FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has slammed CASA for the permanent grounding of Barrier Aviation, identifying “vested interests” as playing a key role in the airline’s crisis.
“It’s a bloody disgrace there are people in CASA who should be sacked over this,” he said. “By the time the true facts behind all this come out, the victim will have been financially destroyed.”
Mr Entsch said Barrier Aviation’s 20-year safety record had been ignored in CASA’s ambush of the company and confirmed he had called the aviation authority to express his concerns. “CASA are on a ‘go slow’ campaign to send Barrier bankrupt. I have contacted them and tried to expedite the investigation process but they were not interested.”
Mr Entsch said the suspension was causing a huge financial, emotional and personal toll, with 50 families reliant on the family-owned business.
“As well as the employees who have worked for them for many years and never had a problem, there are also numerous local businesses that rely on Barrier – from Haggerstone Island Resort to Wongai Hotel on Horn Island and pilot training services in Cairns.
“I personally have used Barrier on many occasions and they have been outstanding. But when the allegations come from a disgruntled employee who was demoted because of circumstances he created himself, (CASA) are denying natural justice.”
Mr Entsch can reveal that the complaint originated from a former employee who was cautioned and demoted following a number of irregular procedural issues, left the country and then filed a complaint of unfair demotion. The situation has also been compounded by Barrier’s ongoing troubles with a particular CASA Airworthiness Inspector (AWI) based in Cairns.
In May 2011, the airline lodged a formal complaint through the director of CASA that the AWI responsible for inspecting Barrier’s aircraft lacked the experience to fulfil his role and duties and lacked the ability to correctly interpret CASA regulations.
“The matter was referred to the Industry Complaint Commissioner but as of this time, Barrier has not heard a single word back from them,” Mr Entsch commented.
“Given the seriousness of the matter, wouldn’t you think that while it is being investigated, CASA would have allocated another AWI for Barrier? But no action has been taken and he is still on the case; in fact, he has now been promoted to a team leader position and continues to have direct involvement.
“You have to wonder whether this is a personal attack as payback for the original complaint rather than anything that can be attributed to legitimate safety concerns.”
Mr Entsch said it was not the first time he had heard of CASA employing people who had either “failed in the private sector” or had their own agendas.
“You get individuals with a vested interest employed in these positions and they want to prove a point… They drive airlines into the ground and they cite safety as a reason for doing it, so it becomes very difficult for anyone to speak out.
“I see Barrier in this category the airline has had no opportunity whatsoever of being able to test any of the information they are charged with including these false allegations. You do have to ask if there is a vendetta.”