Australia’s worsening relationship with China has again come under the spotlight as newly appointed federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan is sworn in to the role.
The former education minister will take over the turbulent trade portfolio from Senator Simon Birmingham following a virtual ceremony on Tuesday.
Beijing last week lashed out at Australia’s decision to refer it to the World Trade Organisation over barley tariffs.
National Party Senator Matt Canavan has revealed he was disappointed that the trade portfolio was not returned to the party in Scott Morrison’s cabinet reshuffle.
But he told Sky News that Mr Tehan, who represents a regional Victorian seat, was an impressive individual.
“The big risks we face to our trade – our resources or agriculture products to China – will require a real focus from those that know, inherently, the importance of those industries,” Senator Canavan said.
“Dan knows that importance and I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”
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Senator Canavan was also asked if Mr Tehan would be able to restart the dialogue with China, given Australian officials were unable to get their counterparts on the phone.
“I think that is possibly an impossible bar to set for Dan – it does take two to tango, so it is not just up to him,” the senator said.
“The problem we have in some respects is the grievances that China has published … very few of them actually have anything to do with trade.
“Unfortunately for us that is not something Dan Tehan can fix because we will not change our domestic policies based on the demands of another country.”
Senator Canavan condemned China for being “hypocritical” after demanding Australia change its domestic policies but criticising other countries for talking about its internal affairs.
Mr Tehan last week said he would “engage, listen and work tirelessly” to advance Australia’s trade interests.
“Our prosperity has been built on trade and our future relies on it,” he said.
The National Party will next year push for Australia’s diversification from Chinese markets to include manufacturing more products at home.