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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5197

Mr NEUMANN (BlairParliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing and Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General) (13:07): I too saw that Four Corners report on Mark Colvin. I want to praise him for his courage and the many other people who are going through a similar experience. It is a big challenge and I have seen it personally. Twenty years ago, my mother-in-law, Corinne Briese, was the recipient of a liver transplant. The benefit to her and to my family was immense: she saw her grandchildren raised and her great-grandchildren born as a result of organ donation.

I thank the member for Greenway for her question. We have an ongoing commitment of course to sustain continuous improvement in organ and tissue donations. This government have done what no other government has done in the past. Since the establishment of the organ and tissue authority back in January 2009, we have seen some significant increases in donation and transplantation rates. We are continuing to work in this area. It is important to note that in this budget we put aside $2.6 million for a new initiative, the living donor paid leave scheme. I saw the headlines on that Sunday morning: 'Cash for kidney'. It was disingenuous and dishonest to say that. It is not true. We consulted widely with stakeholders in relation to this issue and I have personally spoken to a number of interested parties, particularly on the Sunday when the Minister for Health and I made the announcement. The joy and enthusiasm for this particular initiative cannot be underestimated. Tears were flowing and, in a number of cases, I could hear them yelling for joy at the other end of the phone.

We looked at overseas approaches, as you mentioned. We looked at what they are doing there. The substance of the scheme, which will begin on 1 July, is that it will provide up to six weeks paid leave at the minimum wage, which is currently $622.20 a week. The duration of the initiative is two years and we will undertake an evaluation of that initiative after that time. As you correctly said, member for Greenway, about 99 per cent of the donations in Australia involve the donation of a kidney. This is an incredibly generous and amazing sacrifice that people are prepared to make—to give a partial liver or a kidney. Most people cannot afford six weeks off. They have to pay their mortgage and meet their household expenses, so this has been an obstacle for them. We have provided six weeks pre-surgery evaluation and post-surgery convalescence. As you said, it provides the opportunity for people to take time off work. The scheme is for part-time and full-time workers and self-employed workers, as you mentioned before. The unemployed, of course, can get sickness benefits and other types of benefits.

It is not a matter of providing an incentive for people to do this; it is a matter of recognising the financial barriers that someone may face when they want to give generously to a loved one, a family friend, a spouse or a relative. The government does not believe—and I do not believe this is accepted by the opposition either—that it is appropriate to sell organs to make money. In Australia the waiting time for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor is about three to four years. As of 3 December 2012, 1,080 Australians were officially listed as waiting for a kidney transplant. Living organ donation numbers have steadily decreased, from a high of 356 donors in 2008 to 241 in 2012. The average between 2006 and 2011 was 290 living organ donors each year. We want to arrest that problem.

More than 30,000 Australians have received organ and tissue transplants in Australia since the first kidney transplant was performed in 1965. We have one of the highest success rates for organ transplantation in the world, with survival rates exceeding 90 per cent in the first year. This is a very generous thing for someone to do, but it means that the quality of someone's life and their employment opportunities can be enhanced. The reality is that it saves up to $73,000 a year in terms of dialysis for someone who is still getting that sort of treatment for their kidney disease. This is a great initiative. This is something that we think will arrest the decline. I commend the minister and all the stakeholders who have been pushing this initiative for such a long time.

Dr SOUTHCOTT: I would like to ask a couple of questions again. Firstly, I ask about the ad which appeared in Victorian newspapers on 23 February. We would simply like to know who approved those ads. Was the minister or her staff consulted about the ads? Did the minister or her staff see a proof of the ads before they were placed? Did those ads go through the departmental process or through the government advertising committee? And there is the question which the opposition is now asking for the third time: we would like some more detail about the communications campaign—$10 million over the next two years to fund a national information campaign and information products to inform Australians about the benefits of Medicare. Specifically, we would like to know what information products are being produced using this $10 million. What date is this money due to be spent by?