PM Stands By 'Harsh' Asylum Seeker Policy, Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite On Q&A

Malcolm Turnbull has faced questions from punters on the ABC.

20/06/2016 9:38 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come under fire on Q&A for the government's asylum seeker policy, especially its offshore detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Fronting the live television show on Monday night, some of the toughest questions for the PM were posed on the controversial 'stop the boats' policy.

He was also queried over the coalition's stance on a national vote to decide the same-sex marriage issue, admitting he would prefer a parliamentary resolution.

One particularly moving question came from a detainee on Manus Island who said he had been held there for 3 years.

"I am a refugee who fled injustice, discrimination and persecution ... Why am I still in this prison after three years?" the detainee asked via audio visual link.

Turnbull's reply to the man was blunt.

"It is a tough and harsh policy, I grant you that. But in Government and in politics, often you are presented with tough choices," he said.

"The alternative is not a theoretical one. It's what Kevin Rudd delivered. Regrettably, 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. 1,200 deaths at sea."

He said the government had removed 2,000 children from detention and closed 14 of 17 detention centres in Australia.

The Prime Minister also stood by the government's commitment to a national plebiscite following a question on same-sex marriage, saying he had to compromise with his cabinet colleagues.

He earlier told the audience he would prefer a free conscience vote in the parliament.

"Some people like the idea of Prime Ministers that ignore their colleagues. I don't agree with that," Turnbull said.

"I'm a strong believer in traditional cabinet government. And that means compromise."

Healthcare policy also took centre stage on Monday night.

With Labor's campaign claiming that the coalition would move to privatise Medicare if re-elected, Turnbull used the live TV appearance to insist that was not the case.

"Medicare's services that are delivered by government today, or undertaken by government today, will be undertaken by government in the future," Turnbull told the audience in Brisbane.

"That is my pledge, my absolute, unequivocal commitment."

Turnbull was also asked about the need to boost funding at public hospitals after millions of dollars worth of cuts were factored into the budget forward estimates.

He responded by saying the government had in fact boosted funding to hospitals across the country.

"What I have done is this: I reached agreement at the last COAG meeting with all the states and territories, including the State of Queensland, and we've added an additional $2.9 billion to hospital funding," he said.

Topics like company tax and Australia's "suicide tragedy" were also addressed.

There were few light moments in the telecast, with Turnbull talking at length in response to many of the questions asked.

Labor was quick to pounce on the PM's long-winded answers.

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