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Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Section 1: Agency overview and resources

1.1: Strategic direction

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will be established on 1 July 2009 as an independent Statutory Agency with a Commission structure.

As Australia's prime transport safety investigation agency, the ATSB's functions are determined by the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act).

Under the TSI Act, the ATSB's primary function is to improve aviation, marine and rail safety by means that include:

  • receiving and assessing reports of transport safety matters including reportable matters;
  • independently conducting no-blame investigations of accidents and other safety occurrences, including investigations that are research based;
  • identifying factors that contributed to those accidents and other safety occurrences or which affect, or might affect, transport safety;
  • encouraging safety action by communicating those factors to relevant sectors of the transport industry and the public including by acknowledging proactive safety action taken by stakeholders and by issuing safety recommendations and advisory notices; and
  • raising awareness of safety issues by reporting publicly on its investigations and conducting public educational programs.

Elements of the ATSB's strategic direction
The ATSB's objective is Safe Transport. The ATSB's mission is to maintain and improve transport safety and public confidence through excellence in carrying out the functions described in the TSI Act.

  • Transition to a Statutory Agency

    In addition to the operational independence already provided for in the TSI Act, the ATSB will become functionally independent with discretion and responsibilities in its own right for its staff and resources under the Public Service Act 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

    The ATSB will establish business systems and governance arrangements to enable it to properly meet its new statutory responsibilities. The ATSB will also focus on working with the Commission to develop a framework for the conduct of the ATSB's work to ensure that it continues to maintain its worldwide reputation for excellence in transport safety investigations. This will include reviewing current policies, procedures and guidance with respect to delegation of investigative functions, report review and release procedures, and interaction with stakeholders, including other government agencies and the industry.

  • Investigation priorities and allocation of resources

    Investigating selectively and systemically increases awareness of safety issues and fosters industry and public confidence in the transport system.

    While continuing to meet its international obligations for the investigation of certain aviation and marine accidents, the ATSB will focus primarily on accidents and serious incidents involving or affecting fare-paying passenger and other commercial operations.

    In the context of the above priorities, the ATSB will continue to allocate its finite resources to those accidents and other transport safety occurrences where safety lessons are expected to be learned. Many accidents involve the repetition of past occurrences where the contributing factors are similar. In these circumstances, the benefits and lessons acquired through an extensive investigation of those accidents may not always justify the resources allocated to them. Therefore, while some investigations will continue to involve significant resources and extensive investigation activity, which seek to determine the systemic contributory factors, other investigations may be limited to fact finding. The fact finding exercise is, however, essential for future safety research and trend analysis.

  • Cooperation

    The ATSB will cooperate with similar agencies around the world to ensure there is coordination when investigating a transport accident or incident in cases where another country is in some way connected. Domestically, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, state and territory rail safety regulators, and other authorities such as police and coroners, are likely to have an interest in conducting investigations into some accidents or incidents that the ATSB is investigating. It is intended that those agencies should continue to be able to conduct their own separate investigations and that there be cooperation to allow this to occur. However, the ATSB will need to preserve the 'no-blame' nature of its investigations.

    The ATSB will continue to review and update where necessary, its current suite of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). The ATSB will also prepare and sign new MoUs with other stakeholders where they desire such formality and where there are clear benefits.

  • Information and knowledge management

    An important element of the ATSB's business is its information management and knowledge of the aviation, marine and rail industries. In particular, the ATSB is the keeper of the national record for aviation accidents and incidents with many stakeholders relying on ATSB data to assist with their own business analyses and research.

    The ATSB's information strategy is aimed at ensuring timely assessment and recording of data, and robust processes for data quality review. The strategy also includes the development and dissemination of a range of routine and ad-hoc data reports to stakeholders including transport regulators and operators to enable trend analysis and visibility of emerging issues. While the ATSB is cognisant of the need to protect the confidentiality and sensitivity of some data collected or generated by it, the ATSB is also committed to finding better ways to share safety information. To this end, the ATSB will lead initiatives or cooperate with other stakeholders to the extent that it does not interfere with the free flow of safety information to the ATSB.

    The ATSB will continue to work actively with regulators, educational institutions, international safety investigation agencies and others to provide data to underpin research activities including collaboration on research projects where it is necessary or desirable.

  • International engagement

    Regional and global engagement provides an important opportunity to improve international safety standards for the benefit of all travellers. The ATSB will participate in the activities of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO) and investigation bodies such as the International Transportation Safety Association (ITSA), International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI), and the Marine Accident Investigators International Forum (MAIIF). The ATSB will continue to provide specific assistance to its regional neighbours as resources permit.

    The ATSB will continue to facilitate capacity building for transport safety investigations with Indonesia through the Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP). The ATSB will seek to maintain compliance with international obligations for safety investigation such as Annex 13 to the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and the International Maritime Organization's Casualty Investigation Code, based on the Australian legal and governance framework.

1.2: Agency resource statement

Table 1.1 shows the total resources from all origins. The table summarises how resources will be applied by outcome and by administered and departmental classification.

Table 1.1: Agency resource statement - Budget estimates for 2009-10 as at Budget May 2009 

1.3: Budget measures

Budget measures relating to ATSB are detailed in Budget Paper No. 2. Table 1.2 provides a summary of government measures and identifies the relevant program associated with each measure.

Table 1.2: Agency 2009-10 Budget measures

ATSB does not have any new measures in the 2009-10 Budget.

1.4: Transition from outcomes and outputs to outcomes and programs

From the 2009-10 Budget, all General Government Sector (GGS) entities will be reporting on a program basis. The table below outlines the transition from the 2008-09 Budget year (as at 2008-09 Budget) which was presented in outputs and output groups to the program reporting framework used for the 2009-10 Budget. The table also captures revisions made to GGS outcome statements under the Operation Sunlight Outcome Statements Review.

Figure 1.1: Transition table

In 2008-09 the ATSB was a division within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (the Department) and contributed to a single Output 2.1.1 'Transport Safety Investigations' within Outcome 2 Fostering an efficient, sustainable , competitive, safe and secure transport system (refer the Department's agency section within the PBS).
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From 2009-10 the new ATSB Agency has a single Program 'Australian Transport Safety Bureau' and contributes to the new  Outcome 1: Improved transport safety in Australia including through: independent 'no blame' investigation of transport accidents and other safety occurrences; safety data recording, analysis and research; and fostering safety awareness, knowledge and action.

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Budget 2009-10