.'

"These are recommendations that are grounded in the evidence that we took from the ATSB, from Angel Flight and from CASA. But, no, it's the modus operandi of CASA to shut down general aviation."

Senator Patrick stated that the restrictions had to potential to have a negative impact on regional communities that are already struggling.

"Shame on all the Nationals in this place if they vote against this—shame on anyone who cares about regional communities and the people that live in these regional communities—and make it that little bit harder for the people who live in those communities. They're already suffering from the fact we're removing, on a regular basis, services from those communities.

"A lot of them are doing it tough in relation to farming, and now we're going to make it just that more difficult by removing some of the very good people that volunteer their time to help and volunteer their aircraft just so that CASA can continue in its attempt to destroy general aviation."

ALP Senator Louise Pratt from WA rose to speak against the motion, claiming that Angel Flight missions needed to be subjected to the highest safety standards possible.

"We understand that community flight charities such as Angel Flight do indeed provide a valuable service to regional communities across Australia, and we pay credit to the organisation and the volunteers that give their time to help regional families who need to attend medical appointments in major centres," she said.

"We also very much respect the role of CASA as the independent civil aviation safety regulator. There's no doubt in our nation that our community has the expectation that CASA will establish and enforce a regulatory system that keeps all passengers, whether fare-paying or not, safe when they take to our skies.

The opposition take a bipartisan approach to aviation safety because we know that the community puts a very high premium on safety in our skies. We understand very much, however, the concerns raised by Angel Flight. It is also essential that we have the highest safety standards applied to these important flights."

Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham from SA stated that the government would not over-ride advice given to them by CASA.

"Passengers, whether they are fare-paying or not, are generally less able to determine the level of risk in the service they are boarding and rely on the regulator to ensure aviation safety is maintained. While acknowledging that CASA's instrument places additional requirements on pilots—largely around the recency of experience and overall experience—these measures are a practical approach to mitigating any flight risk.

"Since commencing on 19 March 2019, we are not aware that the instrument has resulted in a lack of availability of pilots or their aircraft for community service flights. Therefore, given our regulator's advice, the government does not support the disallowance motion before the Senate."

Only Senators from The Greens, Centre Alliance and One Nation supported the motion along with Senator McDonald.

All other National senators, plus traditional aviation supporters such as Senators Brockman, Fawcett and Sterle did not have their votes recorded or were absent from the senate when the vote was taken.

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