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Coalition ends rift as Robb rips into Joyce

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Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

At the centre of a heated exhange with the finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, inside shadow cabinet  ... Barnaby Joyce.

At the centre of a heated exhange with the finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, inside shadow cabinet ... Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Rob Homer

THE Coalition has papered over its differences concerning foreign investment, but only after an angry exchange inside shadow cabinet between Barnaby Joyce and the finance spokesman, Andrew Robb.

Late yesterday the Coalition gave notice it would introduce a motion into Parliament backing the sale of farms to foreign interests but demanding the government release its reasons for approving the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese led-consortium.

After a week of internal division caused by the Nationals opposing the approval, the shadow cabinet agreed on the motion, which was co-sponsored by the Liberal Senate leader, Eric Abetz, and the Nationals Senate leader, Senator Joyce.

But it was after a furious argument between Senator Joyce and Mr Robb. Sources said Mr Robb rounded angrily on Senator Joyce for opposing the investment which had passed all the necessary approvals.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, approved the sale after it was assessed as within the national interest by the Foreign Investment Review Board, sparking outrage from the Nationals, led by Senator Joyce.

This angered Liberals who felt he was allowed to speak out against party policy while a member of the shadow cabinet, while everybody else was bound to support policy.

The motion binds the Nationals to support the policy by noting there is bipartisan support for foreign investment so long as it is ''not contrary to the national interest''. It calls on the Treasurer, Wayne Swan to explain how he determined the nature of the ownership of the consortium, 80 per cent of which is comprised of the Chinese textile group, Shandong RuYi Scientific and Technological Group.

Even if the motion passes the Senate with Greens support, it is not binding. But it has settled the dispute within the Coalition.

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