Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended George Christensen's refusal to resettle refugees in his north Queensland electorate while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton dodged questions around the LNP minister's comments.
Christensen, who holds the Queensland rural seat of Dawson, announced Syrian refugees will not be resettled in the region under his leadership.
"I've advised the Assistant Minister [for Multiculturalism] that the Mackay region won't be able to handle an influx of refugees given the state of the regional economy," Christensen wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Between lunching at a gentleman's club in Melbourne and being bailed up by 'Melinda', Turnbull said Christensen's concerns lie in the lack of jobs in the area due to the downturn in the mining construction boom.
"What he's saying is because there aren't a lot of jobs around, it's better for refugees who come in the humanitarian program to be located in places where there are more opportunities for work," Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne.
When asked whether the Immigration Department advised certain ministers that Syrian refugees would not be resettled in their electorates, Dutton danced around question -- shifting the focus onto Social Services Minister Christian Porter.
"In the end, people make decisions about where it is they will reside. I suspect most people will reside in capital cities because that's where they have family members and that's where they have support networks within the refugee community," Dutton told reporters.
"That is the whole objective."
In September the Federal Government announced an extra 12,000 refugee intake from Syria and Iraq in response to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. As of March, 29 of the 12,000 refugees from the intake had been resettled in Australia.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power told The Huffington Post Australia that refugees have "made a great contribution in North Queensland" due to the support of the local community.
"This was recognised recently by Liberal Senator Ian McDonald, who said that northern Queensland could be the ideal location to resettle accepted refugees, to help regions with 'dwindling populations', describing this as a 'win-win' situation," Power said.