Opposition opposes gov't reforms to Australian citizen law

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The government's plans to raise the standards for attaining Australian citizenship have been condemned by the opposition party as a fundamental change that would create a large underclass of residents who do not fully belong.

The bill introduced to Parliament last week would require immigrants to have better English-language skills and to be permanent residents for longer before they can become Australian citizens.

The center-left Labor Party's announcement on Tuesday that it will oppose the legislation makes Senate approval for the changes far more difficult.

Opposition spokesman on citizenship Tony Burke rejected the conservative government's argument that the changes were needed to safeguard Australia against mounting security challenges.