The Australian Senate is currently debating the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 2019, which presents a small but significant change to the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth).

With both the Government and opposition supporting the civil aviation amendment, it appears very likely that the Bill will pass.

Section 9A of the Act currently reads that when exercising its functions, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) must regard the safety of air navigation as its “most important consideration”.

It also reads that CASA must exercise its powers in a way to ensure that, as far as is practicable, the environment is protected from the effects of using aircraft.

The 2019 amendment adds a new subsection, saying that when CASA develops aviation safety standards, it must take into account:

• The standards’ economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community; and

• The differing risks associated with different industry sectors.

Civil Aviation Amendment Bill to help CASA “keep pace with the industry it regulates”

The amendment arises in response to the general aviation sector’s concerns that CASA’s strong safety focus has caused over-regulation.

In the Bill’s Second Reading Speech, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

A strong aviation industry requires continuous improvement in the regulatory system which governs it. While Australia has an enviable record in aviation safety—built on a modern regulatory framework—any regulator must continue to keep pace with the industry it regulates.

Some sectors of the general aviation industry are seeking stronger assurances that [CASA] takes into consideration the economic and cost impacts on industry, and the relative risk environment in the different aviation sectors, when developing new aviation safety standards …

The Civil Aviation Safety Amendment Bill 2019—the bill—is in direct response to the concerns raised by the general aviation industry.

The Australian Greens spoke against the Bill, saying that CASA should not be the body responsible for taking into account the economic and social costs of safety standards. They argued CASA should only make its recommendations on safety grounds.

“It should not be the remit of CASA to be making those political judgments”, Greens Senator Janet Rice said. Ms Rice said such issues should be left to Parliament.

Nevertheless, the Government insisted that there is “no watering down of CASA’s primary objective, which is to keep Australians safe in the air”.