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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5397

Senator SCULLION (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Senator Abetz. Will the minister inform the Senate of steps being taken by the airlines in response to the bombings in Bali? Are there measures to assist people in adapting to changed and trying circumstances?

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Scullion for his question on this important logistical matter. Can I also take the opportunity of noting that Senator Scullion represents the Northern Territory and that the people of Darwin and the Northern Territory have done a fantastic job in assisting those in need and those flying in and out of Australia. I just wanted to make that comment. The airlines—and I think it is fair to single out Qantas in particular—have responded very quickly to the devastating situation in Bali. I can inform the Senate that Qantas has scheduled additional flights from Bali to bring Australians home as quickly as possible. Qantas has sent two of its own doctors and three nurses to Denpasar. It has also transported 16 medical specialists from Emergency Management Australia to provide medical assistance to passengers in need. Qantas has also waived all conditions on tickets from Bali back to Australia. Australians will get home, regardless of which airport they land at inbound from Bali.

Qantas has also advised the government that it is carrying all airline customers from Denpasar to Australia at no additional cost. For people without a valid ticket, a reduced price ticket is available. A special compassionate return ticket is available for families. Qantas will return the deceased to Australia at no charge to families. In many circumstances, Australians will receive refunds for holidays cancelled or postponed as a result of the travel warning issued in relation to Indonesia and Bali. Qantas and Singapore Airlines are offering full refunds with no penalties for airfares and package deals. Customers can transfer to other flights at a later date at no additional cost until the end of October. Garuda airlines are making a similar offer until 27 October.

Many travellers who have booked their travel through a licensed operator should be able to cancel for some refund for the month of October or, alternatively, postpone their travel or transfer their booking to other destinations. People with any concerns about cancelling their travel should contact their travel agent. My colleague Minister Hockey has informed the parliament that Air Paradise International, a new Bali based airline which had planned to commence operations next month, has suspended all services until further notice. There will be full refunds on all tickets. As a government we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation. We thank those airlines that have so generously supported those in need.