Statement - Infrasturcture and Communications Committee

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10.15 am)—On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications I wish to make a statement updating the House on the committee’s current work and inquiries. In my capacity of Chair of the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, and in accordance with standing order 39(a), it is my intention to provide the House with a further update on the current activities of the committee. Members may recall that, on 28 February, I provided some information to the House on the committee’s work, in particular, at that point in time, the committee’s inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network. I will come back and give some further update on that particular inquiry shortly.

However, I also want to provide to the House some information on further inquiries that the committee is currently working on. On 3 March, after a request from Minister Albanese, the committee agreed to inquire into the ratio of cabin crews to passengers on Australian aircraft. The minister invited the committee to report on this matter by the middle of the year. By way of background, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is currently considering a regulatory proposal that addresses the assignment of cabin crew members to aircraft that require carriage of cabin crew. Under the current arrangements, operators of Australian domestic aircraft carrying more than 15 but not more than 216 passengers are required to carry at least one cabin crew member for each 36 passengers or part thereof—that is, a ratio of one to 36.

Since 2006 the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has permitted a number of Australian operators to operate certain aircraft with a ratio of one cabin crew member to a maximum of 50 passenger seats. CASA has proposed to implement the one-to-50 cabin crew to passenger seat ratio for aircraft configurations of between 20 and 216 passengers, with the gaining of approval conditional upon an operator having in place a CASA approved safety management risk plan. The committee has therefore been asked by the minister to inquire into five aspects of this and to report to the minister: firstly, the current aviation safety regulatory system for aircraft operators in relation to the application of the cabin crew to passenger ratio, including current exemption provisions; secondly, the role of cabin crew in managing both passenger safety and security; thirdly, the factors that determine the cabin crew to passenger ratio; fourthly, domestic and international practice in respect of cabin crew to passenger ratios; and, finally, measures to enhance aviation safety that may be considered in future requirements on aircraft operators for a safety risk management plan covering the cabin crew to passenger ratio. The committee has invited submissions and will be arranging hearings in coming weeks and months. As is our usual practice, all information will be posted to the committee’s website as it becomes available.

Secondly, we have a standing reference on smart infrastructure. Members may recall that the previous committee, during the 42nd parliament, commenced an inquiry into smart infrastructure. As part of this, a major conference was held in Parliament House, gathering delegates from around Australia for a broad and productive discussion. The inquiry has now been re-referred to the committee and we are keeping a watching brief on issues relating to smart infrastructure. We have also stayed in contact with people who were involved and engaged in the inquiry during the previous parliament, and we are looking forward to being able to devote more time to this inquiry’s activities when the current two inquiries are in their final stages.

Finally, to update the House on the National Broadband Network inquiry which was referred in November last year, to date we have received 210 submissions. Public hearings have been held in Canberra on Friday, 4 March; Launceston on Thursday, 10 March; Hobart on Friday, 11 March; Ballarat on Thursday, 17 March; and Melbourne on Friday, 18 March. In coming weeks we will also head to Brisbane, Townsville, Adelaide, Victor Harbor, Wollongong, Sydney, Geraldton and Perth.

The committee has been pleased to date to hear from a wide range of community groups, government departments and small businesses during the process of this inquiry, and we look forward to both the additional hearings and the inspections in the coming weeks.

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