• General aviation in Australia has long suffered from a high regulatory burden, which many believe has led to industry stagnation. (Steve Hitchen)
    General aviation in Australia has long suffered from a high regulatory burden, which many believe has led to industry stagnation. (Steve Hitchen)

Indications coming from Canberra are that the Federal Government may be investigating ways to reduce the burden of aviation regulation.

In a speech delivered to the Business Council of Australia on 2 October, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton outlined the Morrison government's agenda of deregulation designed to support economic recovery.

"To be clear, deregulation isn’t about getting rid of all regulation," Morton said. "It’s about getting rid of unnecessary, disproportionate, and inefficiently implemented regulation. It’s about the ease of doing business.

"Well designed, efficiently implemented regulation has always had a place in Australia. It is essential to good government, a safe community and a growing economy."

Morton also said that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet would establish a taskforce to ensure a consistent approach across all regulators.

"Regulators across the Government face varying issues and their stakeholders can be quite different," Morton said. "Nevertheless, there are a number of common issues regardless of the complexity of the regulatory framework or the stakeholder group.

"These include ensuring that their interactions with the community they regulate are clear and that they assist with compliance where appropriate."

In answering questions posed by Australian Flying, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) declined to specifically state that aviation would be included in the new deregulation agenda, but did say that all regulators in all industries would be involved.

"PM&C will work with all Government policy departments, providing a consistent and coordinated approach to how they share and embed improved regulator performance," a spokesperson said. "It will cover all Commonwealth regulators, across all sectors.

"The new function will focus on identifying and sharing best practice, ensuring transparency of expectations, and building capability."

However, the power to regulate aviation safety lies not with any governmental department, but in the hands the CASA Director of Aviation Safety (DAS), a safeguard against political interference. Consequently, any deregulation agenda put forward will need the co-operation of CASA for it to succeed.

The impact of the regulatory burden on general aviation was also recognised on 1 October, when the Federal Government published the issues paper The Future of Australia's Aviation Sector: Flying to Recovery. The paper focuses largely on airlines, but singles out GA as one area that stands to benefit from reduced regulation.

Citing the 2017 General Aviation Study conducted by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), the paper acknowleges the challenges faced by GA in Australia.

"Recent data from the General Aviation Survey shows stagnation in certain sectors such as private flying and sport and recreational aviation," the paper states. "However, other sectors, including aerial work, are experiencing periods of growth.

"The Study outlined key challenges facing the industry such as fluctuations in the cost and availability of [avgas] and maintenance of an ageing fixed-wing VH-registered fleet.

"Stakeholders ... suggest that improvements to safety regulation would increase prospects for the sector's growth,and that assistance to build a broader skill set in areas of business management could support increased viability."

The paper notes that the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport's General Aviation Advisory Network (GAAN) is already charged with identifying improvement opportunities in regulation and that the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) is conducting an inquiry in the GA industry.

"This Issues Paper is not proposing to duplicate these processes," the paper says. "However, stakeholders are welcome to put forward options to further enhance GA's contribution to the economy and the community."

The full issues paper is on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website.

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