Program 2.4—Air Transport (continued)

Detailed report on performance

The following report is against the headings from the applicable output from the 2010–11 PBS.

(a) Implementation of a National Aviation Policy White Paper

The Aviation White Paper, Flight Path to the Future, was released on 16 December 2009.

Since its release, the majority of the more than 130 policy initiatives have been implemented. Processes are in place to plan and progress the remaining initiatives.

Major initiatives completed or substantially progressed include the following.

  • Continuing the liberalisation of Australia's international air services agreements with expanded capacity to United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and China.
  • Further work through the Remote Aviation Infrastructure Fund to upgrade up to 19 airstrips from a ‘charter’ safety standard to the higher ‘regular public transport’ standard.
  • Development and publication of Australia's first State Safety Program.
  • Initiatives to better manage the impact of aircraft noise, including:
    • new regulations to restrict the operation of noisy freight jets from Australia's major airports, and
    • the appointment of the first Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, Mr Ron Brent, who began work on 1 September 2010.
  • New co-operative relationships between Airservices Australia and the Department of Defence to bring about cooperation and harmonisation between civilian and defence aviation navigation systems.
  • Amendments to the Airports Act 1996 were passed in the last parliamentary sitting session of 2010. The changes will deliver important improvements to the planning process for 21 leased federal airports and give a greater voice to local communities over airport planning.
  • New consultative arrangements at leased federal airports with the establishment of Planning Coordination Forums and Community Aviation Consultation Groups.
  • The BITRE began monitoring airport charges at five additional airports.
  • The Productivity Commission has begun its review into airport pricing and economic regulatory settings at Australia's major airports. The review is due to report to the Australian Government in December 2011.
  • The National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group brought together Australian, state and territory governments to develop a national framework of land-use planning and off-airport development.
  • Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue have introduced customer charters to provide greater transparency on terms and conditions of travel, and are working to establish an independent complaints-handling body.

(b) Sydney Basin Aviation Joint Study

The joint study on aviation capacity for the Sydney region continued in partnership between the Australian and NSW governments.

A steering committee, comprising senior Australian and NSW government officials and representatives of the business community, is overseeing the study, and met six times during 2010–11. The committee commissioned a range of professional consultancies (and is being supported by BITRE) to conduct expert analysis and provide independent advice on aviation and related transport matters. Consultation occurred with a range of key stakeholders including airlines, airports, peak industry bodies and government agencies.

The steering committee is expected to report its findings to the Australian and NSW governments in the second half of 2011.

(c) Maintaining aviation safety

Participation in international forums

The Department, in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Airservices Australia, maintained an office at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal, Canada. The two departmental employees based in Montreal provided strong representation of Australian interests through their roles on the ICAO Council and Air Navigation Commission. The Department administered Australia's annual ICAO contribution.

The Department led an inter-agency delegation which attended the 37th ICAO triennial assembly from 28 September to 8 October 2010. The 37th assembly considered the strategic objectives agreed at the 36th assembly in 2007. The 37th assembly endorsed the transition to a continuous monitoring approach (CMA) from the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program and the time frame to transition to CMA. In addition, a number of resolutions were agreed relating to security, safety, environmental protection, global aviation safety plan, regional aviation safety groups, runway safety, air traffic management, air navigation and facilitation. The actions arising from the 37th assembly are being considered through ICAO panels and Working Groups, and continue to be progressed. Australia was re-elected to the ICAO Council and the new Australian Council Representative began her posting in October 2010.

Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region

The Department hosted the 34th meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Transportation Working Group in Brisbane in June 2011.

The Department took part in projects to assist Australia's neighbours to improve the safety, security and effectiveness of their air transport regulation. This included providing policy, safety and security advisers to Papua New Guinea (PNG) through the Strongim Gavman Program (SGP) and assistance to the Pacific Aviation Safety Office through the Pacific Public Sector Linkages Program.

In addition to SGP activities, Australian and PNG transport agencies are working together under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to improve transport safety and security in PNG. Work is being undertaken in the areas of accident investigation, aviation safety regulation, air traffic management, transport policy and maritime safety.

The Department, with Airservices Australia, is helping to build capacity in aviation-rescue fire-fighting in PNG. A project funded by AusAID and managed by the Department enabled delivery of 11 fire-fighting vehicles to PNG early in 2011. The project will also fund Airservices Australia to deliver supplementary training for PNG National Airports Corporation staff to enable them to operate and maintain the fire-fighting vehicles and equipment.

