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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1841

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - I raise a matter on behalf of some of my constituents and a person from outside my electorate. It relates to the activities of a travel organisation. It seems to me that this organisation, Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd, in its business practices could very well be blamed for exploiting the position of many migrants in this country who, wishing to return to their homes for short term visits, have sought the cheapest means of transport and accordingly used the sort of charter arrangements which organisations like Travel House of Australia seem to be able to provide. It seems that the practice of Travel House of Australia is to have people deposit a certain amount of money. It seems to be a reasonably substantial amount in each of the cases that I have had brought to ray notice.

This organisation requires - again this happened in each of the cases which have been brought to my notice - the deposits sometime before the date of departure of the flight. It sometimes happens that some of the people, who wish to use this method of transport, for a number of very real personal reasons, find that they are unable to undertake the journey and are forced to cancel their trip. When this happens they experience considerable difficulty in obtaining any refund. The amounts involved, I repeat, are substantial. I have had 3 cases come to my notice and I will draw the attention of the House to each of them.

The first one concerns a constituent in my electorate who approached me and pointed out that some months before the end of last year he made a booking for a flight departing in June of this year. He paid to Travel House of Australia $100 deposit towards his return fare of $733 between Brisbane and England. The flight on which he was booked and for which he had paid $100 was, as I said, to depart in June of this year. However, in December last year he advised Travel House of Australia that for very real personal reasons he had to cancel his flight and he asked for a refund of his deposit in view of the fact that he was providing something like 7 months notice that he would be unable to depart on that flight. He was advised that not only was he not entitled to a refund of the $100 deposit but that in fact in the small print on the back of the coupon issued to him when he made the deposit there was a reference to an obligation on him to pay a $5 cancellation fee plus 25 per cent of the full fare, which of course brings his liability to somewhere near $200.

This man is a moderate wage earner with a family and dependants. He can ill afford to see $100 go down the drain in this sort of way. When I contacted Travel House of Australia a letter was written to me. It seemed to be a pro forma letter. In it this organisation said that it was not prepared to give a refund to this man. It is quite clear that, having got the money, this agency intends to hang on to it. It is clinging tenaciously to it, as I will try to indicate in a few seconds.

The next person who wrote to me was a person from outside my electorate, who wrote as a result of some comments in a weekend newspaper and referred to some comments which I expressed on this subject but without identifying Travel House of Australia. In the letter the person said:

I read with interest the article in the Sunday Sun' with regard to the charter flights to England. I had a reservation on a flight to England in May but made a cancellation in January- five months earlier - but was informed that I would have to forfeit my S100 reservation fee.

The letter went on to make some criticisms and express some concern about the way in which that person had been treated. Another letter arrived at my office. It was written by a constituent as a result of this article in the newspaper. The letter in part says:

My story to date is: In November 1971 I booked an airflight for my husband and myself to England to visit my elderly mother; at the time this was all done in good faith, however, I was taken sick in January, and on the 17th after an X-ray, it was found that it would be necessary for me to enter hospital for an operation (not immediately, as I was advised to lose some weight). A medical certificate can be produced to verify this. On the following Friday I wrote to Travel House of Australia' informing them of this plus the fact that my two teenage sons were causing me family problems, and also as my young daughter had just been involved in a road accident, I did not feel inclined to leave them.

This person has had to forfeit her deposit to this organisation. Her deposit was $50. These sums of money are fairly substantial amounts for moderate income earners to pay. Travel House of Australia, in reply to this lady, sent out a letter very similar to the one that was sent out to the constituent to whom I referred earlier. In this letter Travel House of Australia indicated that the directors were not prepared to make a refund of the deposit. The letter went on to say:

The conditions of booking . . . state that moneys are only refunded if the full fare has been paid. Unfortunately- this sentence is important- as charter consolidators, our money is paid direct in advance to the airline concerned.

So that is the basis on which Travel House of Australia justifies, as it did in the earlier letter which contained exactly the same sentence, its practice of refusing to refund deposit money. Travel House of Australia argues that, having received an application plus a deposit from a person, the money goes, I assume, to some charter company because the letter says 'as charter consolidators, our money is paid direct in advance to the airline concerned'. It claims that it cannot get the money refunded. The letter from Travel House of Australia goes on, in what seems to me to be a most peculiar way, to say:

However, we are prepared to be quite reasonable in these circumstances and have not, repeat have not, cancelled his flight. Therefore, he can if he so desires fly at a later date provided he notifies us in advance.

Essentially, what Travel House of Australia is saying is that there has been no disruption of the flight for which the person booked; there will be no loss because if the person wishes he can go on a flight at some subsequent date. So the problem is not one of an empty seat which has been created. How the hell could it be when one woman has given this organisation 5 months notice and the other constituent to whom I referred gave nearly 7 months notice? There was plenty of time in which to fill the seat on the aircraft. This is not the problem at all. Travel House of Australia having got its hands on the hard earned money of people in this community - many of them migrants who want to visit their homes for quite understandable reasons, and who in my experience are moderate or low income earners and who have worked very hard to accumulate a little money with a long term saving aim of returning to their home - some of the people find that they cannot travel on the selected date because of personal reasons which are perfectly legitimate, perfectly understandable and quite unavoidable in regard to the need to cancel the trip. They then find that Travel House of Australia, having got its dirty paws on their money, refuses to refund the money.

I put these facts to the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson). I know that he has difficulties. I have raised this matter with him by way of communication. I believe that some forthright action has to be taken to bring in laws to control the activities of organisations like Travel House of Australia. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) saw fit, in what I thought was a well authenticated case, to criticise this organisation. This is further evidence of a sort of behaviour which is clearly reprehensible. The Minister said that he understood that a Bill in line with the sorts of controls that are needed would be available some time in February. To my knowledge it has not arrived yet and I hope that tonight he can say something positive in this respect. But, more especially, 1 would like him to say something firmly about the reprehensible behaviour of organisations like Travel House of Australia which are clearly exploiting people and unfairly depriving them of their money.

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