SAFESKIES 2015—Theme: Training for Change



23 September 2015

Hotel Realm, Canberra

Thank you for the warm welcome Doug [Nancarrow, Executive Chairman, Safeskies].

Thank you also to the Safeskies Executive Board and, of course, to President Emeritus, Peter Lloyd, for the invitation to open this year's conference.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Chief of Air Force, Leo Davies
  • The Director of Aviation Safety, Mark Skidmore
  • Acting Chief Executive of Airservices, Jason Harfield, and
  • my departmental secretary, Mike Mrdak

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our distinguished overseas guests…

  • Prof Patrick Hudson from the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology
  • Gerard Forlin, QC from the United Kingdom
  • Dr John Huddleston from Coventry University
  • Lars Fucke (FEWKE), from Boeing Research and Technology based in Madrid and
  • Capt Henry Donohoe, from Emirates.

SAFESKIES' biennial conferences bring together government, industry, defence, and local and overseas aviation sector experts to exchange ideas about how to ensure Australia and our region can continue to achieve high standards of aviation safety and efficiency while meeting the forecast growth in demand.

This year's theme: Training for Change, is particularly apt.

A key factor in ensuring that the aviation industry meets this future traffic demand will be ensuring that we have the required numbers of trained aviation and skilled personnel.

On-going changes and advances in safety, efficiency and capacity in our region will require that we must continue to foster a skilled, efficient and flexible workforce able to interface with rapidly advancing technology.

The Aviation Environment

We all recognise that aviation is critical to our nation's future development and economic growth.

In 2014, Australia's aviation industry employed 56,600 people in Australia directly and in 2013–14, contributed over $7 billion to the Australian economy.

Domestic and international passenger movements through Australia's major airports are expected to increase by 3.7 per cent a year to 2030–31, reaching over 279 million passenger movements compared with 147 million last year.

Over the last few decades, the volume of freight flown into and out of Australia has also more than doubled and is expected to continue to grow.

However after an unprecedented growth period driven by the resources sector we are now seeing more challenging times for regional aviation.

The fall in commodity prices and the mining industry's transition to the operational phase of production has seen some downturns in some regional market sectors.

But there are opportunities as well.

Our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to be the fastest growing countries in the world over the next decade.

And as the Australian dollar falls, we can also expect more Australians to consider taking their holidays locally—with potential benefits for regional airports servicing local economies with a tourism focus.

The latest travel statistics bear these observations out with double-digit declines in passenger numbers to mining towns like Moranbah and Karratha, but traffic at Uluru increasing nearly 30 per cent in the year ended June 2015 and traffic at Proserpine/Whitsundays Airport increasing nearly 15 per cent.

The Government is committed to reinvigorating our regions and building better connections between our regions and our cities, and the world.

Most importantly for the regional tourism industry we are committed to developing northern Australia.

The White Paper on Developing Northern Australia focuses on building transport and water infrastructure, attracting more investment, reducing red tape to encourage business and supporting the economic development of Indigenous areas.

Shortly I will be announcing the membership of the Government's Business Stakeholder Group, a commitment from the White Paper, which will work on a plan to improve transport connections in Northern Australia, by land, sea and air to better integrate the north with ASEAN trading partners and the region.

It is within this aviation environment that Australia and the region must plan ahead to ensure we have the trained personnel, infrastructure and services to meet future demand.

Government Aviation Initiatives

Aviation Safety Regulation Review

Given the speed of change and growth in the global and domestic aviation industries, our aviation safety regulatory systems and our training programs must adapt to ensure high standards of safety and efficiency are maintained.

The Aviation Safety Regulation Review was commissioned by the Government shortly after coming to office to overview our aviation safety regulatory system.

The review was conducted by an independent panel of international aviation experts led by Mr David Forsyth, formerly a senior manager with Qantas and Chair of Airservices Australia.

The Review Report acknowledged Australia's excellent aviation safety record but found there were opportunities for improvements to ensure we remain a safe, leading aviation nation.

