• Outgoing Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield. (Steve Hitchen)
    Outgoing Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield. (Steve Hitchen)

Out-going Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield testified before senate estimates yesterday that he had been given no reason why he was not re-appointed to the role.

Harfield was responding to Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was pursuing a line of questioning about what appeared to be a confused transition of responsibility.

When asked if Minister Catherine King had given him reasons why his tenure was not to be extended, Harfield replied, "No, senator. We had a private conversation afterwards, but there wasn't the reasons [in the conversation]."

Harfield also testified that he had no reason to believe he would not be re-appointed for a third term.

"The expectation was that I was going for a third term," he said "I'm not sure what the minister's proposal was; it was more done through the chair, as the expectation was that it was going through the cabinet process, and sometimes there are delays in the cabinet process.

"I was given an extension of 90 days while it worked through cabinet."

Harfield's term expired on 8 March, and only the day before the Airservices board told him his term would be extended to 8 June. However, on 17 April, he was told cabinet had decided not to re-appoint him.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has declined to give reasons for Harfield not being re-appointed, citing "limitations around sharing information relating to cabinet processes".

According to Greens Spokesperson for Transport, Infrastructure and Sustainable Cities, Elizabeth Watson-Brown MP, Harfield was not reappointed because of pressure over noise complaints, particularly from Brisbane.

After Harfield departs at the end of next week, Chief Customer and External Relations Officer Peter Curran will become Acting CEO until a new permanent CEO is appointed.

The transition arrangements seemed to be confused after Curran referred to himself as "Interim CEO" in a letter to the estimates committee whilst Harfield was still within his 90-day extension period, leading Senator McKenzie to question the leadership handover process.

Airservices believes the search for a new CEO could take six to nine months.

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