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Dutton accused of 'fearmongering' over claim refugees will clog hospitals

Peter Dutton has again criticised new laws enabling asylum seekers to be brought to Australia for medical treatment. Source: AAP

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's comments have been criticised by refugee advocates and Labor.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been accused of "fearmongering" after he said Australian citizens will be “kicked off” healthcare waiting lines at the expense of asylum seekers transferred under the new medevac law.

“People who need medical services are going to be displaced from those services, because if you bring hundreds and hundreds of people from Nauru and Manus down to our country, they are going to go into the health network," Mr Dutton said on Thursday.

"I don't want to see Australians who are in waiting lines at public hospitals kicked off those waiting lines because people from Nauru and Manus are now going to access those health services.”

Refugee advocates say while around 1000 people remain on Manus Island and Nauru, roughly 70 of them require medical care

Labor leader Bill Shorten has labelled Mr Dutton’s comments “a complete lie” – a sentiment backed by Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.

“If Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison want to claim that Australians are on waiting lists for elective surgery, are unable to get the care they need because of refugees getting treatment, that is just fearmongering,” Senator Keneally told Sky News on Friday.

“What they need to acknowledge is that if Australians are on waiting lists, it’s because the Liberals have cut hospital funding, they have frozen Medicare rebates, they have presided over the decimation of the health system.”

In 2016–17, 695 public hospitals provided 62,000 hospital beds – around 2.5 public hospital beds for every 1,000 people, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Those figures have remained relatively consistent since 2012-13, rising by an average of 1.5 per cent per year.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics public on hospital beds

During roughly that same time period, the number public hospitals around Australia decreased, while numbers of private hospitals increased, according to the AIHW.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics on the number public and private hospitals
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics on the number public and private hospitals


St Vincent’s Hospital described Mr Dutton’s comments as “a baseless claim”.

“Public hospitals can accommodate the health needs of asylum seekers without disadvantaging anyone,” it wrote on Twitter.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Matthias Cormann have defended Mr Dutton’s comments.

“It’s just simple math,” Mr Morrison told the ABC on Friday.

“If we have got to treat more people in Australia then obviously they are going to take the place of people who are getting that treatment anyway.”

No medical transfers have taken place yet despite the medevac bill passing parliament passing last month. The bill still needs to go to the Governor General for signing.