The Government agreed to 32 of the Report's 37 recommendations and agreed to undertake a more detailed examination of a further four.

The recommendations cover a number of keys areas including CASA's regulatory philosophy, processes and relationship with industry, and a future regulatory framework and reform programme.

Enhancements to governance arrangements, improvements to interactions between key agencies and a stronger policy role for my department were also recommended and agreed to by the Government.

Earlier this year I issued Australia's three key aviation agencies—CASA, Airservices and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau—with new Statements of Expectations.

These statements outline in a clear and public way the Government's expectations of these agencies over the next two years including the timely implementation of the Government's response to the Review Report.

Implementation of the Government's response is well underway and in addition, the Government has expanded the CASA Board by a further two members to bring relevant technical, operation and aviation experience to the Board.

Since the last SAFESKIES conference in 2013, the Government has welcomed Mark Skidmore as the new Director of Aviation Safety and more recently, Jeff Boyd as the new Chair of the CASA Board.

As recommended in the Review, the Government also appointed an additional Commissioner, with extensive aviation experience to the ATSB in Chris Manning.

Aviation industry Consultative Council

A key theme arising out of the Review Report was the need for better consultation with the aviation industry.

With this in mind, I have established the Aviation Industry Consultative Council (AICC), as a forum for direct discussion between myself and industry on current and emerging aviation issues, including aviation safety matters.

The AICC, which has now had two successful meetings, includes 20 industry participants and I believe is making a valuable contribution to identifying areas for improvement and opening up lines of communication.

It provides a vital opportunity for a broad cross section of the aviation industry to have a voice at the heart of Government, and to discuss the high level strategic issues facing the sector.

The AICC has agreed to establish a General Aviation Action Group to pick up on the work of the Howard Government to provide an opportunity for GA participants to work collaboratively to respond to pressures facing the industry and identify reform opportunities.

Cutting red tape for the aviation sector

While aviation safety remains the highest priority, the Government is committed to cutting red tape for the aviation industry through the whole of Government deregulation agenda.

This agenda aims to reduce unnecessary costs on individuals, businesses and community organisations across Australia.

I welcome the initiative by CASA's Director of Aviation Safety, Mark Skidmore to encourage industry to come forward with specific areas where current regulatory practices and procedures could be improved or replaced.

Mark has adopted a very collaborative and collegial leadership style and has demonstrated his commitment to working with industry to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry while ensuring we live up to CASA's paramount consideration, and their vision, of Safe Skies for All.

I would encourage industry to continue to work actively, cooperatively and positively to take forward regulatory reform with our Government agencies.

Airspace and air traffic management

The Government is also committed to the continued development and implementation of a safe and efficient airspace system that best meets Australia's current and future air traffic needs.

The new Australian Airspace Policy Statement which commenced in July 2015 outlines the Government's key airspace policy objectives and strategies to assist CASA in undertaking its statutory role as Australia's airspace regulator.

The Statement facilitates the adoption of international best practice and the wider application of satellite-based technology such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast, or as it is commonly known ADS-B.

Australia has become an early adopter of ADS-B, given the significant benefits it brings to vast parts of the continent that for too long have had no surveillance coverage.

ADS-B is a more accurate, safer and efficient satellite-based communications, navigation and surveillance system.

Airservices' ADS-B network now totals 74 ground stations across Australia and the network is the first in the world to achieve comprehensive, continent-wide ADS-B capability.

CASA has mandated ADS-B equipment in all Instrument Flight Rule aircraft flying in Australian airspace, at all altitudes, by February 2017.

As ADS-B regulatory mandates draw near, CASA and Airservices will work closely with all industry sectors in the implementation of this important safety initiative.

Aircraft Tracking: Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Contract

Australia is also leading the world in improving aircraft tracking, particularly over oceanic routes. 

This work commenced after the loss of Malaysia Airline flight MH370, the search for which continues in Australia's search and rescue zone off the coast of Western Australia.

