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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9266

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (11:11): I join with the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek, in congratulating the Australian Red Cross on its 100 years of service to our nation and to humanity. The Australian Red Cross is part of the world's largest humanitarian organisation, which plays a leading role in lending much-needed assistance during periods of conflict and poverty and also during national disasters. The Australian Red Cross works under the banner of the International Red Cross framework but focuses on areas particularly prioritised by our country and also throughout our region. The organisation provides assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, and through its international network it conducts activities throughout the Pacific region, including working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is a strong focus by the Australian branch of the Red Cross on natural disasters and emergencies as they occur throughout our region. There is also a growing focus on tackling social issues common to Australian communities, including social isolation for older and vulnerable people, and assisting young offenders and their families to integrate back into society.

My personal connection with the Red Cross is primarily through the Red Cross Blood Service, which is now supported by more than half a million voluntary donations each year. The Red Cross provides a vital service in many areas of the health industry including, obviously, blood transfusions, as well as organ and tissue donation, tissue typing for transplantations, research into blood and blood products, and donor and product safety. I would like to use this opportunity to encourage all Australians to consider donating blood. Regrettably, one in three Australians will need blood at some point in their lives. In stark contrast, only one in 30 Australians donate blood. A single blood donation, whilst it might take a half an hour of your time, has the potential to save up to three lives. Donating blood is a great way of giving back to the community—after all, it is impossible to predict when we or those close to us may need someone's assistance through a blood donation. The role Red Cross plays in encouraging and facilitating vital blood donations is exceptional and deserving of the highest praise.

Red Cross is part of the fabric of Australian life. So many Australians have been impacted through the assistance of the Red Cross, be it in cases of emergency or through lifesaving first aid, blood donations or a simple phone call checking on the wellbeing of elderly citizens. Red Cross provides vital services to all Australians.

It therefore comes as a great surprise to me that this government has recently informed the Red Cross that it will no longer be receiving the $5 million general purpose grant this year. Red Cross has traditionally enjoyed undisputed bipartisan political support and has received the general purpose grant every year since 2006. Scrapping the grant will greatly impair the ability of Red Cross to provide vital services. It has already been forced to scrap some programs since 30 June this year. This funding cut will inevitably affect other programs and diminish the ability of Red Cross to provide support for hardworking staff and, most importantly, the volunteers.

It is particularly disappointing that the cut comes during the 100th anniversary of Red Cross, when we should all collectively be not only celebrating but recognising and praising the achievements of this great and important organisation and what it has done over the last century. I praise the efforts of the tens of thousands of staff and volunteers working around the world, including the many aligned with Red Cross here in Australia. They work incredibly hard with the joint aim of alleviating human suffering in various circumstances. I also encourage the government on this occasion to reassess its position on supporting Red Cross and reinstate the funding under the general purpose grant.