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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1843

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - 1 was quite pleased to hear the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) raise this subject tonight. I know that for quite some time he has had an interest in it. I spoke about it in this House on 29th March last, as reported at page 1379 of Hansard of that date. As a result of my speech, Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd wrote to the Editor of the 'Sunday Australian' in the following terms:

We seriously question the knowledge and eligibility of Mr Cameron, MP, to discuss booking conditions when relating to charter passengers.

I have never set myself up in this House as being a specialist on charter flight operations; I do not think that any man would do so. But I do set myself up as being one who has a sense of proportion which enables him to judge what is fair and what is not fair. Before I proceed any further I should like to refer to the last speech which I made on this matter. Travel House (Orange) Pty Ltd is a company which has been established for many years in the electorate of the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) and members of that company were really upset because they thought that I was referring to their company. The honourable member for Calare informs me that it is a very reputable company, and I make it clear now that the company in Orange was not the subject of my remarks on the previous occasion I raised this matter in this House. I make all the apologies in the world for the inconvenience and embarrassment caused to this company as a result of a similarity of names, which clearly is not my fault.

Immediately after I had made my speech in this House a man in Brisbane came to me and said that Travel House of Australia owed him $700. He said: 'I took out a ticket from here to London and back and I had a ticket from London to Brisbane' - or somewhere else in Australia - for this lady and her daughter, but for certain reasons they did not come'. I suggested to him that he should go along to the Travel House agency in Brisbane - Crest Travel which is situated at the Crest Hotel in Brisbane. He said: T have been there many times and I have had a fairly rough deal. I have not got anywhere'. I said: 'Why do you not contact the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" which might give you some support?' Then he went and saw employees of the Sunday Mail' and showed them a copy of my speech. Representatives of the 'Sunday Mail' accompanied him to Crest Travel which, I believe, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Travel House of Australia. Crest Travel immediately rang the Melbourne office, and I must say that they were courteous. An assurance was given that a letter would be written on the following Saturday.

This constituent came into my office on the following Tuesday and said: 'I am going to Melbourne. I am frightened that this company will go broke. I want to get down there. I said: 'Give them another day'. He said: 'No, I am going'. He went down to Melbourne by bus. 1 think it was on the Thursday morning that he went in and said to the people in Melbourne : 'All right, you have got until 3 o'clock in the afternoon'. It was obvious to him that they did not really intend to pay him at that stage. He suggested to them that if they did not pay him the money he would bring representatives from the Melbourne 'Herald' along to see them. He returned that afternoon and they did come good and pay him $700, or $694, which they owed him. This was a case where pressure was brought to bear and a refund was made. I wonder what would have happened if this man had not gone to Melbourne, because the money had been the subject of dispute for some 4 or 5 months.

Now I wish to read to the House a letter from a Mr Ruxton in Canberra. In the letter he referred to the letter from the directors of Travel House of Australia, which was published in the 'Sunday Australian', in which they claimed that my speech had forced them to cancel certain flights to London via the United States of America. We must not underestimate the power of a member of Parliament. A big company with many subsidiaries - I think that Travel House of Australia has approximately 2 dozen subsidiaries throughout Australia - was forced to cancel a whole flight programme because of the utterances of a member of Parliament who was only seeking truth and justice for the unwary people of Australia. This is the letter which was written by Mr Ruxton:

In your issue of 9 April 1972, three Directors of Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd claimed that all their agencies throughout the world were free of all or any liability'.

May I point out that I have at the present moment a summons out against 'London Arcade Travel' a wholly-owned agent of 'Travel House' for breach of contract.

In brief, I paid for a return trip from Sydney to London in mid-1971 and was sent a voucher stamped on the inside 'Travel House of Australia Pty Ltd', for the return journey from London to Sydney. In a covering letter I was asked to hand in the voucher to 'Travel House' in London for necessary ticketing for return. In England, I wrote to 'Travel House' confirming an agreed date for my return and saying that I wished to pick up the tickets at their office in London. They replied giving instructions for the return journey but sent no tickets. When I called at Travel House four days before departure, they refused to exchange the voucher for tickets and said the tickets would be available from Southern Cross Airways at Gatwick Airport, on departure.

At Gatwick, on departure, no tickets were available nor was the voucher acceptable to Southern Cross Airways. After confirming that it was the right flight, at the right time, and after meeting two other passengers in the same plight, I paid my own fare from London to Kuala Lumpur, where 'Travel House' had said tickets would be available, at the desk of Cathay Pacific Airways, for return to Sydney. At Kuala Lumpur no tickets were available for me and I had to pay my own way back to Sydney.

On return to Australia and in reply to a request for a refund of the fares. Travel House promised an 'immediate investigation' and a prompt settlement'--

He must have been quoting from some correspondence--

.   . but after 6 months nothing has happened. There has not even been an explanation.

Yours faithfully,

B.   P. Ruxton

I fully realise that charter operators rely heavily upon booking fullflights; if aircraft are not fully booked, the operators cannot make the business a paying proposition. Passengers have to be fairly certain about their movements. But I do not believe that the type of advertising in which these charter operators indulge - they have big advertisements in various colours displayed in their windows and in almost every newspaper in Australia - gives every Australian the correct picture. The advertisements refer to a fare of $399 for a flight to London via New York or Amsterdam. When many people who are usually cautious see advertisements like this they drop their guard because not too many people can resist a tempting bargain. Very many people are not experienced in world travel, and they think to themselves: 'We will be right'. They will be 'right' all right; they will be left in places such as Kuala Lumpur or Singapore for many days.

I believe that recently someone sued a charter operator - it might have been Travel House - because that person arrived at his destination days later than had been arranged when the original booking was made. I think that the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson), who has had the opportunity to listen to 2 members of Parliament speaking on this matter tonight - the honourable member for Oxley and myself - will recognise that we are not just flying kites, that there is something radically wrong. I know that Qantas Airways Ltd, following months and months of pressure from myself and a few other people, has at last moved to introduce charter flights. Although I have expressed certain feelings about Qantas in the past, now it has done what I have suggested it should do, and regardless of what I have said about Qantas in the past. 1 would rather spend $420 on a flight with Qantas, which I am sure will get me where I am going, than to take the risk of being stranded in some far-flung place, or, alternatively, losing a lot of money, because there are so many conditions attached to booking a flight with these charter operators. Certainly it is a trap for the unwary.

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