Australia has more serious questions to answer than whether they stole our flag design.

Them nicking our flag is a minor matter. The big question is whether the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would fail their own much touted character or values test. On their current human rights record they would not be allowed to live in Australia.

They both have their finger prints all over a refugee policy that has led to asylum seekers being deprived of their legal rights, with children being imprisoned on offshore islands away from effective medical care and basic access to education and justice.

Does this represent Australian values? Do the consequent deaths and poor mental health of these refugees represent the values of Australian citizens?

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The talk of adding a values test to applications for Australian citizenship by Turnbull seems to have overlooked his own role as PM in the fate of refugees while Peter Dutton has been an enthusiastic promoter of what is deemed by international law to be an illegal incarceration of refugees.

Let's get this into perspective by quoting Daniel Webb, Director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Centre in Australia. "Our government has detained 120 children in an island prison for five years. Twelve people have died. Children as young as 10 are trying to kill themselves."

If that is not a failure of a values test then what is?

Peter Dutton's response: "Australia will not sign a United Nations migration agreement it helped negotiate "in its current form'. "We're not going to surrender our sovereignty – I'm not going to allow unelected bodies dictate to us, to the Australian people." He said Australia would not sign at all if it was deemed by the government to be "not in our national interests".

Human Rights groups regard the Australian governments unwillingness to sign up to global guidelines for dealing with migration as a blatant tactic to avoid further international scrutiny of Australia's refugee detention practices.

If a values test is introduced for those wishing to settle in Australia who will decide what the critical values are? This is not a task to be left to the politicians as they appear to have abandoned their values and ethics for political expediency.

Will this values test be a form with questions and points awarded for kindness and empathy or a list of trick questions about bigotry and the ability to breach basic human rights without troubling your conscience?

Will it be more geared towards checking on those administering the test to measure their willingness to use racial profiling, discriminating against religious beliefs or push notions of ethnic superiority to define values?

Oddly enough there is an Australian immigration criterion related to monetary value. There is a fast track visa path that can be 'bought' by bringing $5million into the country that gives residency in under 40 days with no requirement for English proficiency, education or employment qualifications. Maybe that's what Turnbull and Dutton regard as value.

Let's look at this another way. A recent UNICEF Australia and Save the Children report estimates that over the past four years, the Australian Government has spent $9.6bn on maintaining its asylum policies.

Just the offshore processing is estimated to have cost over $400,000 per person, per year. They could have been housed in apartments on the Gold Coast for less than that but of course that would have meant they were actually on the mainland which would have forced the Australian government to recognise their legal status and there was obviously no value in taking that approach.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker by trade.
Feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz