Outcome: Civil Aviation Bill

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee reported back on the Civil Aviation Bill this week.

The Council’s submission objected to the secrecy clauses, 199 and 456.

The Select Committee report does not mention the concerns raised by the Council in its submission.

Despite this, the Committee has amended clause 456 to address the concern which we, and others, raised.

Clause 456 prohibits the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from publishing or disclosing information except in the limited circumstances that it specifies. In the original version of the Bill, these circumstances did not include releasing information in response to a request under the Official Information Act.

With the Committee’s proposed amendment, clause 456 of the Bill now clarifies that the Civil Aviation Authority’s constraints against disclosing information are tempered by the fact that the Authority is subject to the Official Information Act.

Clause 199 of the Bill gives the Minister the power to suppress “the publication or communication of all or any information, document, and evidence which is given to, or obtained by the Ministry” under the relevant sub-part of the Bill, which concerns applications for an international air carriage authorisation. Although this is a temporary power, applying until 20 working days after a decision is made or an application is withdrawn, it is wide-ranging, as it applies not just to participants in the proceedings and officials, but also to the public and media.

The Committee has not amended clause 199, which is unfortunate.

The Council is reasonably pleased with the improvements to clause 456 resulting from the Select Committee process. The clarification provided means that journalists and others will be able to seek the information that can be suppressed under clause 199, but will only receive any kind of disclosure when the suppression period ends.