Access to elective surgery in Australian public hospitals is rationed using waiting lists. In this article, we undertake a DiNardo–Fortin–Lemieux reweighting approach to attribute variation in waiting time to clinical need or to discrimination. Using data from NSW public patients in 2004–2005, we find the discrimination effect dominates clinical need especially in the upper tail of the waiting time distribution. We find evidence of favourable treatment of patients who reside in remote areas and discrimination in favour of patients residing in particular Area Health Services. These findings have policy implications for the design of equitable quality targets for public hospitals.