The Department continued to coordinate the Australian Government's Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP). In December 2010, Minister Albanese and his Indonesian counterpart, Minister Numberi, signed an annex under the existing MoU between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on Co-operation in the Transport Sector, which sets out the official delivery of assistance to June 2014. The ITSAP provides technical and training assistance to support Indonesia in addressing its aviation, maritime and road transport safety challenges. The support is provided

through the Department, Airservices Australia, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Australian Transport Safety Bureau and CASA. Significant outcomes during 2010–11 included:

  • ITSAP trained Indonesian officers developing and delivering workshops for aviation and maritime safety personnel
  • the completion of a civil joint search and rescue exercise, and
  • the development and publication of aviation and maritime safety manuals.
Aviation safety regulation

The Department worked closely with CASA and Airservices Australia on a number of aviation safety issues, and provided strategic policy and governance advice to the Minister on the operations of CASA and Airservices Australia consistent with each agency's governing legislation, the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and the Air Services Act 1995 respectively.

The Department also provided assistance to the work of the CASA and Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing Taskforce established in March 2010 to complete the regulatory reform program covering the maintenance, operations and flight crew licensing areas of CASA's regulations. A major package of maintenance regulatory reforms was completed in 2010–11 and came into effect from 27 June 2011.

In 2010–11 CASA and Airservices Australia both had in place corporate plans, statements of intent and workforce plans in relation to their current and future operations. The statements of intent are framed in response to the Australian Government's specific statements of expectations for the organisations. The statements of expectations and intent are published on the organisations' websites.

Air traffic management

The Department provides policy and governance advice to the Australian Government on air traffic management issues, including undertaking a number of initiatives identified in the Aviation White Paper.

The Department released a paper on proposed criteria to inform decisions on levels of air traffic service provision at airports for industry comment in March 2011. These criteria, based on aircraft and passenger movements, will identify the circumstances in which CASA is to complete an aeronautical risk assessment to make a final determination on the need for a change in airspace classification, and subsequently any changes to required air traffic services and facilities. Industry comments have been received on the criteria proposal, and it is expected that the criteria will form part of the next Australian Airspace Policy Statement to be finalised by 1 January 2012.

The Department also completed a review of Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) in May 2011. The main finding of the review is that, on the basis of information currently available, it is difficult to justify the significant investment involved in establishing SBAS in Australia to cover aviation operations at smaller aerodromes.

Nevertheless, the review supports the increased adoption of Approaches with Vertical Guidance at Australian aerodromes, and supports the development of a barometric vertical navigation implementation plan, before consultation with the aviation industry.

The SBAS review does not rule out future consideration of establishing an SBAS capability in Australia, if strong multi-sectoral demand for such a capability were to emerge and SBAS coverage provided by other administrations was expanded significantly in the region.

The Department also completed work on an Air Traffic Management Policy Direction paper. This paper was released in July 2011 for industry comment by September 2011, and outlines five key directions for national Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. These directions are robust and integrate planning, adoption of advanced technology, international harmonisation, enhanced regional aviation safety and managing environmental impacts of aircraft. When completed by the end of 2011, the paper should provide a clear platform for better, coordinated ATM planning and investment by government agencies and industry.

The four major government agencies involved in aviation policy, regulation and service provision—the Department, Airservices Australia, CASA and the Royal Australian Air Force—continued to work together on a range of aviation policy issues which have cross-agency implications.

The Secretary of the Department is Chair of the Aviation Policy Group (APG); the group's other members are the chief executive officers of the two aviation portfolio agencies, and the Chief of the Air Force. While the group offers a forum to maintain strong working relationships between the agencies and coordinate joint action where appropriate, each agency retains individual authority and accountability for its own functions at all times.

The APG had quarterly meetings during 2010–11, and was particularly focused on the finalisation and implementation of a number of Aviation White Paper initiatives, such as civil and military aviation harmonisation, airspace management, advanced technology and ICAO-related matters.

The supporting Aviation Implementation Group (AIG), also chaired by the Department and including senior officials from each of the three key government aviation agencies, continued to meet quarterly to develop advice on issues identified by the APG. The Chair of the AIG also addressed the Australian Strategic Air Traffic Management Group (ASTRA), the industry advisory group on air traffic management issues, in May 2011, and met with the Chair of ASTRA to consolidate working relationships between the two groups.

