If you’re involved directly or indirectly in a transport safety incident in Australia, you may be required by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to be interviewed in relation to that incident. It’s important for people who are required to participate in an ATSB interview to understand their rights and obligations.
The ATSB is an Australian government organisation responsible for investigating transport safety incidents in aviation, marine and rail transport. This includes accidents or incidents involving civilian aircraft (excluding those for recreational and sport purposes), commercial shipping and all rail operations.
The ATSB was established under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) which originally commenced operation on 1 July 2003. The Act underwent significant amendment on 1 July 2009. The TSI Act establishes the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as an independent Commonwealth Statutory agency with powers of investigation in aviation, marine and rail transport.
An ATSB investigation is purely aimed at determining the factors which led to an aviation, marine or rail accident or safety incident so that lessons can be learned and transport safety improved in the future.
Section 12AA (3) of the TSI Act clearly states that it is not the function of the ATSB to:
Under the provisions of the TSI Act, ATSB investigators may interview anyone involved directly or indirectly in a transport safety occurrence.
Individuals not directly involved in a particular accident or incident may also be interviewed regarding certain operations or processes within an organisation.
Under section 32 of the TSI Act, ATSB investigators can compel a person to answer questions. This is done by the ATSB providing an interviewee with a written notice (a section 32 notice) to attend an interview and answer questions.
It is an offence to fail to comply with a section 32 notice by:
If an ATSB investigation interviewee is answering a question that may incriminate them or make them liable to a penalty, then section 47 of the TSI Act applies. Section 47 prevents any answer or any information obtained as a direct or indirect consequence of the answer from being admitted as evidence against the person in any civil or criminal proceeding.
An interviewee may have a representative such as a friend, work colleague or an industrial (eg. union representative or employment lawyer) or other legal representative, for example, a criminal lawyer) present with them at an ATSB interview.
The ATSB will need to authorise the interviewee’s representative to attend the interview so that it is lawful for them to hear and/or view restricted information during the interview.
If you have received, or anticipate receiving, a section 32 notice, you should contact Gilshenan & Luton to ensure your rights are protected and you understand your obligations.
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This article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact Gilshenan & Luton, Criminal & Employment Lawyers Brisbane and Sunshine Coast, Queensland.