Dutton slammed over 'illiterate and innumerate' refugees comments

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton Source: AAP

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at Labor and Greens' policies to increase the refugee intake, saying it will increase unemployment.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has come under fire for suggesting refugees were illiterate and innumerate and would take Australian jobs.

He made the comments on Sky News, saying that unemployment would rise if Australia dramatically increases its refugee intake.

Labor has pledged to ramp up the intake to 27,000 and the Greens policy is 50,000 while the Coalition supports the existing intake of 13,750 that rises to 18,750 in 2018-19.

"For many people they won't be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English... these people would be taking Australian jobs and there is no question about that," Mr Dutton told Sky News.

Mr Dutton said those who couldn't find work would "languish in unemployment queues".

"For many people they won't be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English... these people would be taking Australian jobs and there is no question about that."

Opposition manager of business Tony Burke told reporters on Wednesday Mr Dutton's comments told him "nothing about refugees" but "a lot about the Turnbull government".

"Malcolm Turnbull needs to answer the simple question: were those the views of the Turnbull Government?" he said.

He said Mr Dutton's comments "go completely against the grain of the data that the government would carry on its own figures". 

PM distances himself from Dutton

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has distanced himself from Peter Dutton after the frontbencher said "illiterate and innumerate" refugees were swamping welfare queues and taking Australian jobs.

"We have the most successful multicultural society in the world," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Cairns on Wednesday when quizzed about the immigration minster's remarks.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged resettling refugees came at a cost before adding the federal government "did not begrudge the money".

Dutton should apologise: Bowen

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen, who has served as an immigration minister, said Mr Dutton should apologise for the remarks.

"There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in Australia who have worked hard, educated themselves and their children and they will be shaking their heads ... in disgust," Mr Bowen told ABC Radio.

He said Australia had benefited significantly from the contribution of refugees who had settled here.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended Mr Dutton's comments on Sky News on Wednesday, saying "of course the cost of ensuring people who come here, to Australia, as a refugee is very high".

"Peter Dutton's pointing out the self-evident fact that it costs a great deal of money to settle people in Australia," she said.

"The costs involved are also education costs, teaching people English because they speak another language - these are all significant costs and we shouldn't run away from that fact.

"There is a significant cost in ensuring that people are able to contribute to Australian society, that is they are able to speak our language, they can get a job, they can make a contribution."

However Ms Bishop shied away from endorsing his assertion that refugees would take jobs away from Australian residents.

"What he's pointing out is that we would want these people to have a job," she said.

"If they're going to be in Australia we don't want them to be on welfare, we want them to be contributing and so therefore we would want them to be in jobs."

Other politicians have taken to social media in response to Mr Dutton's comments.


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