CASA said its inspector numbers have only fallen by eight, from 151 to 143. But the union claimed a further 33 positions are vacant due to inspectors being taken off front-line duty through secondments, special projects and acting roles.
“CASA has refused to fill these positions and has informed staff it has no intention of filling them until an anticipated restructure has taken place,” said the union’s Australian government group director Dale Beasley.
History has shown repeatedly what happens when standards slip. We are on a slippery slope towards degraded safety standards.
Mr McCormack, who is also deputy prime minister, said in a statement he had “full confidence in CASA’s ability to perform its industry oversight obligations and ensure aviation safety.”
A CASA spokeswoman said the agency was in the process of “transforming the way we operate to provide more consistent and standardised safety oversight”, and was developing a new “oversight model” that would identify staff roles and capabilities.
One CASA inspector, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk about the organisation publicly, said the staff shortage was forcing inspectors to cut corners and adopt “box ticking” approach to safety checks.
“We’ve got a huge number of people in CASA who have zero faith in management and genuinely believe that we’re setting ourselves up for a catastrophic event,” he said.
“We set a high standard, but that’s what first world aviation safety requires.
“History has shown repeatedly what happens when standards slip. We are on a slippery slope towards degraded safety standards.”
The resourcing gaps meant CASA has been unable to carry out inspections of overseas maintenance facilities, and unacceptable delays , Mr Beasley said.
CASA’s latest corporate plan said it expected to run at a $3.4 million deficit in this financial year, and that it would try to balance its budget during “challenging” forward years.
CASA was to present a “detailed review” of its activities and funding requirements ahead of the government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, in a fortnight. CASA’s spokeswoman said this review was likely to be considered in the next federal budget.
Labor’s federal transport minister Catherine King said the union’s claims were “extremely concerning”, and Mr McCormack “must explain how he thinks this level of resourcing is sufficient to keep Australians safe.”
The government earlier this year amended the Civil Aviation Act so that CASA must now “consider the economic and cost impact on individuals, businesses and the community” of its safety regulation. This followed an outcry from smaller aviation operations who claimed they were being strangled by red tape.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.