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2.7 : Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Kym BillsContact Kym Bills
Executive Director
Australian Transport Safety Bureau
Phone (02) 6274 6456
Email Kym.Bills@atsb.gov.au


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) supported the outcome of linking Australia through transport and regional services by ensuring a safer environment for travel within and between regions. Safe transport saves lives and money and encourages better use of transport infrastructure for both passengers and goods. ATSB investigates and analyses safety data without fear or favour and with a strict organisational separation from transport regulators and other bodies that may need to be investigated.

1999-2000 HIGHLIGHTS

ATSB Graphic


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was created on 1 July 1999 as a division-level administrative unit within the Department to improve the focus and coordination of the Commonwealths non-regulatory safety activity in the transport modes of aviation, marine, rail and road. The ATSB brought together the expertise, accumulated knowledge and safety resources of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation, the non-regulatory parts of the Federal Office of Road Safety, the Marine Incident Investigation Unit and a new Rail Safety Unit.

An ATSB Annual Review of performance in 19992000 and plans for the future is to be published in October 2000.

Multi-modal safety

ATSB has worked to establish itself as a multi-modal safety body based on the international best practice exemplified by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board, the United States National Transportation Safety Board and the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

ATSBs charter to integrate key aspects of air, sea, rail and road transport safety activity was achieved through the development and implementation of a 19992000 strategic business plan with the primary objective of safe transport. A new Rail Safety Unit was developed based on aviation, marine and road safety expertise. Expertise was applied across modal groups in safety education, analysis of human factors contributing to unsafe situations, and technical aspects in fields as diverse as metallurgy and communication.

Aviation safety

In August 1999 the Minister for Transport and Regional Services released the BASI Review 1999, a review of the efficiency and role of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation, also known as the McGrath Report. The report confirmed that Australias overall aviation safety record compares well with that of the rest of the world. The report also found that BASI made a significant contribution to the maintenance and enhancement of aviation safety, and received widespread industry recognition and support, and that BASIs relationship with the major airlines was appropriate. The report recommended areas where BASIs good performance could be improved, notably through the development of a cross-modal approach through the creation of the ATSB.

ATSBs safety investigations output for publicly released air investigation occurrence reports and safety deficiency reports was well beyond levels projected in the 19992000 Portfolio Budget Statements. Other outputs were slightly below forecast.

Air safety investigations of significant public interest in 1999-2000 include:

  • Class G Airspace Demonstration systemic investigation report (released in November 1999);
  • QF1 Bangkok 747 accident (interim factual report released in November 1999);
  • AVGAS fuel contamination issue systemic investigation (investigation in progress); and
  • Whyalla Airlines Piper Chieftain accident (preliminary report released in June 2000).

Marine safety

ATSBs Marine Incident Investigation Unit (MIIU) was again active in the International Maritime Organisation and the Marine Accident Investigators International Forum, particularly in the areas of ship fires, lifeboat accidents and the analysis of casualties involving groundings and collisions.

MIIUs investigation report Departmental investigation into the release of oil from the Italian flag motor tanker Laura DAmato at Gore Bay, Sydney Harbour on 3 August 1999 was publicly released in February 2000. Laura DAmato was carrying 90 957 tonnes of Murban crude oil, some of which escaped through sea-chest valves that had been left open. Performance data on MIIU reports are covered in the output tables.

Rail safety

A Rail Safety Unit, established with the creation of the ATSB, managed a Standing Committee on Transport consultancy to review and report on State-based rail safety arrangements. As a result of the Australian Transport Councils (ATCs) consideration of the final report by consultants Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Independent review of rail safety arrangements, the ATSB was asked to develop a national rail safety occurrence database.

