House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Questions without Notice

Aviation Industry

2:39 pm

Photo of Monique RyanMonique Ryan (Kooyong, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Australia lags behind on consumer protections for air travellers. The US, Canada and the EU all compensate passengers for delays and cancellations. We're a country of migrants. Issues with flights can be the difference between us seeing our family and not seeing them. When will Australia hold its airlines to account for ripping off Australians and improve consumer protections around our aviation industry?

2:40 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Kooyong for her question. This is a really important issue, and I particularly want to draw your attention to the green paper that I launched last week. It is not good enough at the moment that we have service standards as low as they are. It is not good enough that we have had people who are not able to get refunds for flights that they could not take because of cancellations during COVID. It is not good enough that people with disabilities cannot travel by air as freely as those without disabilities. That is why, in the green paper, I have very deliberately canvassed the issue of consumer protections. While we have the Australian Consumer Law, which provides baseline protections for all consumers when it comes to goods and services they purchase—and that includes goods and services they purchase in aviation—aviation complaints are up. They've been up across the board for some time now. It's why I would really commend the green paper to you.

There are countries that have different levels of protections when it comes to aviation consumer rights, and, exactly as the green paper states, we are seeking submissions on this very issue. I'm sure that the member for Kooyong will contribute constructively to that green paper process when it comes to consumer protections, as she does so regularly on a range of policy matters, but I do say really clearly: airlines need to do better when it comes to Australian consumers. I have been highly critical of Qantas for some time in relation to a range of issues. They need to do better. All consumers in Australia deserve to have access to a decent aviation service, and that's what we're delivering through the aviation white paper.