February 6, 2020 / 12:49 AM / 12 days ago

Australian PM reshuffles cabinet after coalition partner ructions

FILE PHOTO: Australia Agriculture Minister David Littleproud speaks during an interview with Reuters ahead of the G20 Meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Miguel Lo Bianco

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison reshuffled his cabinet on Thursday, replacing two senior ministers from junior coalition partner the National Party following their recent resignations.

Morrison said Keith Pitt - a well-known supporter of nuclear power and the coal industry - will become Australia’s minister for mining and resources.

David Littleproud, Australia’s minister for drought, will combine that role with the responsibility of overseeing the country’s A$60 billion ($40 billion) agricultural sector.

Matt Canavan resigned earlier this week as minister for mining and resources amid an unsuccessful attempt to replace the leader of the National Party .

Fellow National Party minister Bridget McKenzie resigned from her post as minister of agriculture on Sunday after an independent audit found money from a A$100 million sports development fund was used to target votes ahead of last year’s federal election.

The appointment of Pitt was welcomed by Australia’s resource sector.

“Keith Pitt has a reputation for straight-talking and as a regional Queenslander he knows first-hand about the importance of the resources sector to create jobs and investment in regional communities,” said Ian Macfarlane, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council in an emailed statement.

“He also has a strong understanding of the policy issues that relate to the resources sector, in particular the need for affordable and reliable energy.”

As part of the reshuffle, Darren Chester, minister for veteran affairs and another National Party member of parliament, will keep his position but it will be promoted to a Cabinet post, Morrison added.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast.

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