(d) Expanding aviation markets

International air services arrangements

In 2010–11 the Department:

  • held 10 air services negotiations in pursuit of expanded rights for Australian and foreign international airlines. Specifically, negotiations were held with Belgium, China, Indonesia (on two occasions), New Caledonia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Vietnam, and
  • undertook routine correspondence with Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Darussalam, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Maldives, Mauritius, Pakistan, Palau, Peru, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United States of America on a range of ongoing commercial and treaty matters.

Discussions have continued with the European Commission on a proposed comprehensive air services agreement with the European Union. The negotiations encompass issues such as market access, protection of the environment, and aviation safety and security, and will expand opportunities for airlines to provide a competitive network of air services.

The Department continued to regulate scheduled international air services in accordance with the requirements of the Air Navigation Act 1920 and associated regulations. The Department granted 276 timetable approvals, 206 timetable variations, 10 non-scheduled flight approvals, and four approvals for new International Airline Licences in 2010–11.

Current aviation market

The air services arrangements negotiated by the Department provide capacity entitlements exceeding current demand, giving airlines flexibility to deliver air services in a commercially viable way. In April 2011, 54 international scheduled airlines operated services to and/or from Australia, including four dedicated freight airlines.

In terms of market uptake, Australia's aviation performance in the year ended April 2010 increased compared with performance in the previous 12 months. Data from the BITRE shows that there were 27.3 million passenger movements into and out of Australia, representing growth of 7.7 per cent when compared with the previous 12 months. Of the total international passenger movements, 7.3 million passengers were short-term resident departures, an increase of 11.5 per cent, and 5.9 million passengers were short-term visitor arrivals into Australia, an increase of 4.7 per cent.

(e) Managing airport infrastructure

Management of leased federal airports

The Department oversees the operation of 21 leased federal airports that were privatised between 1997 and 2003 through long-term leases of 50 years with an option to renew for a further 49 years.

The Department is responsible for monitoring compliance with the airport leases, ensuring compliance with the Airports Act 1996 and associated regulations.

The Department prepared the Airports Amendment Bill 2010. The Bill was introduced into Parliament on 24 June 2010 and subsequently was the subject of a Senate inquiry. Following a suite of Australian Government amendments to the Bill as a result of the inquiry, the Bill passed both Houses on 29 November 2010, and received Royal Assent on 17 December 2010. The Bill gives effect to policy changes identified in the Aviation White Paper to improve planning and development controls for the leased federal airports. Among its objectives are greater scrutiny of non-aviation developments, more detailed master plans, and a stronger focus on aviation business.

The Department also finalised various regulatory amendments in 2010–11. These include amendments to increase the fees payable for building applications at the leased federal airports, and updates to the descriptions of airport sites to reflect changes in state and territory land title registers for all leased federal airports.

Planning approvals

Under the Airports Act 1996, a master plan must be prepared for every leased federal airport except those at Mt Isa and Tennant Creek. The master plan represents the airport-lessee company's planning and development vision for the airport over 20 years. The master plan is reviewed every five years and must be the subject of public consultation.

A major development plan is required for each major development at an airport. Section 89 of the Airports Act 1996 defines ‘major developments’. Generally they include any significant building work or any development with a significant environmental impact on the airport site.

All leased federal airports (other than the Mt Isa and Tennant Creek airports) must also prepare an airport environment strategy which provides for continuous improvement in the environmental management of the airport site. An airport environment strategy is submitted by an airport-lessee company after taking into account public comments, and is reviewed every five years.

The Minister may approve or refuse any master plan, major development plan or airport environment strategy.

In 2010–11, the Department provided assessments to the Minister, in accordance with the requirements of the Airports Act 1996, on:

  • six airport master plans
  • seven major development plans, and
  • three airport environment strategies.

Assessment was also provided on a variation to an airport master plan and variations to two approved major development plans.

A number of the major development plans were approved subject to conditions relating to the management of the impacts of the development and ongoing operational considerations. The conditions of ministerial approval attached to each major development plan are available from the Department's website.

At the end of the reporting period, the Department was continuing to assess one airport master plan and one major development plan. Details on each of these statutory planning documents are provided in Appendix H.

