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Australian Transport Safety Bureau


Please find attached submission from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service

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Contact: Greg Hood


Independent Review of the APS

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Thank you for providing the opportunity for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to

participate in the review of the Australian Public Service (APS) through this submission/case


As we discussed at the recent APSC-hosted forum for small agencies, I consider it important that

we, as a small agency serving the Australian Government and people, provide a contemporary

perspective to the review in relation to the manner in which we are evolving our business model

and practices.

In facilitating this commitment, I would like to suggest that relevant panel members might wish

to participate in the opportunity for an “experiential” visit to a small agency such as ours. In our

case, this would be a timely venture as we are currently undergoing an efficiency audit by the

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). In preparing for this audit, we have taken the time to

reflect on our past, present and future state in terms of achieving our primary function to

improve transport safety with priority given to delivering the best safety outcomes for the

travelling public.

As a backdrop and potentially an agenda for the visit, during the past two years, the ATSB has

embarked on an “evolution” program that has resulted in fundamental changes to the way in

which we operate.


The ATSB faces an operating environment of continuing growth in, and progressive changes to,
the composition of the aviation, rail and marine transport sectors (e.g. air traffic movement

numbers are predicted to double by 2030, automated rail is already a reality, and the cruise and

cargo ship industries are experiencing unprecedented growth).
In contrast, the ATSB (up until the last financial year) had continued to experience successive

reductions to its base appropriations reflective of the efficiency dividend and other whole of

government savings initiatives. To manage these fiscal circumstances, the ATSB was required to

reduce its core staffing profile, including specialist investigators, by approximately 25 per cent

from when it was established as an independent statutory authority in July 2009.

Through the Government’s 2017–18 Budget measure ‘improving transport safety”, the ATSB has

been able to replenish its workforce and re-profile its capital investment strategies to meet its

projected needs in essential technical equipment, data warehousing requirements and core

enterprise systems. That acknowledged, this scenario has significantly impacted on the agency’s

capability to achieve its prescribed deliverables and key performance indicators. With the steady

reduction in resources, the ATSB was not able to keep pace with demand and at the start of the

2017–18 financial year; the ATSB had a backlog of around 60 complex transport safety

investigations that had exceeded either their scheduled time or their allocated investigation


Given it takes approximately 12-18 months to develop the base competencies for a new

transport safety investigator, it may take a considerable period before the agency has a

sufficient capability base to meet existing and projected demand. To mitigate this scenario from

reoccurring in the future, a more robust funding model for safety focused (or public good)
agencies like the ATSB may be within scope of the review.


Rather than continue a single modal approach to transport safety investigations, in 2017 the

ATSB underwent a major structural change, adopting a multi-modal, teams-based approach to

our work enabling a more efficient use of resources. This approach has also allowed us to reduce

the number of Senior Executive Service employees from four (4) to two (2). The ATSB is also

adopting a more rigorous program managed approach to the quality and timeliness of the

production of our investigation reports, engaging a Program Director and further refinement of

our processes.


Rather than persevere with the traditional recruitment process, where transport safety

investigators were recruited for their domain skills (i.e. pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers,
ships captains, train drivers etc.), the ATSB mapped the broader competencies of an

investigator, and worked with a specialist recruitment provider on a methodology to test and

validate these competencies. This new approach has yielded positive results with 17 new

transport safety investigators successfully on-boarded over the past six months.


The ATSB has significantly increased its outreach with transport safety messages, through an

enhanced communication strategy. This involves the development of a strategic

communications plan, greater use of social media (Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter), and the

construction of a video and audio studio where releases for the media on investigations-of-
interest are prepared and then dispatched.
Continual Learning

Recognizing the ATSB is a small operational agency, and that there were prohibitive overheads

to maintaining its status of being a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), a two-tiered strategy

was adopted to ensure that our staff were afforded the opportunity to continue their training

towards a tertiary qualification. The first tier (interim arrangement) was to partner with an

accredited RTO, and the second component was to release a limited request for tender (RFT) to

market to identify a longer term tertiary partner to accommodate and ensure our specialist

learning and development needs are met, but also to expand our transport safety research



Transport in general, and transport safety in particular, has long been the subject of a gender

imbalance. The ATSB has implemented strategies to increase the ratio of women in the

workforce to almost 40 per cent (from 25 per cent), and concurrently has expanded its diversity

through the engagement of Indigenous Australians and persons that identify as LGBTI.


The ATSB has encouraged innovation through empowerment. Two major achievements have

been the introduction of a fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones to assist in

accident site mapping (including authorization from the regulator and the training of seven

drone pilots), and the introduction of Skype for Business enabling better inter-unit

communication and live video back to Canberra of accident sites. The ATSB has come a long way

in terms of embracing technology that will provide greater agility and efficiency in support of

our operations.

Strategic Focus

The ATSB is well advanced in the development of a Vision 2025 (anticipated publication in

October 2018). This vision document will serve as a future-oriented declaration of the ATSB’s

purpose and aspirations.

The vision will guide strategy development, help communicate the ATSB’s purpose to all

stakeholders to ensure a common understanding, and inform the goals and objectives set to

determine whether the strategy is on track.

The objective of the ATSB’s vision statement is to ensure that the ATSB works towards

enhancing the contribution it makes to transport safety in the context of the operating

environment expected to exist in 2025. This vision statement will guide our future annual and

corporate plans and may influence the Government’s expectations particularly around our

expanding jurisdictions.

The primary goals and strategies that align with key themes of the APS review include:

• Evolving our role as Australia’s National Transport Safety Investigator - through expanding
our jurisdiction to cover Domestic Commercial Vessels and potentially the Heavy Vehicle
sector. Reinforcing our jurisdictions in Aviation and Rail. Preparing for increased space
activity and greater collaboration with Defence.

• Remaining a recognised world leader - through marshalling the best expertise, building
capability both in-house and within industry, creating a more agile workforce, greater
engagement with our peers and benchmarking our performance on a global level.

• Identify important safety issues that others don’t - through focussing on transport safety
investigations that will most benefit from the ATSB’s independent and systemic approach,
using data and trend analysis to identify where critical safety issues are likely to exist and
program manage and prioritise resources for investigations where there are the greatest
safety improvements.

• Predicting future safety risks – through moving towards predictive safety management
nationally and internationally, facilitate the sharing of safety information and data within
industry and between transport modes, and ensuring the ATSB has the skills to meet the
rapid changes in emerging technologies - particularly the automation of transport vehicles.

• Become a motivating force for safety action that stops accidents – through building stronger
stakeholder networks (advocates), ensuring those who are best placed to take safety action
have the information they need through improvements to our communication platforms and
products, with a focus on digital enhancements (multi-media reports etc).

While the ATSB has work to complete in terms of ensuring the underlying enablers for these

goals and strategies align with relevant government/industry agendas and initiatives, the ATSB is

well placed to make sure it remains a contemporary and world leading transport safety

investigation agency.

Consistent with an ethos of continual improvement, the ATSB continues to strive to best meet

the needs of the Australian Government and people.

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide this submission/case study to the review and if

practicable, I look forward to hosting relevant panel representatives in the future.

Yours sincerely

Greg Hood

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer