Michelle Lensink

Travel Compensation Fund

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about the Travel Compensation Fund.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Travel Compensation Fund is one of the areas that the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs has been discussing and, in its release of May 2009, the federal minister (Hon. Chris Bowen) stated that a review of the Travel Compensation Fund is long overdue. Further in that communiqué, he states:

The ministerial council has directed the Standing Committee of Officials of Consumer Affairs to undertake the review, in consultation with industry and consumer stakeholders.

He goes on to say:

The MCCA has also suggested that the Council of Australian Government (COAG) may wish to add travel licensing arrangements to the National Trade Licensing System when the opportunity arises.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has been quite vocal in its criticism of the Travel Compensation Fund and has issued a discussion paper in which it recommends a direct consumer funded financial protection scheme, the abolition of the TCF, a new streamlined licensing body and new accreditation. It also recommends that the licensing body should get rid of the eight regulatory regimes, which I assume to mean the state and territory bodies.

The CEO of AFTA says that in the event of a major failure pressure would fall on the state and federal governments to bail out the industry and consumers under their proposed regime. My question is: does the minister have a timetable for completion of the ministerial council's review; and does she have concerns with the adequacy of the current scheme in relation to providing adequate consumer protection?

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) (15:00): I think the honourable member raised a question around this or similar issues some time ago. That particular ministerial council has not met for some time. If I recall, it is one that meets, I think, three times a year. It might be four, but I think it is three, and I will check that.

A number of issues have been raised in relation to concerns around the Travel Compensation Fund which, as the honourable member has outlined, have been sent off to an officers' standing committee to look into those matters. My understanding is that it is still with that committee which, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet reported to the ministerial council. I am not aware of a specific time frame that has been set for that, but I will check and bring that information back when I am able.

Regarding the adequacy in terms of consumer protection, that is why this matter was sent off to a standing committee to investigate and review the current provisions. It was deemed that there were issues of concern and that they needed addressing. As I said, I will bring back any further information that I have.

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