Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. Contributed

Julie Bishop: Asylum seeker camps better than mining camps

IT COULD be the greatest back-handed compliment ever given by a Federal Minister.

In a defence of living standards in the offshore detention facilities built on Nauru, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said conditions for asylum seekers were "certainly" better than those in mining camps.

She said they had access to health services "comparable" to those living in major regional centres.

It remains unclear what the minister would define as a "significant regional centre", but for the head of the National Rural Health Alliance based in Canberra, Ms Bishop's claim was an encouraging admission.

NRHA executive director Gordon Gregory said it showed the Australian Government understood health services in cities were superior to those in regional, rural and remote communities.

"I find it very interesting the Minister for Foreign Affairs has a conception about what it is like in regional and rural Australia," he said.

"I find it encouraging because it implies she understands they are poorer than in the major cities."

Mr Gregory said it was understood that from the tiniest rural town to the largest capital city, there was an increasing level of care, but regional health still needed improvement.

Without having been to Nauru, Mr Gregory could not say if Ms Bishop's assertions were correct.

He said it was "good to know" a senior minister and Liberal Party Deputy Leader felt regional areas had worse health services than cities.

Meanwhile, the mining industry and camp suppliers chose not to discuss Ms Bishop's comments about accommodation.

Minerals Council of Australia's spokesman said only that the industry's camps were "maintained to a high standard" to ensure the health of workers.

Camps built for operations in Central Queensland and western New South Wales offer gym facilities, bars, buffet breakfasts.

Unlike those asylum seekers in offshore detention, mine workers also have the ability to leave their accommodation.