I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about the Travel Compensation Fund.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 25 March this year I asked a question of the minister about the Travel Compensation Fund and the potential risk to the tourism industry because of the loss of industry and consumer confidence in the operation of the fund. Since that date, industry concerns have escalated and statistics show that last year the collapse of a number of travel agents grew to its highest level in a decade.
The Travel Compensation Fund's 2008 annual report indicates that the fund's reserve is some $24.5 million and, in that year, it paid out some $2 million. My question to the minister is: given the potential for high levels of collapse of travel agents, reduced funds being entered into the fund from agencies and public concerns which are impacting on travel, such as the swine flu, does the minister have concerns about the ability of the fund to meet its intended purpose, and has she been approached for additional funding commitments in light of these matters?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:27): There have been considerable changes within the industry that have raised concerns. The issue was raised at our ministerial council meeting in Hobart on 8 May where consumer affairs ministers from all states and territories, together with our federal counterpart, came together. That was an item at that ministerial meeting.
In terms of the concerns raised, ministers did acknowledge emerging concerns about the appropriateness of the current scheme for protecting consumers around travel-related services, as well as some of the complexities around expanding and increasing technology confusing that picture even further. There is a sort of officers working committee as part of that council, so the council directed that committee to commission a review of consumer protection measures in the travel and travel-related services market, including the role of the Travel Compensation Fund. As I said, that resolution was passed at the 8 May meeting. It is a concern right around Australia, and I think that a coordinated national approach is a sensible way to address these concerns.