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Australian cabinet reshuffle sees new trade minister and China critic in defence

A cabinet reshuffle on Friday saw the key role of trade minister taken over by Dan Tehan, while former special air services captain Andrew Hastie was appointed assistant defence minister.

By: Reuters | Sydney | December 18, 2020 11:45:02 am
Scott Morrison reshuffles cabinetScott Morrison, Australia's prime minister (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison reshuffled his cabinet on Friday, naming a new trade minister and appointing a high-profile critic of China, previously barred from visiting Beijing, as assistant defence minister.

Australia is embroiled in a worsening diplomatic dispute with China that has seen Beijing impose trade reprisals after Australia restricted foreign investment, legislated against foreign interference, and barred Huawei from its 5G network.

Australia’s agriculture sector has borne the brunt as dumping tariffs have been imposed on barley and wine, and Chinese imports of beef, timber and seafood halted.

A cabinet reshuffle on Friday saw the key role of trade minister taken over by Dan Tehan, who Morrison said had “a keen sense of the particular interests of regional Australia in an open, rules-based trading system”.

Former special air services captain Andrew Hastie, who headed a parliamentary intelligence committee, was appointed assistant defence minister.

Hastie has led an informal group of backbench Australian politicians known as the “Wolverines”, who hold anti-communist views which are more strident than the Morrison government’s position.

In November 2019 Hastie was barred from visiting China because of his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, he said in a statement at the time.

The Chinese embassy said Hastie should “repent”. The embassy had previously issued statements saying it deplored Hastie’s “China threat rhetoric”.

Hastie’s office declined to comment on the appointment.

Former Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was named the finance minister in October.

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