I am pleased to present the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Corporate Plan for the period 2023-24 to 2026-27.
This Corporate Plan has been prepared consistent with paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the relevant provisions of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (the TSI Act), which establishes the ATSB. The Corporate Plan is also consistent with the Statement of Expectations 2023-25 (SOE) for the ATSB, as notified under Section 12AE of the TSI Act, by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
The SOE sets out clear expectations relating to the ATSB’s governance, strategic direction, key initiatives, and stakeholder engagement, such that the ATSB’s resources be used in an efficient, effective, economical, and ethical way, following best practice principles and guidelines. I look forward to continuing to work with the Government to ensure the ATSB remains well positioned to meet these expectations.
I note there have been calls stemming from several inquiries and associated reports seeking to extend the ATSB’s services through an expanded remit. The ATSB will continue to provide input into such inquiries although any decisions to change the ATSB’s operating parameters are a matter for Government. My priority, since becoming Chief Commissioner in late 2021, has been to ensure the ATSB is funded adequately to perform the role defined by its existing remit. In this context, the ATSB will actively participate in the recently announced Australian Transport Safety and Investigation Bodies Financial Sustainability Review, which will consider and evaluate the ATSB’s current operational and funding arrangements.
In the past 12 months the ATSB has continued to demonstrate itself as a highly-capable agency releasing a number of complex and industry-significant investigation reports that carry wide-ranging safety learnings to the relevant transport modes. One such example is the ATSB’s final report into the collision with terrain of a Lockheed C-130 large air tanker during the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season. That investigation produced multiple key safety lessons relating to the tasking and operation of large air tankers – an operation becoming more prevalent in Australian firefighting.
Another fine example from the last 12 months was our final report into an investigation of a rail collision in Far North Queensland, which resulted in multiple safety actions being taken. The collision occurred due to a brake pipe not being properly connected when the train was coupled, and our investigation also made findings around survivability aspects in how the locomotive was manufactured. Pleasingly, this led to action being taken by the operator, the industry standards board, and the locomotive’s design owner.
In the marine sector, we also finalised a significant investigation into the sinking of a pair of tugs in Devonport, Tasmania, after they were impacted by an Australian-flagged bulk carrier, when its crew failed to select the correct steering setting during a turn in the port’s swing basin. This investigation made findings – and resulted in safety action by the operator – relating to bridge resource management, a key component of all safe marine operations. It also reflected on the response by the port operator, with more safety lessons emerging for that side of the industry as well.
As a relatively small, operationally-focused agency, the ATSB needs to anticipate change and adapt to ensure we are meeting the needs of government, industry, and the travelling public. Accordingly, during 2023 we launched our inaugural strategic plan, detailed later in this report. This plan was developed from extensive work with staff from across the agency. It clearly identifies the key objectives, strategies, and actions to be given priority over the short to medium term, with a focus on:
- enhancing our products and stakeholder engagement for improving transport safety
- fostering organisational resilience
- affirming our role as the national transport safety investigator.
One area of that plan which has already yielded significant benefit has been a greater utilisation of audio-visual content. Through an expansion of the ATSB’s digital media production capabilities, we are able to develop more animations and videos to support our report releases. These products not only provide a better understanding for the audience already engaged in our reports; they also bring more people into the safety conversation, with high engagement levels across social media, and a high utility for television and online media outlets.
Over coming years, the strategic plan will aim to further improve the ATSB’s ability to provide greater value for persons and organisations seeking to use our products to take safety action.
Based on my interactions with a range of peer international safety investigation bodies since joining the ATSB, it is evident the agency remains highly regarded, and among the world’s leading transport safety agencies. I remain fully committed to continuing to work innovatively and collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders to enhance and amplify our contribution to improving transport safety, both domestically and internationally.
Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer