June 3, 2014
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (15:39): It is a pleasure to join the debate because it provides an opportunity to remind Australians about the mess this government has inherited and to highlight our efforts to keep our world-class health care system in place and sustainable in the future. It is a pleasure to support the minister, who quite rightly acknowledged that the Australian people gave us a big job to do in September last year and we are determined to do it.
But listening to those opposite you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the last six years didn't happen—it was a mirage, an apparition, a hoax. But it did happen and the damage is real. I do not blame those opposite for being in denial about this. They do not want to acknowledge the mess they have left behind for the Australian people to clean up and the coalition government to clean up. That is all okay—I know it is hard to admit your mistakes. But those opposite are now acting like the tenants from hell. You have had them in the rental property. They have wrecked the rental property: they have broken windows, they have stained the carpet, they have pulled down the curtains—
Mr Hartsuyker: They owe rent.
Mr CHESTER: They owe rent and now they want to stop us from coming in and cleaning up the mess. They want to stay in there and keep doing the damage.
Ten years ago the cost of Medicare to Australian public was in the order of $8 billion per year. Today we are spending about $20 billion per annum on Medicare. Any responsible government would acknowledge that there is a challenge there to make sure that Medicare is sustainable into the future. This government has had to make some tough decisions. They are tough decisions but they have been fair decisions. In proposing this modest contribution that we have put forward in the budget, with a strong safety net for concession card holders and children under 16 years, we are taking steps now to try to make sure that our world-class health system is sustainable in the future.
The members opposite in today's MPI like to talk about the Australian people feeling the pain. The Australian people know all about Labor's pain. We have had six years of absolute budgetary dysfunction from Labor. The record of Labor is something that we need to be reminded about. Labor converted the record surpluses of the Howard government into record deficits. Labor delivered nearly $200 billion worth of deficits and there is $123 billion of deficits over the next four years to come. That is 10 years of deficits. That is an extraordinary effort by Labor!
Get this! Labor promised a surplus in 2012-13 on over 500 occasions. We are still waiting for the member for Lilley's first budget surplus. Australia's debt is already costing us billions of dollars in interest payments. This year we are paying $12 billion in interest costs alone.
Mr Mitchell interjecting—
Mr CHESTER: Those opposite are going silent, apart from my good friend the member for McEwen—he's always up for a blue. The member for McEwen is the only one prepared to defend this. We are paying a billion dollars a month in interest payments. Imagine what that $1 billion per month could do in terms of new health care facilities, new hospitals, new roads.
It is fascinating to sit here and listen to Labor deny the mess they left behind. In the six chaotic years of Labor we had to Labor prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers, five ministers for regional development and six ministers for small business. In total they made 11 changes to ministerial arrangements. There were 20 different parliamentary secretaries and 48 ministers, with over 100 different ministerial titles. It was a mess. The Australian people, quite rightly, hired us to do a job in September last year—and that was to clean up Labor's mess.
This matter of public importance debate is important, but the premise of the statement is untrue. This government is not undermining health care in Australia; it is making responsible, long-term decisions to make sure that our health system is sustainable in the long term. The Abbott government is delivering record funding for hospitals and schools.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Mr CHESTER: They don't like it, but it's true. The Abbott coalition government is delivering record funding for hospitals and schools. I am surprised that my good friend the member for Moreton is even here. He normally leaves by this time of day. The Abbott government is actually honouring its commitments and increasing hospital funding by over $5 billion or around 40 per cent over four years. Those opposite don't like it but it is true. Labor loves to make big promises but they never delivered. This government is in fact increasing funding for hospitals each year and every year. The annual assistance to the states for public hospitals increases by more than nine per cent every year for the next three years and will increase by more than six per cent in the fourth year.
I said at the outset that the Australian people elected us to do a job, and that job was to clean up the mess left behind by the Australian Labor Party. I urge those opposite just to admit their past mistakes. I know you didn't mean it—I know you didn't mean to make a complete mess of it—but admit your mistakes and get out of the way and let the clean-up begin.