Australia's immigration minister slammed over xenophobic anti-refugee comments

Australia's immigration minister slammed over xenophobic anti-refugee comments
Peter Dutton came under attack over xenophobic comments he made over Australia's intake of refugees, whom he described as 'illiterate and innumerate' people coming to claim his country's welfare.
2 min read
Peter Dutton's comments came in response to proposals to boost Australia's refugee intake [Getty]

Australia's immigration minister has come under fire for making xenophobic comments about refugees to the country.

Peter Dutton said that increasing Australia's refugee intake would lead to "illiterate and innumerate" people claiming welfare or taking local jobs.

Dutton's comments came in response to proposals by the Labour opposition to boost Australia's annual refugee intake from 13,175 to 27,000 ahead of national elections in July.

"For many people they won't be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English and this is a difficulty," Dutton told Sky News late Tuesday.


"Now, these people would be taking Australian jobs, there's no question about that.

"And for many of them they would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it. So there would be a huge cost and there's no sense in sugar-coating that."

They would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it. So there would be a huge cost and there's no sense in sugar-coating that
- Peter Dutton, immigration minister


But Labour's frontbencher and former immigration minister Chris Bowen criticised Dutton's comments, and said that Australia had benefited hugely from the contribution of refugees over the years.

"There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in Australia who've worked hard, who've educated themselves and their children and they will be shaking their heads at their minister today, in disgust, frankly," he told reporters.

"If Peter Dutton owes anybody an apology it's not the Labor Party, it's them."


The Greens' immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young went further, accusing Dutton of xenophobia.

"These are vile and nasty [comments] and what it does is it exposes the Liberal Party's current thinking on people who come to our country seeking protection," she said.

"Peter Dutton says people are either going to steal Australian jobs or be waiting in the dole queue. Which one is it? It is nasty and steeped purely in xenophobia."

But Dutton won support from foreign minister Julie Bishop who said he was only being realistic about the cost of resettling even more refugees.

"Peter Dutton is pointing out the very real cost involved in issuing humanitarian and refugee visas," she said.

"Often the people who come to Australia on these visas are from very troubled backgrounds - particularly from Afghanistan but also Pakistan and beyond - and there is an extremely high cost involved in ensuring they be a contributing member of society. Let's have a reality check here."