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External scrutiny

As a Commonwealth statutory authority, CASA is subject to scrutiny by the Australian Parliament. CASA’s activities may be subject to investigation or consideration by administrative agencies or the courts. In addition, CASA receives informal feedback on its performance through media coverage and complaints from industry or members of the public.

CASA welcomes external scrutiny as a means to confirm what it is doing well, and to identify ways to better meet its obligations and achieve its vision of Safe skies for all.

Parliamentary accountability

On 22 February 2019 and 4 April 2019, CASA appeared at the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Budget Estimates hearings. Issues raised at the hearings included:

  • in February – regulations, changes to safety standards for community service flights, and remotely piloted aircraft systems
  • in April – the decision by the Federal Court to not grant Angel Flight’s application for a stay of the CASA legislative instrument for community service flights.

On 19 November 2018, CASA appeared before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee and discussed matters relating to aviation medical standards, CASR Part 149 and Recreational Aviation Australia, and CASA’s stakeholder engagement survey.

On 13 March 2019, CASA appeared before the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism inquiry into drone delivery systems in the Australian Capital Territory and provided evidence regarding CASR Part 101 and CASA’s approval process for Wing Aviation Pty Ltd’s ‘Project Wing’ to conduct drone delivery trials.

On 14 March 2019, CASA provided evidence to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee inquiry into the provision of rescue, firefighting and emergency response at Australian airports.

On 1 April 2019, CASA appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiries relating to the air services agreements between the Australian Government and the governments of Thailand, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

During the reporting period, CASA responded to five questions on notice and provided input on a question on notice addressed to the portfolio.

Regulator Performance Framework

Consistent with the requirements of the Government’s Regulator Performance Framework, CASA established an external performance validation panel in June 2016. The panel provides CASA with advice on its performance targets as outlined in CASA’s corporate plan.

The panel comprises a representative from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, a representative from a comparable regulator (the Australian Maritime Safety Authority), a CASA representative and four industry representatives.

In support of the CASA Board, the role of the panel is to:

  • assess the appropriateness of, and monitor, key performance measures for CASA
  • review the relevance of the evidence used to support the performance measures
  • monitor the appropriateness of the regulatory service standards and the measurement of performance against those standards.

The external performance validation panel met on 13 November 2018 and 19 March 2019 in addition to providing written advice and comments.

In accordance with the Regulator Performance Framework, CASA prepared a self-assessment report on its performance for 2017–18 in December 2018. The report was provided to the panel for review before it was submitted to the Minister in early 2019. The report is available on CASA’s website.

CASA will provide its 2018–19 self-assessment report to the Minister separately from this annual report.

Judicial decisions

CASA was a party to one finalised matter before the Federal Court of Australia in 2018–19.

On 23 April 2019, CASA applied to the Federal Court pursuant to section 30DE of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 for prohibition orders affecting the aviation activities of Skymuster Helicopters Pty Ltd (Skymuster) and the individual who was the operator’s Chief Pilot and Managing Director.

In a judgement handed down on 2 May 2019 in the matter of Civil Aviation Safety Authority v Skymuster Helicopters Pty Ltd [2019] FCA 615, Justice Griffiths granted CASA’s application by consent, prohibiting Skymuster and the Chief Pilot from doing anything that was otherwise authorised by their various aviation authorisations for a period of 15 days.

Although both respondents consented to the orders, the Federal Court was only able to grant CASA’s application upon being satisfied that both respondents had engaged in, were engaging in, or were likely to engage in conduct that constitutes, contributes to or results in a serious and imminent risk to air safety.

Justice Griffiths set out his reasons for being so satisfied based upon evidence gathered by CASA depicting operations conducted by the Chief Pilot and Skymuster in a Robinson R44 helicopter at the Haggerstone Island Resort in North Queensland on 10 April 2019.

The prohibition period of 15 days was granted to allow CASA a further period of time in which to complete its investigation into the circumstances of that flight.

In the wake of the Federal Court judgement, Skymuster and its Chief Pilot agreed to a number of remedial actions to address CASA’s safety concerns.

CASA’s legal costs for 2018–19 are outlined in Table B.17 in Appendix B.

Coronial inquiries

Coroners investigate deaths, identify other injuries and make recommendations that may prevent deaths and non-fatal injuries.

Coroners’ findings vary from brief descriptions about the place of death, the identity of the deceased and the cause of death through to detailed descriptions of the circumstances leading to the death and detailed recommendations about what might be done to prevent similar deaths and injuries in the future. Recommendations of this kind may deal with CASA’s regulatory administration of aviation safety.

CASA participated in three coronial inquests in 2018–19. Coronial findings have been handed down in only one of those matters. In that matter, the coroner made a number of recommendations to CASA concerning aviation medical certification of pilots. Table 11 provides details of CASA’s response to the coronial recommendations.

Table B.11 in Appendix B shows the numbers of coronial inquiries that involved CASA in each year from 2014–15 to 2018–19.

Table 11 CASA’s response to coronial recommendations, 2018–19


Paul Whyte – Crash of Cessna 172 (pilot suicide)



Date of findings

30 November 2018

Recommendations for CASA

  1. That CASA give consideration to seeking an amendment of the indemnity currently provided in regulation 67.140 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) to provide indemnification for a wider range of good faith reporting in relation to medical fitness by a broader range of persons.
  2. That CASA undertake to liaise with the Commonwealth Minister for Human Services to determine whether there is a basis upon which it can appropriately share Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescribing information and Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) information relating to persons who apply for the issue of a medical certificate under Part 67 of the CASR.

