“Mining and agriculture and the unambiguous support of those industries is a necessity for the Nationals in a way a white collar, urban workforce may not appreciate,” Mr Joyce wrote on his Facebook page.

“Anyway, that is the right of the prime minister and he is in a position of political strength which means he gets what he wants.”

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The change in minister comes at a time when trade tensions with China have boiled over and diplomatic relations have plummeted. Australia is launching a dispute in the World Trade Organisation over China’s trade strike on barley while Beijing has accused the Morrison government of breaching its free trade agreement. It has also targeted Australian beef, wine, coal and half-a-dozen other sectors.

“China has us at sea, literally, with ships and billions of dollars worth of exports anchored off the Chinese coast, refused permission to dock,” Mr Joyce said. “It is currently the case that we can’t even have the phone call to the relevant Chinese authority answered.”

In separate remarks to his local newspaper, the Northern Daily Leader, Mr Joyce said Australia shouldn’t have moved first in calling for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, a catalyst for the latest breakdown in diplomatic relations.

“The United States should have said it first. Quite obviously it’s dangerous to dance with an elephant unless you’re another elephant,” he said. “We don’t just walk into a pub and start throwing punches at the biggest person we can find because we think they’re smoking a cigarette.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it was becoming clear that China was taking actions based on sovereign matters rather than “technical trade matters”.

“There’s anxiety starting to creep in around the global community of trading with China, because it’s higher risk,” he told Sky News. “If these sort of actions can be taken against a country like Australia that’s a rules-based trading nation, a fair trading nation; if it can be done against a nation like Australia, then obviously they’re feeling the anxiety around trading as well.”



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