Environmental management and building control

Management of the environment at the airport site is the responsibility of the airport lessee. Through the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997, the Department monitors compliance and regulates activities that may have environmental impacts on the airports. Through the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996, the Department monitors compliance and regulates development at the airports.

The Department has appointed Airport Environment Officers and Airport Building Controllers for each of the leased airports to monitor and ensure compliance with environmental and building standards.

Lease compliance reviews

The Department conducts annual lease reviews of the 21 leased federal airports to ensure compliance with the terms of their leases. In 2010–11, the Department continued to monitor compliance with obligations under the terms of the head lease, including the requirement to make payments in lieu of land taxes and rates. The Department also assesses the adequacy of airport insurance cover each year, with the assistance of a contracted insurance adviser.

Details of the annual airport lease review meetings and the insurance review for 2010–11 are provided in Appendix H.

Airport price regulation

The Productivity Commission began an inquiry into the Economic Regulation of Airport Services in December 2010. The inquiry is due for completion within 12 months. The Department provided a submission to the inquiry in April 2011.

The inquiry was originally scheduled for 2012 but was brought forward because of concerns arising from the airport monitoring undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC monitors airport prices and quality of aeronautical services in accordance with Parts 7 and 8 of the Airports Act 1996, and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. In February 2011, the ACCC published its report for 2009–10 on prices, costs and profits, the quality of aeronautical services, and facilities and car parking at the five monitored airports: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne (Tullamarine), Perth and Sydney (Kingsford Smith).

The ACCC reports apply only to domestic airport services and facilities that are owned and operated by the airport-lessee companies. The ACCC does not monitor prices and services provided at the Qantas-leased domestic terminals at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney airports, or the Virgin terminal at Brisbane Airport. International terminals at the five airports are included in the monitoring.

The Department monitored prices for regional air services at Sydney Airport throughout 2010–11. Under Australian Government direction made under the then Trade Practices Act 1974, formally extending the price-capping arrangements for regional airline services to 30 June 2013, price increases for regional airline regular passenger transport flights operating wholly within New South Wales are limited to the Consumer Price Index. In September 2010 the ACCC objected to a proposed price increase by Sydney Airport for declared services to regional airlines.

Slot management at Sydney Airport

The Department oversees slot management at Sydney Airport under the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997. The objectives of the regime are to:

  • provide an effective means of administering the movement limit
  • alleviate delays caused by congestion
  • safeguard access for regional airlines
  • provide equal access to slots for new entrants, and
  • spread aircraft movements more evenly within hours.

The Department is working with relevant industry stakeholders to develop amendments to the Slot Management Scheme 1998 and the Determination of Sydney Airport Compliance Scheme 1998, to ensure the continued efficiency and effectiveness of this program.

Administrative reporting on the extent to which the objectives of the schemes are being addressed is being monitored by the Department in accordance with the performance measures identified in the table below. The Department is satisfied that the objectives of the schemes are being met.

Table 4.13 Objectives and performance measures of the Sydney Airport Slot Management Legislative Regime
Objective Performance measures
Provide an effective means of administering the movement limit. Airservices Australia movement limit reports. Monitoring of compliance with allocated slots through the Sydney Airport Compliance Committee. Annual performance reviews of the Slot Manager. Implementation of the Industry Working Group report on options to improve monitoring, reporting and compliance with the maximum movement limit.
Alleviate delays caused by congestion. Statistics of on-time performance of all services since implementation of the scheme.
Safeguard access for regional airlines. Statistics of weekly runway movements showing the share of slots allocated to regional operators.
Provide equal access to slots for new entrants. Reporting on airlines that have requested slots or begun operations.
Spread aircraft movements more evenly within hours. Graphed statistics of aircraft movements for each 60 minutes across the busiest operational hours at Sydney Airport.
Reimbursement of parking fines

Eight leased federal airports (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville) participate in the Parking Infringement Notices Scheme. The airports administer the vehicle control regime in accordance with the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997. Revenue collected by the airports for parking offences is remitted to the Australian Government and airports are reimbursed, up to a set maximum amount, to partially offset their costs in administering the scheme.

Amelioration of the environmental impacts of aircraft movements
Noise amelioration programs

The Department has administered noise amelioration programs at Adelaide and Sydney airports, providing funds to install noise insulation for eligible residences and public buildings under major flight paths. The program for Sydney Airport was completed in January 2010.

In Adelaide, two additional churches were identified as being eligible for funding as public buildings in 2008–09; insulation work began on the buildings early in 2010, and is due for completion in September 2011.

