A senator who grew up in outback north west Queensland says over-regulation is seriously damaging aviation in the bush.

Senator Susan McDonald, who was reared on a cattle property near Cloncurry, is chairing the Senate rural and regional affairs and transport legislation committee’s inquiry into general aviation with a focus on the industry in rural, regional and remote Australia.

Committee members have been unable to travel around Australia to take evidence because of COVID-19 but a number of submissions have been scathing about the role and culture of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA, a federal authority which is in charge of functions such as the licensing of pilots and aircraft engineers and registration of aeroplanes.

Senator McDonald said she called the inquiry after receiving complaints from a cross-section of aviation groups in the bush including pastoralists, chopper pilots, charter operators and maintenance companies.

She has also been reading submissions to the inquiry and said they contained evidence that “would make your hair curl”. She said the thrust of the submissions pointed to “systemic failure” of the regulatory body to encourage aviation in Australia. Senator McDonald said aviation had always been an integral part of the business and recreation of people in regional Australia.

“I am really keen that we open the lid and get inside and see what we can do,” she said.

“I grew up south of Cloncurry and as a young person every (air) strip you went to whether it be Longreach, Mt Isa or Roma, the aprons were always full of light aircraft and people buzzing around.

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