The creation of a true national travel industry accreditation scheme is still hanging in the balance as WA continues to ponder the possible launch of its own breakaway regulatory system.
Submissions close today on a WA “position paper” which sets out five options for the future regulation of travel agents in the state.
WA, along with South Australia, abstained from voting at last December’s meeting of consumer affairs ministers when the closure of the Travel Compensation Fund and a deregulation of the industry was formally set in motion.
South Australia has since come on board, leaving Australia’s largest state as the only one yet to sign up.
While WA’s preference is believed to be AFTA’s voluntary accreditation scheme, four other options have been presented to the industry and WA residents in a 39-page consultation document.
They include the creation of a mini-TCF, the continuation of licensing and oversight but without consumer financial protection, and a “negative licensing” system where there are no barriers to entry and businesses are only shut down if they are subsequently deemed to be “unfit”.
Submissions on the proposals may be made public after today, with AFTA among those to have responded.
AFTA accreditation general manager Gary O’Riordan declined to comment on WA’s position in light of the sensitive timing of the issue. But during a webinar last month which tackled issues surrounding the accreditation scheme, he made clear AFTA’s wish to get the backing of the WA Government.
Without WA support “we wouldn’t have a true national scheme”, O’Riordan admiitted.
“We strongly hope that they will support option A, which is the new national scheme,” he said in response to agents’ questions on the issue. “I just don’t think it would work with any of the other options. It would create too much burden on agents in WA. We then wouldn’t have a true national scheme because you’d have agents in one state doing something different to every other agent in every other state and territory."
O'Riordan added: “I think it would be disadvantageous for agents in WA to be over regulated when people in other states are operating without the heavy burden of government oversight and regulation.”
He stressed that WA had not voted against AFTA’s accreditation plan, just that it wanted more time to explore its options.
“WA has canvassed a range of options, from as extreme as having their own mini-TCF if you like, which would regulate agents, to option A which is their recommended option to back the national scheme,” he said.
In its position paper, WA said it recognised the need for change but that it wanted to examine the accreditation scheme in more detail and investigate other “less costly regulatory mechanisms”.