CASA response

  1. CASA accepts this recommendation. At the next opportunity where amendments are planned to Part 67 of the CASR, consideration will be given to public consultation on appropriate amendments to broaden the reach of the current indemnity contained in regulation 67.140.
  2. After further reflection upon this recommendation, CASA does not propose to undertake the suggested liaison with the Minister for Human Services. In coming to this decision, CASA has been provided with a copy of the correspondence which passed between the Department of Human Services and the Coroner’s Court in October 2018 in relation to this proposal.

That letter identifies the secrecy provisions contained in the National Health Act 1953 and the Health Insurance Act 1973 pertaining to the release of PBS and MBS information. CASA has also reviewed the terms of those relevant provisions.

Having regard to the sensitive personal nature of PBS and MBS information, and the extensive scope of the applicable secrecy provisions, CASA considers that it is unlikely that broad-based sharing of such information with CASA could be easily facilitated without legislative amendment.

On that basis, and taking into account the small number of matters in which CASA routinely determines that access to PBS or MBS information would assist in its medical certification decision-making, CASA considers that its present protocols for requiring medical certificate applicants to authorise CASA to have access to their PBS and MBS information in appropriate cases provides the most efficient means of managing any risks associated with non-reporting of prescription medication use.

CASA notes in this regard that recent technological advances, including the development of the myGov account and associated mobile device application, have further enhanced the ease and timeliness with which such information can be supplied in identified cases.

Administrative scrutiny


During 2018–19, CASA was not the subject of any reports by the Australian Information Commissioner or the Auditor-General (other than the audit of CASA’s financial statements).


One investigation involving CASA was initiated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman in 2018–19. It involved CASA’s review of a medical certificate application. In May 2019, the Ombudsman’s Office advised that further investigation was not warranted and that it had closed the complaint file.

Reviews of regulatory decisions

Certain types of regulatory decisions made by CASA are subject to merits review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Merits review involves the reconsideration of an administrative decision. On the facts before it, the tribunal decides whether the correct decision (or, where an exercise of discretion was involved, the preferable decision) has been made in accordance with the applicable law.

A person who is the subject of a CASA decision may apply directly to the Federal Court for a review of the decision under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In some cases, a decision of the AAT may be reviewed in the Federal Court.

Tables B.8 to B.10 in Appendix B provide details of AAT merits reviews of CASA regulatory decisions, the categories of CASA decisions appealed in the AAT, and applications to the Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions.


Complaints-handling mechanisms

The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) provides an accessible and transparent mechanism for receiving and reviewing complaints about the actions, decisions and services provided by CASA staff, delegates and authorised persons.

Reporting to CASA’s Board, the ICC considers complaints to establish whether CASA’s administrative actions were wrong, unjust, unlawful, discriminatory or unfair.

Governance arrangements support the ICC complaints-handling process and set out how identified deficiencies in CASA’s processes and procedures are identified and resolved. The governance arrangements are periodically reviewed and were last updated in April 2019.

Complaints in 2018–19

In 2018–19, the ICC resolved 148 complaints (including cases on hand at 1 July 2018), 120 of which were classified as either ‘standard’ or ‘complex’.

Figure 13 shows the business groups within CASA about which complaints were made in 2018–19.

Figure 14 shows the categories into which complaints fell, for each year from 2014–15 to 2018–19. Multiple complaints made by two individuals about actions by CASA staff led to a significant increase in that category in 2018–19.

Figure 13 Standard and complex complaints resolved, by business group, 2018–19

Figure 13Standard and complex complaints resolved, by business group, 2018-19
Standard and complex complaints resolved by business group 2018-19

Figure 14 Resolved complaints, by category, 2014–15 to 2018–1

Figure 14resolved complatins by category, 2014-15 to 2018-19
Resolved complaints, by category, 2014–15 to 2018–19
Note: Results for 2014–15 to 2016–17 are for total complaints; results for 2017–18 and 2018–19 are for ‘standard’ and ‘complex’ complaints only.

Processing of complaints

The ICC aims to finalise 100 per cent of ‘simple’ complaints – complaints that are clearly outside the ICC’s jurisdiction, or not related to CASA – within five business days.

For ‘standard’ cases, which represent the majority of cases received, the ICC aims to finalise 90 per cent of complaints within 30 business days. For ‘complex’ cases, which require expert advice, relate to novel issues or present a wide range of questions, the ICC aims to finalise 90 per cent of complaints within 90 business days.

In 2018–19, the ICC resolved:

  • 100 per cent of the 28 simple cases within five days (average 1.1 days)
  • 93 per cent of the 94 standard cases within 30 days (average 14.4 days)
  • 65 per cent of the 26 complex cases within 90 days (average 71.0 days).

Complaint prevention strategies

The ICC has the power to make recommendations to CASA about individual cases and systemic issues. In 2018–19, the ICC made 14 recommendations, of which 13 were accepted by CASA and one is still under consideration. Recommendations are made with the aim of reducing future complaints and ensuring best practice.

The ICC recommendations made in 2018–19 included providing record-keeping training; resuming an application that had been suspended and was ultimately declined; apologising for breaching privacy and for providing inaccurate information; providing partial refunds for regulatory service tasks; and documenting work processes to ensure consistency.

Other strategies in 2018–19 included the internal publication of anonymised outcomes to highlight the ICC’s work and common complaint pitfalls to be avoided.