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Australia to tighten citizenship requirements

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SYDNEY Canberra yesterday unveiled plans to put "Australian values" at the heart of tougher requirements to gain citizenship, including competent English, belief in gender equality and a four-year qualification period.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia was "an "extraordinary nation".

"We're not defined by race or religion or culture, as many other nations are," he said.

"We're defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women," he told reporters.

"These fundamental values are what make us Australian. Our citizenship process should reflect that."

The move comes against a background of growing populist pressure and resurgence of the anti-immigration One Nation party led by Ms Pauline Hanson.

Candidates for citizenship will under the new rules be required to be permanent residents for four years against one year currently.

They will also need to demonstrate a job record and how they have integrated into the local community.

The new rules will tighten the "civics" test, and question would-be Australians on issues such as domestic violence.

"We are entitled to say if you want to be a citizen of Australia, there are a few things that we want you to demonstrate that you share," Mr Turnbull added.

"Commitment to our values, allegiance to our country, competent English, being here for four years, integration, demonstrating that you have made that commitment, that this is not just an administrative process."

The government on Tuesday scrapped a visa programme for temporary foreign workers and replaced it with a new system aimed at reducing unemployment among Australians.

Mr Turnbull had said the new regime is "putting Australians first".

Amendments to the citizenship law will be put to Parliament shortly. - AFP