Following a trial that began in late January 2015, Airservices air traffic controllers are now able to monitor international aircraft flying in Australian airspace via updates every 14 minutes using satellite-based position technology—Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Contract or  ADS-C and observation can be increased to real time if required.

This ensures more accurate and timely information about flights in our airspace and allows controllers to observe and react to any unusual flight behaviors and notify search and rescue agencies earlier if necessary.

Airservices will continue to work with the international aviation community on long-term solutions to the monitoring of aircraft in oceanic airspace.

Training for Change

As I acknowledged earlier, it is vital that all those working in the aviation industry have the necessary skills and qualifications to ensure the industry meets future growth and demand without compromising safety.

The Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council has identified a range of aviation specific workforce development needs and challenges including high demand for aeroplane pilots and poaching due to strong growth in Asia and the Middle East.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has identified that in the next 20 years airlines will need an additional 25,000 new aircraft to meet demand.

As a result, by 2026 we will need 350,000 new pilots and 28,000 new technicians to maintain these aircraft.

Aviation Workforce Skills Study

In this global context, we need to better understand the current challenges and future workforce needs of Australia's diverse aviation industry.

This is why I have commissioned an Aviation Workforce Skills Study.

The Study will help both Government and industry better understand the future needs of the Australia's aviation workforce, so that Government and industry can together ensure the arrangements for future skills development are fit for purpose.

The AICC has been providing input for the parameters of the study and my Department has engaged the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council to lead this work.

Following close engagement with industry, I expect the study to be complete at the beginning of next year.

This study will be an important step in ensuring that we have the skills needed for the future, but also help identify the great opportunities that Australia has for growth and employment in the aviation sector in areas like flight training.


OneSKY Project

From 2018, Australia will commence the transition to a nationally integrated civil and military air traffic management system under the ‘OneSKY’ project.

OneSKY will ensure Australian aviation remains at the forefront of technologically advanced air traffic management enhancing safety, efficiency and capacity outcomes.

A significant milestone in this project was reached in February 2015 when Airservices, in partnership with the Department of Defence, entered into an advanced works contract with Thales Australia for the first step in the delivery of the One Sky initiative.

In July 2015, Airservices further announced the signing of the initial contracts for the design and build of the software system.

Second Sydney Airport

No aviation conference can be complete at the moment without mention of the Western Sydney airport project.

This project is significant both as a catalyst for economic growth in Western Sydney, and as an opportunity to build a piece of infrastructure that takes into account recent and future change in civil aviation.

We expect this to be a privately operated airport and the commercial viability of the project is important to the Australian Government.

No major greenfield airport has been built in Australia since Federal airports were privatised in the 1990s. The proposed airport would therefore be the first to be developed since we have had a market-based approach to airport investment.

With evolving and emerging technology in the aviation industry spurring changes from passenger experience to aviation safety,

it could be the first major airport in Australia designed—not retrofitted—to take account of how we will travel in the future.

The right technology would ensure that from day one a Western Sydney airport would be capable of handling a range of domestic and international aircraft, with the ability to grow and handle more aircraft movements without hindering the airport's operations.

Coupled with technological advances that mean newer aircraft are safer and quieter than previous models, we also have more scope to manage and mitigate the environmental impacts of a Western Sydney airport than might be the case with existing airports.

These commercial, regulatory, technical and environmental considerations are being factored into the Government's detailed planning for an airport.

The Government understands the importance of informing and involving the community, airlines and the broader aviation industry in this process.

Next month, the Government will release a draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft Airport Plan for the proposed Western Sydney airport.

I encourage the community and the aviation industry to take this opportunity to review the plan and provide comments.


It is pure common sense that government agencies and members of the aviation industry must work together to ensure we continue to deliver high standards of aviation safety while enhancing efficiency and capacity to meet future traffic demand.

We want to ensure safe skies for all and a key part of this work will be to ensure aviation professionals are appropriately trained to meet the challenges of a changing aviation environment including the wider application of advanced technology.

Thank you….and I wish you all a successful conference.