The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: My question is to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health. In view of the terrible shortage of organ donors and the fact that most people do not have friends who will donate their kidneys to them when needed, what action is the Government taking to increase the number of organ donors?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is a very good question. It reminds me of a number of things. First, it reminds me of the assistance I was instrumental in obtaining, although not very great assistance—
The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans: If you do not know the answer, refer it to the Minister for Health.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I happen to know more about this than I think the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans knows. He asked me the question. If he wanted me to refer the question to the Minister for Health, why did he not put it on notice?
The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans: We live in hope.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It seems very silly for the honourable member not to put on notice a question that he expects to be referred to the relevant Minister. That is the sort of thing we have become used to from him. I was going to tell him a very interesting story, but I am not sure that I will tell it to him now. Honourable members would know that on their drivers' licence there is provision—
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: It has been there for years.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes, and do you know who was responsible for getting it there? Yours truly! Back in 1985 I was working for the then Minister for Transparent, Barrie Unsworth, and we received letters from the heart foundation, the kidney foundation and others seeking the inclusion of a donor consent form on drivers' licences. The letters of response prepared by the Department of Transport at that time stated that the matter had been—
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: What is your photo like?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My photo is appalling.
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: I am yet to see a decent one.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It looks as though I have no teeth, and lots of grey hair. I am not that grey, am I?
The Hon. J. J. Della Bosca: No. You look a bit like the surfer Nat Young.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not that pale!
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Point of order: The Treasurer should address his remarks through the chair, rather than having quiet discussions, in a teacher-student way, with the Hon. John Della Bosca. Perhaps I could assist. The Premier promised to reduce the road toll to less than 500. It is very important that money be spent on roads.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure that was the most intelligent intervention.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I have not yet ruled on the point of order.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Would you like me to speak to the point of order?
The PRESIDENT: If you wish.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: What was the point of order?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: That you should address your remarks through the Chair.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am sorry, I will do so in future, but I was distracted by the Leader of the Opposition. It is his fault.
The PRESIDENT: It is probably better not to refer to items that are neither tabled nor mentioned in Hansard.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: In any event, the routine responses that the Department of Transport would prepare for the Minister's signature simply said that the matter had been investigated on a previous occasion and it was found that the organ consent forms could not be placed on a driver's licence. After signing a few responses, Mr Unsworth asked me to inquire into the matter. I did so and found that exactly the same responses had been sent for 30 years. I thought I would establish the reason for the rejection 30 years previously. I could not get any sense out of the Department of Transport, so I asked to see the files which went back to about 1950.
The pile of files was about waist high and I went through them to find out what the initial investigation had shown and why for 30-odd years the department kept repeating the advice that the matter had been thoroughly investigated, and that it could not be done. When I finally got to the bottom of the pile I found that in 1950-something a public servant had decided that there was not sufficient room on drivers' licences to make that notation. I pulled out my driver's licence, which in those days was a paper licence.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Did they have organ transplants in the 1950s?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It might have been the 1960s, do not hold me to that.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Was it yellow paper?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, it was white paper. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti would remember the old drivers' licences.
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: It was grey paper.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It was grey paper, was it? Anyway, I looked at it and thought that it was ludicrous that they said there was not enough room. There was so much empty space on the licence that a form could be put anywhere on it. I went back to the then Roads and Traffic Authority, the RTA, which was responsible for drivers' licences—
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: No, it was the Department of Main Roads, the DMR.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, not the DMR, it was the Department of Motor Transport, the DMT. I went to the department and said that this was nonsense, because there was space on the licence, and they said, "Yes, perhaps that is true, but we would not be able to do it for another five years anyway." I asked, "Why not?" and they replied, "Because we get all the licence forms printed five years in advance." I said, "Well, how about overprinting them?", to which they replied, "No, we cannot do that, because it is a continuous printing process." I asked, "What about a rubber stamp?" to which they replied, "No, we could not do that, it would be too costly." It was quite clear that the department was not going to co-operate at all.
I said to Barrie Unsworth, "This is no good. The best way to achieve this is for you to issue a press release stating that the Department of Motor Transport has suggested to you that organ donor consent forms should be included on drivers' licences and that the department is going to produce those licences within a month." He subsequently did that and within a month the licences were printed. Now drivers licences are about the size of a matchbox or a credit card, and there is still plenty of room. There are different categories of donors. I am a donor A, but I suspect that I do not have anything that would be of much use to anybody. I hope that is not the case.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: What about your lungs?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My lungs, heart and kidneys are in good shape. Everything is in good shape, but I have a bad reputation. That is the problem.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: Why?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Everyone thinks that I live an unhealthy lifestyle and have an unhealthy diet. Admittedly, I eat a lot of butter, animal fats and cheese, I drink a lot of milk and I cook everything with cream. But I am still in good shape. The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans has raised a very important issue because, although motor vehicle licences include donor consent forms, there is great difficulty in getting sufficient organ donors to enable the number of transplants that could be undertaken. It is a sensitive issue, and I know that health professionals treat it sensitively. I would agree with the thrust of the honourable member's question that more needs to be done to encourage people to consent to organ donation and to ensure that donors' wishes are delivered. I will refer the honourable member's question to the Minister for Health for his consideration.