PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: The first point that I make is in relation to the co-payment which the member for Lingiari was so passionately talking about. The member for Lingiari actually voted for a co-payment when he was a member of parliament and the Hawke government first introduced it.
Mr Robert: He voted for it.
Mr TUDGE: He voted for it then. The Hawke government was the first government to introduce the co-payments. We know that the shadow Assistant Treasurer is in support of co-payments. We know that the Labor governments introduced a co-payment for the PBS. So let us end the hyperbole and focus on what the real matter is here, and that is getting on top of the budget.
The former government was an incompetent one. We know that it was probably the most incompetent government in history. But at least they acknowledged one thing. They did not implement this but they acknowledged it: that a surplus was important. I am not saying they did it but they at least acknowledged that a surplus was is important. The former government said that a surplus was important not just to underpin the strength of the economy but to bring cost of living pressures down. But now that the Labor Party is in opposition, it is as if they no longer care at all whether or not the budget is in deficit or surplus and they are in complete deficit and debt denial.
We look at the figures and we see six budget deficits in a row, the six biggest in Australian political history. We are paying $1 billion per month just on the interest on our debt and for as far as the eye can see there is deficit after deficit after deficit. So we are taking the responsible action of getting control of the budget again. We were elected to do so and we are taking the responsibility to implement that.
In the process, though, there are going to be some tough measures and we accept that. There are some tough measures but they are necessary measures, because if we do not take the measures now then they will be so much harder in the future. If we do not get on top of the budget deficit now then the interest payments alone on the debt will go from $1 billion per month today to $3 billion per month in 10 years time, an extraordinary figure. So that is why we are taking these tough measures in the budget, to get control of the budget, to ensure that we have public finances in order, which ultimately underpins a strong economy.
In the last couple of minutes I have remaining I point out a couple of issues that members opposite have raised. The member for Sydney was talking about the foreign aid budget. In relation to foreign aid, we maintain the current foreign aid commitments. It will continue this year and the same amount will continue next year. No individual program is being diminished. But what we are not doing is going to be borrowing further money from overseas in order to then bring it back to Australia and send it back overseas again. We have to be responsible in relation to getting our finances in order so that in the future we can again increase the foreign aid budget.
I refer to two other things which members opposite have pointed out. They talked about pensions. Let me be very clear: there are no cuts to pensions. The Prime Minister has mentioned that day in, day out in this parliament. The pension increased in March, it will increase again in September, it will increase the following March and the following September. Further, there are no cuts in health care. Health care will increase by nine per cent this year, nine per cent next year, nine per cent the year after and six per cent the year after that. The rate of increase slows down from year four onwards but there is no cut to health care. It is the same in relation to schooling: there are no cuts in that area.
Yes, there are savings across the budget; there are many savings in many areas some of which are tough decisions. But if we do not make the tough decisions now it will be so much harder to make the tough decisions in the future. We did not create the mess which Labor created but we take responsibility for fixing up the mess and we doing so in a methodical, structured, sensible manner but still protecting those who need it most.