Government and business are not the same. Public administration has gone through a period when governments, Labor as well as Liberal-National, were keen to flick a lot of responsibilities from ordinary departmental administration to what was believed to be a more efficient form based on a private enterprise model. Nowhere was this change more pronounced than in aviation where the once omnipotent Department of Civil Aviation was first merged into an overall Transport Department and then had most of its functions split off into separate corporations. Where once there was a Minister and a Departmental Secretary looking after everything from airports to air traffic control licensing of operators and setting and administering safety standards there are now privately owned airports, Air Services Australia with an eye to its profitability and failing to provide adequate numbers of air traffic controllers, a Civil Aviations Safety Authority setting the rules and regulations and an Air Traffic Safety Bureau still in the Transport Department headed by a chief executive with considerable independent powers. That there is a downside to all this deregulation and private enterprise methods is wonderfully (or should that be horribly?) illustrated in the recent report by Mr Russell Miller into the relationship between CASA and ATSB. The Miller inquiry followed critical comments made by the Coroner in his consideration of the Lockhart River aircraft crash and the report released by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Anthony Albanese is quite an indictment of how badly the split system actually works in practice. A sensible Minister would put the whole system back under his own departmental control.
Down the back end. Fat cat public servants flying around the country are a perfect symbol for a Government keen to show us what conservative economics means and the Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner is taking to the task with relish. His Department put out the official word on economy flying with a circular back in February instructing public servants to use the "best fare of the day" for all official travel. And, the circular warned, "in assessing the BFOD, it is not appropriate to consider preferences for jets, access to airline lounges or accumulating frequent flyer benefits."