The work of the Rail Safety Unit evolved throughout the year to include the investigation of rail accidents utilising the expertise of aviation and maritime investigators. The Minister for Transport and Regional Services announced that ATSB was available to undertake open and independent rail investigations under State and Territory legislation when requested to do so by State authorities. ATSB assisted with an investigation of an August 1999 accident at Zanthus, Western Australia. ATSBs investigation of a November 1999 accident at Ararat, Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government was cited by the May 2000 ATC as a best-practice example of how open, independent and systemic no blame investigations can improve rail safety throughout Australia.

The Rail Safety Unit is currently working with the rail industry and consulting with the States to fulfil the Governments intention, announced on 13 April 2000, to develop Commonwealth legislation to provide for the ATSB to conduct independent investigations of the interstate rail system.

Road safety

The Government is providing around $40 million per year for the Federal Road Safety Black Spot Program. Evaluation has shown that a reduction of up to two-thirds in serious crashes can be expected at treated sites. Estimates suggest that each $40 million investment in black-spot treatments will reduce road trauma by at least eight fatalities and 320 serious injuries a year. Performance data are included in the output tables.

A new National Road Safety Strategy for 2001 to 2010 is scheduled to be launched by the ATC in November 2000. ATC agreed in May 2000 that the new strategy would have a national target of a 40 per cent reduction in the road fatality rate to 5.6 fatalities per 100 000 population in 2010 (compared with 9.3 deaths per 100 000 in 1999). Achievement of this target would save around 3600 lives by the year 2010.

ATSBs vehicle recall staff were given responsibility, from 18 April 2000, to monitor implementation of 16 recommendations made in the report Investigation into the specification of heavy trucks and consequent effects on truck dynamics and drivers by consultants Roaduser International Pty Ltd.

A number of road safety research and statistical reports by ATSB were released throughout the year by Senator The Hon Ron Boswell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services.

Safety education

A multi-modal ATSB website (www.atsb.gov.au) was developed to improve links with stakeholders in the transport industry and the community. The website development continues to improve safety education and accountability and in line with the Governments Online Strategy.

ATSB worked through several avenues to communicate the benefits of its multi-modal approach to safety, particularly in the human factors and systems safety area. Throughout the year ATSB officers made presentations on safety and contributed to safety forums at various national, regional and international venues, including the Safeskies Conference, the International Air Transport Associations Safety Committee, the Road Safety Research, Education and Policing Conference, AusRail 2000 and Railsafe 2000. ATSB discontinued BASIs in-house magazine in favour of an eight-page supplement to Civil Aviation Safety Authoritys bimonthly Flight Safety magazine.


ATSBs Black Spots Program contains specific provisions for its projects to meet State and Territory requirements in relation to protection of the environment. Achievements to improve transport safety accord with the intergenerational equity principle of maintaining and enhancing the health, diversity and productivity of the environment for the benefit of future generations. Improved safety has contributed to ecological sustainability through the economic, social and environmental impact of saving lives, money and resources, and reducing property damage, pollution levels and the trauma associated with accident involvement.


ATSBs direct services to its Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary involved more than 200 items, of which 95 per cent were rated satisfactory.

One hundred and sixty compliments were received relating to prompt dispatch and quality of research and investigation reports, prompt and useful responses to requests for information, and the professional and impartial conduct of investigations. Four complaints on the timeliness of requests for information and the content of a media interview were received, and two expressions of regret over the cessation of printing educational material.

Download Performance Tables [PDFPDF: 28 KB] as Adobe Acrobat PDF document.

Document description:

  • Output 1.1 Policy advice and Ministerial services
  • Output 2.1 Approvals and monitoring of directions, rules and regulations
  • Output 3.2 Administration of programs and grants for communities
  • Output 4.1 Trade facilitation
  • Output 4.2 Safety and security education and information
  • Output 4.3 Economic research and data
  • Output 4.4 Administration of programs and grants for industry
  • Administered Item 1.1 Services to communities
  • Administered Item 2.1 Services for industry and economic development

Download the Status of Safety Recommendations [PDFPDF: 25 KB] as Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Document description:

  • Status of safety recommendations issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in 1999-2000