Inquiry Into Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Tourism

Tuesday 11 July 2017 @ 11.15 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

The Commonwealth Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has opened an inquiry looking into current legislation covering the issue of organ trafficking and transplant tourism.


The inquiry comes after a three year investigation by NewsCorp that revealed the high numbers of Australians who travelled overseas to buy organs on the black market, due to a shortage of organs available under the Australian programme. Earlier this year in May 2017, Health Minister Greg Hunt unveiled plans for an additional$4.1 million in this year’s budget to continue the Government’s organ donors programme.  On the increased budget for the donors’ programme, bioethicist Dominique Martin said:

"Organ trafficking happens for various reasons but the foremost of them is the lack of timely access to transplants domestically. Providing this to living donors in Australia will hopefully facilitate more living donor transplants and discourage people from seeking transplants overseas."

Current Legislative Regime

Currently, the Commonwealth offence of organ trafficking is contained within Subdivision 271.7B of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (CTH) ('the Code'). Under the Code, a person who returns to Australia after having received an organ transplant overseas cannot be charged. A person can only be charged under sub-division 271B(1) and (2) of the Code if a they bring someone into Australia in order to purchase an organ from them whilst in Australia, or if the victim is transported outside of Australia for the purpose of having their organ removed.

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference for investigation are:

  • Whether the offence of organ trafficking and tourism should have extraterritorial application; and
  • Whether Australia should accede to the 2014 Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Organs (‘the Convention’).

The Convention calls on governments to establish organ removal as a criminal offence where it is non-consensual, non-authorised in the case of deceased donors, and where it is done in exchange for a financial gain or other comparable advantage.

Inquiry Details

In the Media Release, the inquiry will aim to consider the widespread and global nature of organ trafficking and tourism in addition to investigating regional laws, as well as considering how the Australian legal system can be improved in order to deter organ tourism. The Chairman of the Human Rights Sub-Committee, Hon Kevin Andrews MP said:

"We will also examine what activities and measures Australia is taking through its work with other partner countries to strengthen regional criminal laws that relate to organ trafficking and transplant tourism."

The closing date for submissions is Monday 7 August 2017. Further details on submissions are available on the Committee’s website.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Criminal Code Act 1995 (CTH), as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Human Rights Sub-Committee, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, ‘Deterring International Human Organ Trafficking’ (Media release), 23 June 2017.

Parliament of Australia, Inquiry into Human Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Tourism.

Sue Dunlevy, ‘Tough new laws to crack down on illegal organ trade to be considered by parliamentary inquiry,’ (NewsCorp Australia Network), 24 June 2017.

Danny Tran ‘Federal budget 2017: Hopes 'transplant tourism' will drop with extension of organ donor support program,’ (ABC News), 10 May 2017.

Related Articles: