September 18, 2008
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has personally introduced legislation to parliament that aims to establish a national organ donation scheme.
Establishing a scheme was one of the key issues raised in the 2020 Summit earlier this year, he said.
At any one time in Australia, there were 1,800 people waiting for an organ transplant, but there were just 198 deceased organ donations last year, Mr Rudd told parliament.
"For too long, organ donation rates in Australia have lagged behind many other nations, despite high levels of community support for organ donations.
"For too long, Australians have been left desperately waiting, month after month, for a transplant that could mean the difference between a normal healthy life and debilitating, chronic illness. And in some cases, the difference between life and death.
"For too long, people have talked about the need to lift organ donation rates but there has been no action."
The aim of the bill - which provides funding of $136.4 million - was to help lift Australia up to world's best practice in organ and tissue donation, Mr Rudd said.
About $46 million will go towards the establishment of the Australian Organ Donation and Transplantation Authority that will ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to donations.
Some $67 million will employ specialist staff dedicated to organ donation, who will work closely with emergency departments and intensive care units at selected public and private hospitals.
Hospitals will receive $17 million to help them meet additional staffing, bed and infrastructure costs associated with donations, while $13.4 million will be spent on a publicity campaign.
About $1.9 million will fund counsellors to support donor families.
The measures would mean every family of a potential organ donor would be asked about organ donation, Mr Rudd said.
Despite one million more organ donor registrations since 2002 bringing registrations to a total of six million, there had been no increase in the number of lives being saved through transplants, he said.
"That's what we try to solve, that's what we try to deal with through this legislation.
"I would like to make an appeal to all Australians. If you are not now on the organ donor list, please think about it and get your name onto it."
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says the opposition strongly supports the bill.
"I want to congratulate the prime minister for bringing forward this bill," he told parliament.
"Promoting organ donation is a vital national objective. We are delighted it is being pursued with new measures under this government.
"The prime minister can count on our support on this legislation and in other measures in the future if this legislation proves to be inadequate.
"We will continue to work in a genuine bipartisan fashion to promote organ donation."
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