The Department will continue to monitor and map the noise contours in Sydney and Adelaide annually.

The costs associated with the noise amelioration program at Adelaide Airport have been recovered through a levy on jet aircraft landings at the airport, under the Aircraft Noise Levy Act 1995. This levy ended on 31 March 2010, as adequate funds had been collected to complete the program (the equivalent levy at Sydney Airport ended on 1 July 2006). Airservices Australia was authorised to collect the levy on behalf of the Department, and finalised the transfer of receipts totalling $75,000 collected under the Aircraft Noise Levy Collection Act 1995 in 2010–11, as reported in the Department's audited financial statements as required by the Act.


To minimise the impact of night-time noise on nearby communities, restrictions on aircraft movements are applied, through legislated curfews, at the Adelaide, Essendon, Gold Coast and Sydney airports. The curfews, which operate between the hours of 11pm and 6am, limit the number and type of aircraft that can be operated and stipulate which runways can be used.

In 2010–11, the Department:

  • assessed 43 applications for curfew dispensations-seven for Adelaide, four for Gold Coast (Coolangatta) and 32 for Sydney, and
  • approved 10 curfew dispensations-two for Adelaide and eight for Sydney.
International cooperation on noise and climate change

Climate change was a key topic of debate at the ICAO Assembly held in September-October 2010. Member states agreed to prepare climate change action plans which spell out the actions that individual countries are taking to address climate change. The Department played an active role in establishing the ICAO guidance material for the preparation of the action plans, and participated in a regional ICAO action plan workshop in Bangkok in May 2011. The Department has initiated the process to develop Australia's action plan.

The Department participated in the meeting of the Steering Group of ICAO's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection held in November 2010.

Community resources

The Department continued to provide secretariat support to the Sydney Airport Community Forum. The forum is a consultative committee composed of Australian, state and local governments and community representatives, which considers aircraft noise issues affecting the community.

The Department also continued to refine its Transparent Noise Information Package, a software tool that enables the non-specialist to gain a better understanding of aircraft noise exposure patterns and aircraft carbon emissions. The package is available free of charge from the Department's website at

Management of properties at Badgerys Creek

The Australian Government owns and leases out commercial and residential properties on a site at Badgerys Creek, New South Wales, originally acquired for a proposed second major airport for Sydney. The Department administered the leases during 2010–11 to ensure the Australian Government met its obligations as a landlord.

As part of the delivery of the Aviation White Paper, the Australian Government announced that the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek was no longer an option. The future of the Badgerys Creek site will be considered as part of a joint Australian Government-New South Wales Government study to assess options for delivering additional aviation capacity in the Sydney region.

National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group

In the Aviation White Paper, the Australian Government committed to work with the state and territory governments to develop a national planning regime for land use near airports and under flight paths, to minimise the location of sensitive developments in areas affected by aircraft operations.

In 2010, the Department established the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group to collect, evaluate and provide to Ministers advice on the formulation of a national approach to planning around airports. The group comprises officials from state and territory government planning and transport agencies, the Australian Local Government Association and the Australian Government.

The safeguarding work covers the following themes:

  • development of land-use planning arrangements outside the perimeter of airports that will minimise sensitive developments being located in areas affected by aircraft operations
  • improvement and enhancement of public information and understanding regarding the impacts of aircraft noise
  • development of guidance material for airports and off-airport planning developers and authorities on the potential wind-shear and mechanical turbulence effects of new constructions
  • development of guidelines for wildlife hazard management in and around airports to minimise bird strike and other wildlife hazards
  • development of guidelines to address technical and navigation issues relating to wind-turbine developments, with regard to the potential for electromagnetic interference as well as the potential physical obstruction for aircraft
  • strengthening of arrangements to protect airspace around airports
  • prevention of unnecessary lighting and other pilot distractions from off-airport sources, and
  • detailed examination of the implications of public safety zones in the vicinity of airports.

(f) Supporting sustainable development

During 2010–11, the Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) Scheme subsidised weekly flights to 252 remote communities.

Contracts are in place for 32 aerodromes at remote Indigenous communities to receive upgrade works to the higher Regular Public Transport aviation safety standard. These airstrips support RASS services as well as those from health-related services such as the Royal Flying Doctor and aero-medical providers.

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Last Updated: 29 October, 2014