The safety of Australia’s air travellers is at risk.

Every day across Australia, air travellers are protected by aviation firefighters, dedicated to looking after your safety.

Aviation fuel fires burn hot and fast and when a plane crashes, firefighters have just 3 minutes to reach the plane to provide passengers with the best chance of survival.

That’s why aviation firefighting requires special training and equipment, and firefighters must be stationed at airports close to runways so that they can reach a crashed plane in time.

However, the Federal Government is cutting the number of aviation firefighters protecting Australia’s airports and that means fewer firefighters to save your life when you need them most.

In response, we’ve launched the ‘3 Minutes to Live – Keep Our Skies Safe’ campaign to protect you and our community

At this Federal Election, we need your help to call on all political parties to provide the resources aviation firefighters need to keep you safe in the skies.




We call on all political parties at the Federal Election to commit to:

1. An urgent review of Australia’s aviation firefighting services

We need an urgent review of Australia’s adherence to international aviation safety regulations to ensure that air travellers are being properly protected.

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Aviation firefighting services across Australia are understaffed and under resourced. We call on the next Federal Government to undertake an urgent review into Australia’s adherence to International Civil Aviation Organization Standards and Recommended Practices and any other relevant regulations, standards and procedures, including those issued by the National Fire Protection Association for the provision of aviation rescue and firefighting services.

Australia’s Aviation Rescue Firefighting Service (ARFFS) must have access to a funding model that ensures there is an adequate scale of provision. The allocation of ARFFS at Australian airports is woefully inadequate and unreasonably risks exposing the nation to major reputational damage as well as massive human and resource losses.

2. Address the shortage of aviation firefighters
We must provide sufficient aviation firefighters and equipment at all airports to ensure acceptable protection of air travelers and to support safe systems of work for firefighters on the fireground, consistent with international best practice. Staffing levels are being reduced or re-allocated across the ARFFS network, placing the safety of both crews and the travelling public at risk.
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The next Federal Government must ensure that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority mandates the Task Resource Analysis (TRA) methodology, to establish justification as to the minimum number of qualified/competent personnel required to deliver an effective ARFFS service, as prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is also critical that the process involves appropriate consultation via the engagement of Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting staff and officers at all stages of the TRA process, and that the outcomes be made publicly available.

To protect the safety of Australia’s air travellers the Federal Government must resource aviation firefighting services in accordance with the outcomes of the TRA and introduce legislation which guarantees these minimum staffing levels. ARFFS must have access to a funding model that ensures there is an adequate scale of provision.

3. Protecting the community in airport precincts
Aviation firefighters must continue to respond to non-aircraft related incidents and emergencies within the airport precinct including passenger terminals.
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Being the closest emergency services available, aviation firefighters often respond to non-aircraft related incidents within airport precincts. The Federal Government proposes to change this by shifting the responsibility for these incidents to state, territory, retained or volunteer emergency services. This will increase response times and put the safety of airport infrastructure, visitors and workers at risk.

The next Federal Government should mandate the establishment of a Task Resource Analysis for Domestic Response Services. The DRS TRA should determine the additional ARFFS staff required for responses to non-regulated and non-aviation emergencies across the aerodrome, over and above the staff required for an ARFFS station to maintain category protection of aircraft and passengers in the case of an aviation emergency at our busiest airports.

4. Oppose the privatisation of aviation firefighting at remote and regional airports
Aviation firefighting services at remote and regional airports must not be privatised and handed to companies who’ll put profit before safety.
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The Federal Government plans to hand over aviation firefighting services at remote and regional airports to private companies who’ll put profits before safety. This approach has been a disaster in the aged care and vocational education sector and has resulted in extremely poor outcomes for customers. The privatisation of aviation firefighting services at Australia’s airports will put the lives of air travellers at risk as private companies seek to reduce costs and maximise profits.

Trying to compare a public enterprise to a private enterprise is flawed at the most elemental level because their objectives must be different. A private company owes a duty to its shareholders to maximise value, thereby diminishing considerations concerning social costs and benefits.

The tendency to compromise the public interest in pursuit of private profitability is clear across many sectors – most recently, banking, insurance, superannuation, etc. This is a sector that should avoid falling into prioritising cost-cutting and tilting the field towards higher profitability. Public safety is too important to be compromised in this way.

We call on the next Federal Government to oppose the privatisation of aviation firefighting services across Australia to protect air travellers.

5. Protect air travellers with strong regulation
Air travellers must be protected with strictly regulated aviation firefighting services.
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The Federal Government proposes to deregulate the provision of aviation firefighting services at Australia’s airports. This would allow providers to shift to ‘outcomes based’ regulation, essentially allowing them to make their own rules on how aviation firefighting services would be resourced and provided. This will embolden providers to tamper with and reset ARFFS safety regulations at their discretion in order to achieve the lowest possible cost, the safety of Australia’s air travellers would be seriously put at risk.

We call on the next Federal Government to oppose the deregulation of ARFFS safety standards  and to put the protection of air travellers first.

The prescriptive, rules-based approach provided by the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices was introduced to define best practice in international aviation and is directed at preserving public safety, preventing loss of life, and protecting valuable infrastructure. The overarching objective is to minimise risk and provide certainty. If a flexible outcomes-based approach is allowed, then safety standards can easily become compromised because of different interpretations by different operators. There is substantial evidence that when sectors are allowed to self-regulate there is an inclination to cut corners in order to reduce costs and increase profitability. The dynamic in all instances of deregulation is the trade-off between profitability and the relevant public good (in this case, public safety). Whenever this sort of trade-off is observed there is an overwhelming case to be made for prescriptive, rules-based regulations which ensure that public safety considerations are forced upon decision makers.


The campaign has been organised by the United Firefighters Union – Aviation Branch. You can find out more information here.